New Apple CarPlay iOS 14 reviewed

Apple’s all-new iPhone operating system, iOS 14, has launched with a raft of updates to Apple CarPlay. But how does it work in practice?

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It wasn’t that long ago that the debate about whether new cars should or shouldn’t come with a CD player still raged – but five years after its introduction, Apple CarPlay users remain just as attached to the native software that allows their phone to seamlessly interact with their car.

Now, Apple has rolled out a huge update to its iPhone family, and it includes an update to CarPlay. Known as iOS 14, Aussie iPhone owners can now update their phones all the way back to the iPhone 6S with the new system. 

apple carplay ios 14

How do I get it?

Fortunately, iOS 14 Apple CarPlay is easy to obtain. All you'll have to do is update your phone to the latest iOS 14 software by navigating to your phone's general settings and applying the update.

It may take up to half an hour, but the good news is that all of your previous settings and layouts will be retained so don't be afraid to update!

Once you plug in your phone to your car, or connect with wireless Apple CarPlay, the changes will appear automatically. 

apple carplay ios 14

Same but different

The first impression is of an interface that hasn’t changed much. Frequent users will notice the absence of the black background, which is now replaced with a set choice of colour wallpapers - though there's little other change.

On the whole, the familiarity is welcome. One of CarPlay’s key strengths is its simplicity of form with large, easily-pressed icons and lack of convoluted menu screens. 

apple carplay ios 14

The same home screen makes a return, so too we find the application page without much change. The layout remains easy to use and you're able to quickly issue commands without getting distracted. The home screen is especially handy for glance looks to the screen to derive key information like checking you're on the right navigation route or to quickly skip a song. 

Custom backgrounds of your own photographs aren’t available just yet, though we imagine it’s only a matter of time before that upgrade is pushed across. Head over to CarPlay settings to update your dashboard.

Siri voice command makes a comeback and is arguably more intuitive than ever, understanding simple speech in a quick manner. There's also less likelihood that you'll have to repeat yourself which is a common annoyance with voice control systems.  

Right direction

apple carplay ios 14

In previous iterations, Apple Maps was the only approved app to use as navigation but we're happy to report that Google Maps and Waze are both approved directories now. 

As a default, voice navigation commands will be issued to Apple Maps but a quick workaround is to use Google Maps or Waze on your phone to input the destination and then select the preferred app on CarPlay.

Apple has also given carmakers the ability to spread CarPlay across two screens simultaneously – say, the multimedia screen and a digital dash – and it’s working with the car industry to develop in-car microphones that will respond to a Siri request without the need to press a button.

Talking the talk

apple carplay ios 14

Speaking (hah!) of Siri, the voice command system can now be used without the display defaulting to the glowing Siri icon, while Apple says that future updates will allow Siri to interact with third-party apps like Spotify and smart home apps.

So in theory, you’ll be able to simply ask your car to open the garage door for you.

In addition to the normal read-out of text messages and dictation of reply, you can now send and receive voice notes via iMessage. Bodes well for those who want to be a little more emphatic than monotone Siri. 

There's also greater support for third-party apps in this iOS 14 update, meaning CarPlay is now able to run EV charging, food-ordering or parking apps, for example.

It takes two

apple carplay ios 14

Previously on CarPlay, if you opened your phone and used an app, it would close whatever function you were using on CarPlay.

Now, though, in what we can only assume is a function change to allow passengers access to the phone, CarPlay keeps open the app in use – for example, Apple Maps – but allows the handset to be used to access something completely different.

As well, Apple has rolled out a new Shortcuts function that ties in with the Siri voice activation system that makes the process of accessing tasks even easier.

It allows you to access a lot (not all) of your apps via voice - for example, you can create one that allows you to say 'hey Siri, where am I?' to reveal your current location.

In use, the new CarPlay feels crisp and quick, and there’s even a setting that flips the dark background to light for daylight use.

A few other additions are included, such as the inclusion of Japanese and Chinese keyboards, and portrait-mounted CarPlay screens are now more easily viewed with subtle layout changes.

Apple iOS 14 screen

More Apple CarPlay advice


While there's relatively little difference between iOS 13 and iOS 14 CarPlay, we reckon the few tweaks that have occurred make CarPlay that little bit better than before. Greater support for more apps, enhanced customisability and personable additions like voice notes are all welcome changes.

The new iteration of Apple’s clever smartphone mirroring service continues to provide a seamless, simple way to access key functions on your phone without the need to touch it at all.


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