If you have a compatible car or stereo unit, Apple CarPlay makes it easy to navigate, respond to messages, and play music while on the road. And to get the most out of this feature, you should have compatible apps installed on your iPhone.
Let’s take a look at some of the best CarPlay apps you should try.
A Note on Available Carplay Apps
Unfortunately, only a small selection of iOS apps are compatible with CarPlay. The vast majority of them fall into one of three categories: audio, navigation, or messaging. As a result, you probably won’t end up installing too many of these apps, since they overlap a lot.
We’ll cover the most useful built-in CarPlay apps so you know how to use them, then move onto some third-party highlights. If you use a different audio or navigation service, chances are that it’s available for CarPlay.
If you’re new to this function, read our overview of Apple CarPlay
first so you’re up to speed. And while it’s not a proper app, remember you can tap Now Playing from the app list to jump right to whatever audio source is active.
Built-In Apple CarPlay Apps
First, let’s look at the most useful apps included on your iPhone that work with CarPlay.
Note that in addition to these, Siri can also access features of the built-in Calendar, Clock, Reminders, and other apps. You won’t see CarPlay icons for them, but you can use commands like “Add paper towels to my grocery list” or “Set an alarm for 7am tomorrow.”
1. Apple Maps
If you don’t prefer another navigation app (see below), Apple Maps works great with CarPlay.
Upon opening it, you’ll see an overview of your location. Hit the Destinations link and Maps will suggest places based on where you are or what you’ve discussed in messages and emails recently. You can use the Search function to quickly find gas stations, food, and more.
Use the microphone button on your steering wheel or tap the Microphone icon to navigate with Siri.
The Phone app’s CarPlay integration lets you make and receive calls in your car. Opening the app lets you browse your contacts, open a dialer, review recent calls, or check your voicemail.
However, since scanning through a list of contacts while driving is unsafe, it’s better to just use Siri integration to say something like “Call Sarah.”
The Messages app lets you converse safely in the car. Tap a conversation to hear its most recent messages read aloud. You can also dictate a new message using your voice here.
Try saying “Text Norah I’ll be home in 15 minutes” or “Read my text messages” to use the app without opening it.
4. Apple Music
What’s a drive without the right music? Use the Music app with CarPlay to enjoy the entire Apple Music catalog if you’re a subscriber. Of course, you can also listen to anything you’ve purchased from iTunes.
Open the app to scroll through your library and saved playlists. It’s also easy to ask Siri to play your favorite artists, albums, genres, and more.
Prefer podcasts instead of music on your commute? Use the Podcasts app to access shows you’ve subscribed to on your iPhone.
Siri can also help with commands like “Play the Really Useful Podcast” or “Skip ahead one minute.”
Third-Party Apple CarPlay Apps
While the above apps come pre-installed on every iPhone, several third-party apps work with CarPlay as well. While there aren’t a ton to choose from, all of them support Siri for hands-free control.
On the CarPlay home screen, you’ll see icons for any CarPlay-compatible apps you have installed on your iPhone. In addition to the below apps, CarPlay is also equipped to work with car manufacturer apps for controlling your vehicle’s features.
With iOS 12, Apple opened up third-party navigation apps for use with CarPlay. While Google Maps is also available, Waze is more distinct, which is why we include it here.
The main draw of Waze is its community-sourced information. The app alerts you to nearby speed traps, construction zones, or obstacles on the road. Give it a try if you find Apple Maps lackluster.
Download: Waze (Free)
7. TuneIn Radio
Prefer to listen to radio in the car, but don’t have a favorite station nearby? TuneIn Radio, one of the best radio apps for iOS, is available on CarPlay.
Using it, you can browse over 100,000 radio stations from across the world. For quick access, save your favorites on your phone before you start driving.
Download: TuneIn Radio (Free, subscription available)
If you enjoy audiobooks, Amazon’s Audible service is a great way to get your fix. A subscription allows you to download and keep a new book each month, and there are tons of genres to choose from. If you don’t want to subscribe, you can buy books individually, though this isn’t as cost-effective.
Inside the CarPlay app, you can play any downloaded audiobooks, so make sure you save them offline while on a Wi-Fi connection. Check out our top Audible tips to get more from the service.
Download: Audible (Free, subscription available)
WhatsApp is one of the few third-party messaging apps available in CarPlay (Telegram is another). When you open it, you can simply choose to hear unread messages read aloud or dictate a new message.
All the voice commands you’d expect are here, though, so you can have Siri read your incoming messages and respond via voice. With the app installed, you’ll also see WhatsApp notifications on the CarPlay home screen (unless you’re in Do Not Disturb mode).
Download: WhatsApp (Free)
If you don’t use Apple Music, you probably use Spotify for your music streaming. Like other music apps, you can browse your playlists and other saved music through the interface, or just use Siri to start playing an album or genre. Spotify also hosts podcasts now, so you can manage everything in one app.
Remember that you’ll need Spotify Premium to listen ad-free, save music offline, and disable shuffle mode.
Download: Spotify (Free, subscription available)
If you’re a baseball fan, the MLB app helps you keep up with what’s happening around the league. With CarPlay, you can listen to game audio while driving, but will need an MLB Audio subscription to do so. That subscription also unlocks other premium features, including condensed games.
Using the free version, you can still check out the game of the day, but can’t listen to it with CarPlay.
Download: MLB (Free, subscription available)
More Apple CarPlay Apps to Try
As mentioned earlier, many of the other best apps for CarPlay are quite similar to the above. To avoid covering them all in detail, here are a few others you may be interested in:
- Overcast: Popular podcast manager with plenty of features.
- Pandora: The best-known internet radio service that lets you create personalized stations for anything.
- Tidal: If you don’t use any other music apps, maybe this hi-fi music service that promises better sound than the competition will appeal to you. Requires a subscription after a free trial.
- NPR One: Catch up on the latest news and talk shows from your local public radio.
- iHeartRadio: Similar to TuneIn, this app lets you listen to radio stations from around the US.
- Free Audiobooks: Want to listen to an audiobook on your next trip without paying for Audible or buying one from Apple Books? This app provides many audiobooks at no cost.
Get More From Your Car With Apple CarPlay
As we’ve seen, only a small number of apps work with CarPlay, but there’s still a good enough selection that you can find what you need. There are plenty of options for listening to music or podcasts, sending messages via voice, and navigating around.
Assuming CarPlay becomes more popular and available in more cars, hopefully we’ll see additional apps make their way to the platform. For more automotive tech, check out the best GPS trackers for your car
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