Simply connect your smartphone to a compatible car via the USB port, and you can access a simplified iOS or Android interface via the dashboard display. The systems can be operated using touchscreen controls, steering wheel buttons, or voice control.
Neither system is designed to be flashy – the aim is not to distract the driver. And both platforms lock the phones when connected, to eliminate any temptation to pick them up.
Neither system can control standard car functions like the radio, heating or air conditioning.
There are several differences between the two systems that may appeal to different users.
With Google’s system, you’ll enjoy an experience similar to Google Now on a smartphone. The design is clean and crisp, similar to the interface seen on Android 5.0 Lollipop devices.
The display is populated with Google Now style cards that present relevant information depending on the situation, such as notifications, navigation, and music. Menu options at the bottom of the screen let you access the features.
Google currently supports a wider variety of apps than Apple, including Skype, Google Maps, Google Play Music, Spotify, iHeartRadio, SoundCloud, TuneIn, Stitcher, Pandora, Weather, Phone, WhatsApp, SMS and Hangouts.
CarPlay offers a simpler interface than Android Auto, and relies on Siri for responding to notifications and dictating and listening to messages. Just plug in your iPhone, and the familiar Apple icons (eight per screen) appear on your car’s dashboard display.
CarPlay Apps include Music, Phone, Messages, and Apple Maps, as well as compatible third party apps like Beats Music, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, Rdio, and Overcast.
As new vehicles hit the road supporting compatibility for these platforms, the range of available apps is certain to expand.