I recently bought a car, my first, and this finally gave me an opportunity to experience Apple CarPlay over a long period. I have played around with it in the past, but I have never gotten a chance to use if for long. Apple's CarPlay support was one of the most important features that I was looking for in the car that I wanted to buy. I wouldn't buy a car without support for CarPlay. I would never want to use the default interface of a Car for maps, calls and music, just like I would never want to use the default interface of a TV for my streaming. CarPlay is like AppleTV for my car. It provides all the necessary apps and an intuitive interface to use it.
I am an Apple Music subscriber, and hence it was very straightforward to use it on CarPlay. The home screen had the Apple Music app and as I opened it, my entire music library showed up and that was wonderful. I did not have any hiccups while using the music. The interface for music was good too, with the album art being displayed on the Now Playing screen.
Google Maps support for Apple CarPlay was a bit surprising for me. I was delighted to see Google Maps being available because nobody wants to use Apple Maps. Google Maps works exactly as expected and one of the most valuable apps on CarPlay. I generally search for the destination on my phone and when I click on Start navigation, the same route shows up on the Google Maps app on my car as well, no fancy sharing required. Google Maps is so important for travelling that if Google Maps hadn't supported CarPlay, I might buy an extremely cheap Android Phone just to connect it to the car for Android Auto. So, Google Maps being on CarPlay is a make-or-break feature for me.
When I travel alone, I like to listen to plenty of podcasts instead of music. On my phone, I use Pocketcasts and the same app is available on the CarPlay as well. I was happy to see that. Just like Apple Music, all my podcasts and filters were available, and I could easily play from where I left off. Pocketcasts being available on CarPlay also made me super happy.
I was extremely surprised when I saw the Teams app on CarPlay because I was not expecting it at all. There was once when I wanted to make a call on Teams on the way home, I tried opening the teams and nothing happened. I tried it several times, and it still did not work. Only later I realized that I have to open the app on my phone and place the call or join the meeting there, and once a call has started, CarPlay automatically takes over. It's not immediately obvious how to use it because of this, but then once you know, it's totally fine and works well.
One of the most underrated apps on CarPlay is the Phone app. As expected, all my contacts showed up, and I could easily attend and receive calls on my car. The favourites section of the contacts came to be very useful, as scrolling a list of contacts on a car's touchscreen was very cumbersome. I did face an issue with phone calls. Phone calls kept getting disconnected after ten minutes into a call. I don't know if this issue is with the car or phone or CarPlay. I haven't been able to reproduce this after a week, so I have to keep an eye on it.
I had absolutely no idea that Siri was present on CarPlay. I was watching a YouTube video of someone else using CarPlay, and they invoked Siri, and that's when I realized that I could use Siri on CarPlay. Furthermore, I use Siri only for one task, the one that solves the problem that I have mentioned in the Phone section, scrolling a list of contacts. Whenever I wanted to call someone, instead of scrolling a list on the Phone app, I invoked Siri and asked it to place a call on my behalf, and surprisingly, it did really well. It was able to catch Indian names and has never failed on me so far.
One surprising thing that I found was the Apple Watch could recognize what I was playing in the car, and it showed me the music controls on screen. If I ever get down from the car or walk out to the boot, but want to change the music, I can use my Apple Watch to do so.
I still have many things to try out on CarPlay like playing music that's not in my library, searching for a destination directly on the Car screen and using Siri to send messages, both SMS and WhatsApp. I have used only wired CarPlay and not wireless CarPlay, so I haven't experienced that. But overall, I am pleased that CarPlay exists, my car supports it as it makes my journeys in a car so much better and seamless.