Android Auto vs. Apple CarPlay: What's the Difference?

Google and Apple want to live on your car’s dashboard, but which is better?

Android Auto and CarPlay are two smartphone integration platforms allowing you to interact with your phone more safely while driving. Both systems use your phone to do the heavy lifting of running apps and making calls while letting you view information and interact with your phone through a display built into your vehicle. Android Auto only works with Android phones, while CarPlay only works with iPhones. Each system offers similar functionality, but there are some important differences.

Android Auto vs Apple Carplay

Overall Findings

Android Auto
  • Requires Android 8.0 or newer.

  • Wireless requires Android 11.0 or newer.

  • Customizable display layout.

  • Uses Google Assistant for voice controls.

  • Uses Google Maps by default.

  • Wider third party app compatibility.

Apple CarPlay
  • Requires iPhone 5 or newer running iOS 7.1 or newer.

  • Wireless requires iOS 9 or newer.

  • Well-organized home screen.

  • Uses Siri for voice controls.

  • Uses Apple Maps by default.

  • Wider availability of wireless connectivity.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have similar functionality and availability. CarPlay is available in a few models that don't support Android Auto, but most new cars that come with one also come with the other. The deciding factor, for most people, will be in what phone they use, as there is little reason to switch from Android to iPhone to access CarPlay, and vice versa.

Some key differences include divergent interfaces, voice assistants, and third-party app compatibility. They also use different default apps for navigation, with Android Auto using Google Maps by default and CarPlay leveraging Apple Maps by default. They both allow you to switch to a different navigation app if you want, though.

Interface: Customization vs. Slick UI Design

Android Auto
  • Customizable app layout.

  • Display multiple apps at once, including split-screen.

  • Dark and light modes.

Apple CarPlay
  • Well-organized interface that isn’t customizable.

  • Displays navigation, music, and Siri suggestions on a single screen.

  • Dark and light modes.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay both have solid user interfaces. While CarPlay’s interface was historically better designed and easier to use, Android Auto has caught up with a customizable interface. Android Auto allows you to select which apps you want to appear on screen, with a split screen function letting you view two or three apps simultaneously. CarPlay doesn’t have that kind of customization, but it does have a well-designed interface that displays navigation, music, and Siri suggestions on the same screen without the need for a split-screen design. 

Apps and Navigation: Android Auto Has Better Navigation

Android Auto
  • Uses Google Maps for default navigation.

  • Easier to view and adjust your route.

  • Greater support for third party apps.

  • Works with one Apple app (Apple Music).

Apple CarPlay
  • Uses Apple Maps for default navigation.

  • More difficult to view and adjust your route.

  • Supports some third party apps.

  • Works with several Google apps (Google Maps, Google Music, Google Podcasts, Google Calendar, etc).

Android Auto uses Google Maps by default, while CarPlay uses Apple Maps. In most circumstances, Google Maps is the better option, but Android Auto and CarPlay allow you to switch to different map apps, so you can ultimately use whatever you want.

The more significant difference is that Android Auto allows you to zoom and scroll to view more of your route, and tap gray alternatives to switch your route, the same way you would on your phone, while CarPlay requires you to tap arrow buttons to move the map view and go back to the route options to change your route.

Android Auto has greater support for third-party apps, but Apple CarPlay also has a wide selection with no important holes. Apple CarPlay also works with most Google apps, like Google Calendar and Google Maps, while the only Apple app you can use on Android Auto is Apple Music.

Voice Assistant: Google Assistant is More Powerful

Android Auto
  • Uses Google Assistant.

  • Supports voice commands for common tasks.

  • Hands-free calling and texting.

  • Wider integration with third-party apps.

  • Better natural language processing.

Apple CarPlay
  • Uses Siri.

  • Supports voice commands for common tasks.

  • Hands-free calling and texting.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay each have an AI voice assistant, in the form of Google Assistant and Siri, at the core of their hands-free capabilities. They have the same basic capabilities, allowing you to place and receive hands-free calls and texts, play music, set and change navigation routes, and more.

While they offer similar functionality, Google Assistant has better natural language processing capabilities and third-party integration. That means it better understands your voice commands and works with more apps.

Final Verdict: Android Auto Has an Edge, But CarPlay is Very Strong

Android Auto and CarPlay offer similar functionality, and most vehicles that support one also support the other. With that in mind, there's very little reason to choose one over the other for any reason other than compatibility with your phone. Both offer hands-free calling, texting, and navigation, a variety of music and podcast apps, and well-organized user interfaces. Android Auto's user interface is more customizable, and Google Assistant is more powerful than Siri. Still, it isn't enough of a difference to justify switching phones unless you're already in the market to do so.

  • Do you have to pay for CarPlay or Android Auto?

    No, they come included in your phone's operating system and automatically activate when attached to a car (once the car sees the phone is connected). You will need an iPhone 5 or newer for CarPlay and an Android phone running Android 8.0 or newer.

  • Is Android Automotive the same as Android Auto?

    Confusingly, no. While both have been created by Google, Android Auto is in the operating system of your phone while Android Automotive is in the system inside the car itself. Think of Android Auto has part of your phone, while Android Automotive is part of your car.

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