Apple CarPlay: What It Is and How to Connect to It

Connect your iPhone to your car with these simple steps

What to Know

  • For most cars, plug your phone into the infotainment system to use CarPlay. Some cars use Bluetooth to connect.
  • Press the CarPlay button on the steering wheel to activate Siri and use voice commands.

This article provides an overview of Apple CarPlay, which adds a variety of functions that make using your iPhone in your car easier and more safe.

Carplay supports third-party navigation apps. Not all cars support CarPlay natively, and CarPlay and Apple maintain a list of car models that support CarPlay.

CarPlay Allows You to Use Your iPhone Hands-Free

CarPlay and Siri allow you to place phone calls, listen to text messages, or play your favorite playlist without ever touching your iPhone. Better, you can get turn-by-turn directions and have them displayed on the infotainment system's larger screen to make it easy for the driver to glance at while driving.

Cars that support CarPlay have a button on the steering wheel to activate Siri, making it easy to ask her to 'Call Mom' or 'Text Jerry.' (And yes, you actually can give your mother the nickname of 'mom' in your iPhone's contacts and use it for voice commands.)

CarPlay in a Ford Mustang
Ford Motor Company

The infotainment system that displays CarPlay is a touch screen, so you can also operate CarPlay using touch without fumbling with your phone. Generally, you should be able to do most operations without touching the display, but if you want to enlarge the map displayed with the turn-by-turn directions, a quick touch on the screen can do so.

Tips for Using Apple CarPlay in Your Car

Most cars will allow you to plug your phone into the infotainment system using the Lightning connector supplied with the iPhone. The cable you use to charge the device. If CarPlay doesn't come up automatically, a button labeled CarPlay should appear in the infotainment system's menu, allowing you to switch to CarPlay. You can switch back and forth between CarPlay and the default infotainment system.

Some cars can use Bluetooth for CarPlay. It's generally better to plug your iPhone into the system because it will simultaneously charge your iPhone, but Bluetooth can be handy for quick trips.     

Quick Access Menu

A menu on the left side of the screen gives you quick access to apps even when you already have another app. Tapping the Home button at the bottom of the menu operates takes you back to the main menu.

Getting to the Infotainment System Menu

Tap the button with your car's model name on it (Kia, Ford, etc.) to get back to the infotainment system's menu. 

Use the Steering Wheel Buttons

The steering wheel buttons for controlling music for your car's radio should also work with CarPlay when listen to music, so there is no need to touch the screen to skip a song.

You Can Use Your iPhone When CarPlay is On

The iPhone operates both independently and is tied into CarPlay. If you launch a CarPlay app on your iPhone, it will also open on the CarPlay screen. But you can have Apple Maps on CarPlay and browse the web on your iPhone. You shouldn't do this while driving, but it's great for those times when you start your car and engage CarPlay, and then you remember you have no idea where you are going.

Was this page helpful?