Checking Out Apple CarPlay

Like me, you may have heard of Apple’s CarPlay “system” that links your iPhone with your vehicle but never saw CarPlay in action. Today, I got a first hand look at CarPlay via the Alpine iLX-007 in-dash receiver. An aftermarket car stereo replacement, the iLX is CarPlay personified. Connecting your iPhone to the iLX brings up the familiar iOS screen on the 7-in display. Everything looks and behaves similarly to regular iPhone interactions. The apps, the home button, iTunes music, maps, Siri – it’s all there.

I had to admit seeing CarPlay in action was pretty cool. The learning curve of operating the iLX is negligible since it is  the iOS that you’re already comfortable with using an iPhone. No need to figure out how to set music stations, make a phone call, or otherwise operate the unit. The Maps application for navigation was the most compelling since it eliminates the need for any other in-car navigation system. 

But there are some limitations with the fledgling CarPlay. For the iLX-007, you have to physically connect your iPhone to the receiver via a USB-Lightning cable. And if you’re ever without your iPhone, the iLX is essentially non-functional. There’s no real built-in capabilities since mostly everything resides with the phone. 

The one aspect of CarPlay that I found underwhelming is its overall implementation, or really, lack thereof. CarPlay seems like a literal translation of iOS from your phone to your car’s in-dash display. While there are some changes to the user interface to accommodate the attention of drivers, it still looks like and feels a lot like iOS.

I was hoping that CarPlay would do more like become the central processing unit of your vehicle, maybe even its soul. Currently, CarPlay doesn’t revolutionize or innovate the driver’s experience. It reminds me of the Motorola ROKR E1 aka the Apple iTunes phone. If you remember this iPhone precursor, the ROKR could play music by including iPod features. Useful? Yes. Innovative? No, not compared to the revolutionary iPhone. 

So while I’m digging the concept of CarPlay version 1.0, I’m already waiting for version 2.0.

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