CarPlay is an Apple offering that allows a car stereo unit to serve as both a display and a controller for an iOS device. It is a safer way to use your phone while you drive, and you can play music, search locations, and make calls on the move. If you’re using a car from a known brand, chances are it has CarPlay support. Because we want you to make the most of all the technology available to you, here are the best CarPlay apps for iPhones.
CarPlay Apps for iPhone: What to Know
Before we dive into the best CarPlay apps, it is important to mention that only a small number of iOS apps are compatible with the service. You won’t be able to use all the apps on your iPhone on CarPlay, but you’d have access to all the ones you need for a smooth on-the-go experience. Available CarPlay apps fall into three categories: Messaging, Navigation, and Audio.
You’ll probably only need one CarPlay-compatible app for each purpose. You’ll have overlapping apps if you download more than one app for each function but if you like to have options, go for more.
In addition to these, you can access other built-in apps like Calendar, Clock, and Reminders. There are no CarPlay icons for them, but you can ask Siri to do tasks like “Add ketchup to my grocery list” or “Remind me to call Mom at 7 p.m”.
iPhones with iOS 13 and later can also control settings such as Do Not Disturb (while driving) or Light and Dark modes. You also get a Now Playing icon on your dashboard to skip back and forth between audio tracks or pause and play them.
The Best CarPlay Apps for iPhone
Now that we’ve gotten that disclaimer out the way, let’s look at the best CarPlay apps, starting with the in-built apps on your iPhone.
The Phone app is integrated in CarPlay and allows you to make and receive phone calls while driving. When you launch the app, you can look through your contacts, open a dialer, review recent calls, and check your voicemail.
However, keep in mind that browsing through a contact list while driving is dangerous, so it’s safer to ask Siri to “Call John Wick,” for example.
2. Apple Maps
If you’d rather not use another navigation app, Apple Maps works perfectly with CarPlay.
You can use Apple Maps to search destinations or places of interest, share ETAs, and find traffic updates. To navigate with Siri, press the microphone button on your steering wheel or tap the Microphone icon on your dashboard.
The Messages app allows you to send and receive texts safely while driving. You can tap on a conversation to have the most recent messages read aloud. You can also use your voice to prompt Siri to send new messages.
4. Apple Music
You’d agree that good music makes a drive much more enjoyable, no? A quiet drive to the local drugstore can become a personal rave to your favorite band with the right playlist. If you’re a subscriber, you can use the Apple Music app with CarPlay to access the vast collection. You may, of course, listen to anything you’ve purchased from iTunes as well.
Launch the app to browse your library and saved playlists. It’s also easy to ask Siri to play music by your favorite artists, albums, genres, and so on.
For many of us, commute time is me-time. You can catch up on your favorite podcasts or build your self-image with positive affirmations. On CarPlay, you can use the Podcasts app to access those channels you’ve subscribed to.
The CarPlay UI, like all other media apps, features menu icons at the top, simple lists of content, and a full-screen media control page with huge play/pause and skip forward/back controls. There’s also a browse area to help you find new podcasts while you’re on the go.
The Best Third-Party CarPlay Apps
Now let’s look at third-party apps that are CarPlay-compatible and how you can use them to improve your commute experience.
The iHeartRadio app is a terrific way to find AM and FM radio stations from all over the world. This app has you covered if you want to listen to your favorite podcast or check out the latest sports scores. As you listen, iHeartRadio will collect the music you like and build a personalized station specifically for you.
Like other radio apps, a premium subscription allows you to save and replay songs from the radio, make limitless playlists, and skip as many tracks as you want. There are now two paid packages available: iHeartRadio Plus ($6 per month) and iHeartRadio All Access ($13 per month).
To install iHeartRadio on your car’s CarPlay console,
- Connect your iPhone to your car’s display with a lightning cord.
- Once your car display’s screen changes to Apple CarPlay, you’ll be able to access the music tab at the bottom.
- The screen will show all of the music apps that are currently available on your phone. Scroll down until you find iHeartRadio and tap it.
- iHeartRadio will be launched, and all of the capabilities from the mobile app will be available on your car display.
Download: iHeartRadio (Free)
Waze is one of the coolest navigation apps available. Why? Well, it leverages the power and legitimacy of crowdsourcing by collating real-time information from the app’s users. Anyone and everyone can pitch in real-time traffic pictures, locations of the cheapest gas stations, and updates on traffic incidents and accidents.
You can use CarPlay to access Waze from your dashboard and always find the quickest route home. You can even share your ride details with your nearest and dearest. Within the app, you can also listen to music or podcasts. Waze is a good alternative if you don’t like Apple Maps or Google Maps.
Download: Waze (Free)
If you enjoy podcasts and want an alternative to Apple’s exclusive podcast app, check out Overcast. This program includes a slew of useful features, such as voice boost and smart speed, which allow you to speed up chats without distorting the audio.
You may also search for, browse, and download podcasts to listen to later. Push notifications are also available in the app, ensuring that you never miss a new episode of your favorite podcast. It is now ad-supported, however a premium subscription for $10 per year allows you to listen without interruptions.
Download: Overcast (Free, subscription available)
WhatsApp is one of the few third-party messaging apps supported by CarPlay. When you launch it, you can ask Siri to read unread messages aloud or dictate a new message. You’ll also receive WhatsApp notifications on the CarPlay home screen (unless you’re in Do Not Disturb mode).
Download: WhatsApp (Free)
If you own an electric vehicle (hey, Tesla owners!), an app like Plugshare is a must-have. It allows you to easily locate charging stations for your vehicle. You can plan your commute and ensure you have enough juice to carry you to the next charging station, at least.
Plugshare users can not only find EV charging stations, but they can leave reviews and connect with other plug-in vehicle owners as well.
Download: Plugshare (Free)
SpotHero makes it quick and easy to find and reserve parking in major US cities, making it easier to get everywhere. You can also save up to 50% when you reserve your parking spot ahead of time.
SpotHero provides access to thousands of garages, parking lots, and valets across the country. Whether you’re commuting to work, going to the airport, or just exploring your city, this app can help you search and book spaces in advance, so all you have to do on arrival is park your car.
Download: SpotHero (Free)
Many music lovers either use Apple Music or Spotify. Spotify’s CarPlay integration, like other music apps, allows you to browse your playlists and other saved songs through its UI. Otherwise, you could just ask Siri to play a specific song or album. Spotify also supports podcasts, allowing you to manage a variety of audio entertainment in one interface.
Note that you’ll need Spotify Premium to listen to music without ads and save songs offline.
Download: Spotify (Free, Subscription available)
8. TuneIn Radio
TuneIn Radio is one of the most extensive content libraries on the planet. You can access real-time audio from over 120,000 radio stations worldwide, as well as sports, news, music, and other popular forms. With a premium subscription for $10 per month, you can get play-by-play access to a variety of sports, ensuring that you never miss a beat when it comes to your favorite NFL or MLB club. You also get access to over 130 ad-free music stations.
Download: TuneIn Radio (Free, Subscription available)
More CarPlay Options
As previously stated, many of the best CarPlay apps are very similar to the ones described above. To avoid going over them all in-depth, here are a few other options for each category:
Music and Radio
Smoother, Fun Rides With CarPlay
As we’ve discussed, just a small number of apps are compatible with CarPlay, but there’s still a large enough selection for you to find something that suits your needs. There are numerous options for listening to music or podcasts, sending voice messages, and navigating.