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CarPlay in iOS 14: The Largest Update Since its Release

Image Source: Apple


Apple’s CarPlay is available in 97% of new cars sold in the US, and is quickly becoming the de facto car infotainment interface for iPhone users. Last week at WWDC, Apple introduced a host of new features to make CarPlay even more integral to the driving experience. New CarPlay app categories are going to shape the future of parking, EV charging, and quick food ordering.

Lets jump in.

First up, there are some subtle improvements to the user experience across the board. In a fun visual departure, you are no longer stuck with the stark white or black wallpaper, but can now choose from a quintet of colorful backgrounds. These backgrounds dynamically change depending on the time of day or whether you have your UI set to dark mode or light. Siri has also received a facelift, mimicking the new look and feel on iPhone — it is more refined and cohesive, using less screen real-estate but remaining prominent. Siri also supports additional functionality like sending voice messages or your ETA. These are minor updates, but if you have used CarPlay in the past, you have probably encountered these use cases and will welcome the change.

Apple also announced support for three new app categories: Parking, EV Charging, and Quick Food Ordering. These new categories double the functionality of CarPlay, adding to the existing app categories of Communication, Audio, and Navigation. Let’s go through all six and explore what’s new.

Communication Apps

Messaging and VoIP apps now support Contact Details and Organized Message Lists. Simply put, you can now browse Address Books, view Contact Details, and perform contact-specific actions like getting directions or favoriting. With Organized Message Lists, developers can offer users a tab bar with filtered and sorted messages like Favorites, Recents, Unread, or whatever grouping makes sense for their app. These new features go a long way in bringing CarPlay messaging experiences up to parity with their iPhone counterparts.

Audio Apps

Music, Podcast, Radio, and Audio Book apps will now have more control over what actions they include in the Now Playing screen. Actions like Favoriting, custom-timed Skip Forward/Backward controls, or even Infinite Repeat are now options for developers to include in their CarPlay apps.

Navigation Apps

While there is no new navigation functionality announced for CarPlay, using existing routing tools Apple Maps is going to allow drivers with electric vehicles to route their trip via EV Charge Stations. This is important because reaching a destination with enough charge is a significant anxiety producer for EV drivers, and this new feature will give them more confidence — a big win for EV advocates. Apple Maps is also going to add new alerts for red light or speed traffic cameras, as well as congested or restricted zones in larger cities.

Parking, EV Charging, and Quick Food Ordering Apps

It is not an understatement to say that these three new app categories are going to dramatically streamline the driving experience for CarPlay users. They address common challenges faced by drivers every day, and will likely see quick adoption when launched. Apps that support CarPlay in these categories will have a significant advantage over competitors.

So how will they work? All three of the new app categories broadly follow a similar user journey: Find a Location, Check Availability, and Reserve (Charger or Parking) or Place an Order (Food). To enable this flow, these apps will be able to show a map with filtered locations, present location details and availability, offer an item list as necessary, and include a reservation or order summary screen with actions like Start a Charge or Place an Order. Detailed food menus or account management will not be supported, and users will have to rely on Favorites or Recent Items to complete reservations and orders.

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This fall, CarPlay is receiving the largest update since its initial release five years ago. It’s packed with smart features and entirely new app categories that impact industries like food, parking, and electric vehicles. If there was ever a time to consider supporting CarPlay, this is it. Our team at WillowTree is excited about this update, and we’re looking forward to seeing what we can build together with our partners.

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