No, CarPlay 2.0 Won't Be Backwards-Compatible

The new-generation CarPlay experience 10 photos
Photo: Apple
CarPlay 2.0 in PorscheCarPlay 2.0 in Aston MartinCarPlay wallpaperAndroid Auto wallpapersCarPlay wallpaperNew wallpaper enabled with CanvasNew wallpaper enabled with CanvasNew wallpaper enabled with CanvasCarPlay 2.0 in Porsche
A new-generation CarPlay is already on the radar, with Apple promising that the first models offering the improved experience would debut in 2024.
However, the company has remained frustratingly quiet about the new features and capabilities of CarPlay 2.0, leaving users worldwide confused about whether they'll get the new system in their cars.

Apple announced the new-generation CarPlay at WWDC in 2022, promising to share the first vehicle announcements by the end of 2023. The highly anticipated news landed in the last days of 2023, with Porsche and Aston Martin confirmed to spearhead the CarPlay 2.0 adoption.

As announced by Apple at WWDC nearly two years ago, CarPlay 2.0 will go live on MY 2024 models, though Porsche and Aston Martin didn't share specifics, and it's unknown which models will get the new feature.

CarPlay 2\.0 in Porsche
Photo: Porsche
The most common question from CarPlay users is whether they'll get the new-generation experience in their cars. It's a legitimate question making sense from an update perspective, as many believe that CarPlay 2.0 will go live as a software update.

Apple has remained tight-lipped on all the essential tidbits, so an answer to this question is not available. However, it's becoming clearer that CarPlay 2.0 will only be available in new cars. It means you won't get the new experience in your existing vehicle, even if it comes with factory-installed CarPlay.

The new-generation CarPlay won't be a regular software update but also a hardware upgrade. It'll require new hardware and must be installed from the factory by the carmaker as part of a licensing deal with Apple. The new hardware allows the new CarPlay version to be deeply integrated into the vehicle and access more data, including the battery level, the tire pressure, and other information you can't read with a simple connection powered by the mobile phone (as it's the case with the current CarPlay version).

CarPlay 2\.0 in Aston Martin
Photo: Aston Martin
The latest iOS builds included evidence that Apple aims for full CarPlay integration into the vehicle, with a new app suite supposed to provide access to essential vehicle information. For example, users running CarPlay will be able to see the climate controls, the tire pressure, and even the door status from the infotainment screen. CarPlay apps will be allowed to access the vehicle cameras, the charging status, and other capabilities for an all-in-one package that doesn't require other software.

Apple is aiming for an approach that reminds of Android Automotive, Google's embedded system already available in a growing number of vehicles. AAOS is an evolved version of Android Auto running at the hardware level and installed from the factory by the carmaker. AAOS benefits from deeper vehicle integration, so applications like Google Maps can read the battery information and provide more advanced functionality, such as charging stop suggestions when the battery drops below a certain threshold.

Apple will position CarPlay 2.0 as an AAOS alternative, working with car manufacturers to install it on their vehicles. It's one of the reasons existing models fitted with CarPlay won't get the new experience.

Apple is working on a compelling package to ensure carmakers will rapidly adopt the new CarPlay experience. The company will let its partners retain their brand identity by allowing them to customize the look and feel of the CarPlay experience. It's a concept AAOS is also using, though Apple will likely control this "freedom" more closely. Appel will offer various themes and colors, specifically as carmakers want to offer a more unique experience in their cars.

CarPlay wallpaper
Photo: Packix
Apple has already joined forces with Aston Martin and Porsche to adopt CarPlay 2.0, but several other carmakers are expected to follow in their footsteps, including Ford, Honda, and Audi. Once the first models launch later this year, CarPlay 2.0 is expected to gain more traction worldwide, with Apple likely to frequently insist on its capabilities.

Apple is betting big on its automotive expansion, especially as it's already working on an electric vehicle. Expected to launch in 2028, the Apple Car will put CarPlay at the forefront of its experience, so it's critical for the company to get this upgraded version right. The new-generation CarPlay will support a less intrusive navigation experience, showing turn-by-turn directions in the instrument cluster for all models running it.

Apple is also working on bringing similar capabilities to the current CarPlay version, but carmakers must specifically add support for this feature. iOS 17.4 will introduce turn-by-turn navigation in Apple Maps in the instrument cluster on CarPlay in supported vehicles.

Apple will likely detail its CarPlay 2.0 plans at the upcoming WWDC event in the spring. The company hasn't yet shared the event dates, but it's safe to assume the new CarPlay experience will receive more stage time. I also expect the company to discuss its CarPlay 2.0 partnership in the fall at the iPhone 16 launch event, when its first partners, including Porsche and Aston Martin, could take the stage to highlight the main advantages of using CarPlay behind in a new-generation model.
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About the author: Bogdan Popa
Bogdan Popa profile photo

Bogdan keeps an eye on how technology is taking over the car world. His long-term goals are buying an 18-wheeler because he needs more space for his kid’s toys, and convincing Google and Apple that Android Auto and CarPlay deserve at least as much attention as their phones.
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