The One Feature CarPlay Needs to Copy From Android Auto

Apple CarPlay home screen 6 photos
Photo: autoevolution
Google Maps on Android AutoThe Android Auto home screenAndroid Automotive in Polestar 2Google Maps on Android Automotive in Polestar 2Android Automotive in Polestar 2
In many regards, Android Auto and CarPlay are like two drops of water. Both require a mobile device to project the interface to the head unit in the car, both require apps to be updated with a driving-optimized experience, both sport a digital assistant, and both allow pretty much the same software categories.
But on the other hand, each come with their own sets of features, and in some cases, these make quite a big difference in terms of usability.

For example, the dashboard currently available on CarPlay is a feature that absolutely everybody loves, as users can see the navigation app, the current phone call, and music information on the same screen.

Android Auto has weather information right in the status bar, something that CarPlay users have been drooling after for a long time, as well as a dynamic bar that makes it so convenient to control the running apps.

But despite the differences and the similarities between the two, there are still things they should copy from each other. And as far as CarPlay is concerned, it should totally borrow the way Android Auto is updated.

In other words, CarPlay should be offered as a stand-alone app bundled with the operating system and then updated through the App Store.

Google Maps on Android Auto
Photo: Google
Here’s why this is so important.

At this point, both CarPlay and Android Auto are native apps that are pre-installed on each device running iOS and Android, respectively.

On the other hand, CarPlay can only receive new features and additional polishing with new iOS updates, which means the iPhone itself requires a new operating system version that’s typically very large in size and lands every few months. This means CarPlay receives additional improvements at a rather slow pace, and installing these updates isn’t necessarily a convenient process since it typically requires a fast Internet connection, an iPhone reboot, and a long waiting time to complete.

Android Auto, despite being offered at the OS level, is also distributed as a separate app on the Google Play Store. Available separately packed in an APK installer, Android Auto can be easily updated and downgraded, though this is only possible thanks to sideloading, a concept that Apple has already refused to embrace.

But what makes Android Auto much better than CarPlay in this regard is exactly the way it receives updates. Because it can be updated from the Google Play Store, Android Auto doesn’t require a full operating system release to receive new features or bug fixes.

The Android Auto home screen
Photo: Google
For Google itself, rolling out new improvements for Android Auto is also a lot more convenient, and the same thing is valid for users too, as they can install them without the need to reboot their devices. Downloading a new Android Auto update is a matter of seconds from the Google Play Store, and the installation doesn’t take more than one minute. It goes without saying the update size is very small, so overall, updating Android Auto is a lot more convenient than CarPlay.

Apple has never explored this approach, and right now, there is no indication that anything could change on this side. For users, this means they would continue to receive improvements at the same slow pace as before, and of course, this isn’t by any means good news.

The living proof in this regard is iOS 15, which has caused quite a mess on the CarPlay front, so users just had to wait for operating systems updates to get a series of critical fixes.

This should be changed in the long term, but right now, Apple just seems to be favoring an evolved version of CarPlay that would be capable of accessing more vehicle functions, pretty much like Android Automotive does. So in the long run, there’s almost no chance to see CarPlay becoming a stand-alone app that can be updated through the App Store.
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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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