CarPlay Apps List: 9 Finest Creations From Third-Party Developers

19 Oct 2017

12 Min



We spend a great part of our lives on the go but still, we can do so many things through our smartphones. Car manufacturers have been trying to bring that to their cars for years but let's be honest those were failed attempts in most cases. That's because there was no unity of the ecosystem that we could feel when using CarPlay apps.

Things changed dramatically when Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto came out in 2015. So, in this article, we decided to talk about the solution from Apple in general, as well as give you the relevant Apple CarPlay apps list.

Apple CarPlay review

What is CarPlay? It's the way Apple chose to bring it's iOS-based ecosystem right into customers' cars. We should say they've managed to do that quite well. The main condition for using the CarPlay is owning a compatible iPhone and car (read below about CarPlay compatible cars).

The further instruction of exploitation is as easy as pie -- users have to connect their iPhones to an on-board car computer via Lightning or wirelessly depending on the capabilities of their built-in entertainment systems. After that, users could access the information stored on their iPhones via the CarPlay interface that is adapted for safe driving.

The pack of standard iPhone CarPlay apps from Apple includes Phone, Messages, Maps, Apple Music, Podcasts, Audiobooks, and some others. As I already said, the company has adapted all the apps for driving in order to minimize any distractions. For that purpose, CarPlay got a separate UI guideline for app design.

iPhone CarPlay apps interaction

Apps: CarPlay interaction with iPhone

Although, the big role in interaction with CarPlay is given to Apple's smart assistant. Users are able to send texts, read incoming messages, make calls and do a bunch of other stuff with the help of Siri. CarPlay prevents the necessity to even interact physically with in-dash systems shifting some core responsibilities to Siri. In fact, it's called Hands-on mode.

Talking about hands, each car manufacturer has it's own notion of interior design and that's why users can interact with Apple CarPlay apps not only by means of the in-dash system's screen and voice but also with the help of knobs and buttons that may vary depending on the car model.

Can I develop an app for CarPlay?

Theoretically yes, you can create a CarPlay app. But in practice it's not as easy as to develop an app for iOS, Mac OS or watchOS since CarPlay API is currently closed and accessible only to a limited number of developers. To be exact, it is available only for companies that have passed through Apple's MFi licensing program (Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad).

Before dealing with CarPlay, read our detailed article to learn about the cost to develop an app

This program is oriented on hardware and software developers and implies getting a specialized license for being allowed to create accessories for Apple devices or software as in this case. Moreover, the MFi Manufacturing Licence can only be obtained by companies that have their own manufacturing facilities.

Nevertheless, the answer is positive. You will have the chance to develop a CarPlay app right after you get certified with Apple's MFi license.

Do car manufacturers support CarPlay?

For sure! There are already over 200 car models from dozens of car brands like BMW, Audi, Ford, Chevrolet, Kia, Honda and many more. The amount continues to grow from year to year. Answering the question of what cars support Apple CarPlay, it is worth noting that not only passenger cars can be equipped with it but semi-trucks and trucks as well.

Cars that support CarPlay

Apple CarPlay: compatible cars

Though manufacturers are adding the CarPlay support to their in-dash systems, not all of their car lineups have it. The best way to learn what cars have Apple CarPlay is to refer to this official list created by Apple.

Even if a user's car is not on that list -- it is possible to purchase one of the hundreds of in-dash systems from third-party manufacturers that have already adapted CarPlay and install it into car.

Apple CarPlay compatible devices

Apple CarPlay devices include iPhones starting from the 5th generation and above, while any iPad or iPod is not supported. Concerning Android smartphones, they are not supported by CarPlay the same as iPhones are not supported by Android Auto. The point is that any manufacturer supporting CarPlay has to provide it's system with Android Auto as well.

Apple CarPlay third-party apps

As it was already mentioned, the API of CarPlay is closed and that means not all app development teams are able to build an app for it. Nevertheless, CarPlay third-party apps exist. They are mostly focused on audio content. With safe driving in mind, it is a quite questionable whether Apple will ever allow creating apps related to watching video content or focused on other distracting software.

1. Spotify

In case the pre-installed music streaming service from Apple isn't really your thing, then another giant of the industry called Spotify has released it's CarPlay app. I suppose that's great news for customers who have been using Spotify for years and are already used to the app's interface, as well as have tons of great playlists there.

The Spotify CarPlay app is divided into three sections called 'Your Library', 'Browse', and 'Radio'. As you may have gathered, the Library provides users with access to their albums and playlists. At the same time, the Browse section allows users to search for new releases, top lists from Spotify, as well as listen to music by genres. And of course, the Radio section that contains stations that users have recently listened to, recommended stations, and stations by genres.

Apps supported by apple CarPlay: Spotify

Best CarPlay apps: Spotify

2. Pandora

Pandora provides it's in-car listeners with the tap-to-listen solution. Literally everything users have to do to start listening to music on the Pandora CarPlay app is to launch the app itself and tap on a radio station -- done! A moment later the music is already playing and users are free from switching between menus or searching for their perfect playlist.

Probably, the biggest advantage of the service might turn into it's biggest disadvantage for some people, but Pandora users know what they're signed up for if they're using this service.

Apps supported by apple CarPlay: Pandora

Best CarPlay apps: Pandora

3. Audible

Listening to books is a great and efficient pastime since there are lots of multitasking opportunities when your hands are free. It's just a perfect scenario for car drivers, isn't it? The Audible company also thinks so. That's why they rolled out their audiobook app for CarPlay. Users are welcome to start listening to their audiobook library in just a few taps. It should be noted that through the CarPlay app, users are able to access only those books that were pre-downloaded on their iPhones.

Apps supported by apple CarPlay: Audible

Best CarPlay apps: Audible

4. Audiobooks

Right from it's name, it is completely understood what this CarPlay app is for. The same as Audible, this service allows it's users to listen to purchased audiobooks in their cars. However, there are a few additional options if compared to Audible. Thus, users can get to the Free Books section to find some available publications to read for free.

Apps supported by apple CarPlay: Audiobooks

Best CarPlay apps: Audiobooks

5. Overcast

Just like audiobooks, podcasts are a great way to spend efficient pastime since they allow you to get new information related to any topic and multitask at the same time. The Overcast app for CarPlay brings users' podcasts right to their cars allowing users to listen to both shows that are already downloaded on their devices and the ones that are in the cloud. Two tabs placed on the top of a screen allow users to navigate through their playlists and shows with new episodes, as well as switch to a library containing upcoming shows.

Apps supported by apple CarPlay: Overcast

Best CarPlay apps: Overcast

6. Castro

Castro CarPlay app gives users what they expect to get from a podcast application in just a couple of taps. It's got two tabs -- Queue and Inbox. All shows that waiting to be listened to are placed in the Inbox tab and will be there until the users get to them. Afterwards, they are moved to the Queue tab where they hold up till the user finishes listening to them.

Apps supported by apple CarPlay: Castro

Best CarPlay apps: Castro 

7. NPR One

The NPR One app for CarPlay is a way to keep up with the latest news, as well as stay tuned into your favorite NPR shows. The app itself is divided into several sections. The Catch Up section allows users to play the latest national news, while the Up Next section is intended to give users an opportunity to choose what to listen to after the current program. Especially for users following different shows, the app obtained the Followed Shows section. And eventually, the Recommended section contains NPR programs that might be interesting for users and which are based on their history of listening.

Apps supported by apple CarPlay: NRP One

Best CarPlay apps: NRP One

8. MLB At Bat

MLB At Bat app for CarPlay is a gold mine for baseball lovers. Even though it cannot provide users with video content for the sake of security, the app allows users to listen to any available game with the help of the radio feature. The program is simple -- users should open this app, choose a game available for listening from the list, then just tap on it and select your favorite team's radio station.

Apps supported by apple CarPlay: MLB At Bat

Best CarPlay apps: MLB At Bat

9. iHeartRadio

The iHeartRadio CarPlay app allows it's customers to discover both AM and FM stations all over the world. That's a good solution for users who like listening to podcasts or checking out the latest sports events from time to time. Except, this app will provide users with their favorite music thanks to a preference analysis that helps to build a personalized station.

Apps supported by apple CarPlay: iHeartRadio

Best CarPlay apps: iHeartRadio

iOS 11 CarPlay changes

Probably, the most noticeable changes of CarPlay in iOS 11 for drivers is a bunch of new Apple Maps features. To be short, Apple Maps will obtain the visual lane guidance along with speed limitation warnings that depend on a user's route, while Siri is able to provide users with voice hints related to the route.

Do you need a smart assistant in your app? Learn how to integrate one in our related article

Generally, the Apple Maps on CarPlay got smarter with. They are able to build alternative routes during navigation. Wherein, users will see these routes on their current maps with the hints about changes to ETA.

Apple Maps on CarPlay

Apple Maps on CarPlay in iOS 11

Another small change of CarPlay in iOS 11 is related to notification badges. Now, except for the Home Screen, they are also displayed on the left-sided CarPlay menu as small red dots above the app icon. The interaction with Siri was also redesigned according to it's new appearance that came to iOS 10.

Siri on Apple CarPlay

CarPlay in iOS 11: Notification badges and refreshed Siri

As you can see, there are already plenty of useful apps for CarPlay available. The bad news is that a very few number of developers have had an opportunity to work with the CarPlay API since access to it is restricted.

That said, before CarPlay app development, you should build one for iPhone. So, if you are looking for a company who'd implement your idea -- contact us. Our managers will answer all your questions and estimate your project.

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Frequently Asked Questions

It's the way Apple chose to bring it's iOS-based ecosystem right into customers' cars. The main condition for using the CarPlay is owning a compatible iPhone and car.

CarPlay is as easy as pie — users have to connect their iPhones to an on-board car computer via Lightning or wirelessly depending on the capabilities of their built-in entertainment systems. After that, users could access the information stored on their iPhones via the CarPlay interface that is adapted for safe driving.

Dozens of car brands like BMW, Audi, Ford, Chevrolet, Kia, Honda, and many more support Apple CarPlay. Though manufacturers are adding the CarPlay support to their in-dash systems, not all of their car lineups have it. The best way to learn what cars have Apple CarPlay is to refer to this official list created by Apple.

Apple CarPlay supports native iOS apps like Maps, Phone, Messages, Apple Music, Calendar. It also supports a range of third-party apps:

  • Spotify
  • Audible
  • Google Play Music
  • Pandora
  • CBS Radio
  • WhatsApp

CarPlay supports wireless connection, however not every car is compatible with wireless CarPlay. To find out whether your car is compatible we advise you to go through the list of supported cars created by Apple.

Apple provides a hands-free experience for drivers. With CarPlay, you can trigger Siri with your hands on the wheel. In it's turn, Siri can set the routes on the map, switch track in a music app, and even send messages transcribing them from your words.

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About author

Evgeniy Altynpara is a CTO and member of the Forbes Councils’ community of tech professionals. He is an expert in software development and technological entrepreneurship and has 10+years of experience in digital transformation consulting in Healthcare, FinTech, Supply Chain and Logistics

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