The automotive world's infotainment darlings are about to roll out the biggest updates either have seen since their initial debuts. What can we expect?
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From Lamborghini to Suzuki, almost every car manufacturer is producing vehicles with an infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Aftermarket head units also now support both, bringing the latest technology to a car of any age.

This means that regardless of how much time software engineers spend crafting the perfect interface for the latest vehicle, you’re simply going to ditch it once your smartphone is connected.

For a select few, CarPlay can operate wirelessly (Google announced wireless plans but has yet to properly roll the feature out), but for most you only need to plug the phone into the USB port in the car.

We’ve had Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for a number of years now and both are set to receive a much-needed update in the coming months.

Android Auto

Android Auto is an application available in the Google Play Store and will run on almost any smartphone from Samsung, Google, Sony, LG. Oppo, Huawei and even Nokia.

Once the new update installs on your phone, you’ll notice the changes the next time you get in the car. Yes, this means that you won’t need the car dealership to do anything. It’s free.

(And, unlike Apple CarPlay, Android Auto can run on your phone's display if your car doesn't have a modern infotainment screen.)

The Android Auto updates aren’t just visually different, the new design brings some nice new features:

  • The home screen “cards” are no longer around, you’ll see app icons (similar to how CarPlay looks)
  • A dedicated Notifications page for scrolling through and hearing or previewing messages
  • The Google Assistant will live and sit in the corner awaiting every command
  • A small bar at the bottom will show music controls while you’re main screen shows navigation. Or, vice versa: if you’re choosing an album, you’ll see directions presented in that bottom bar, no need to jump in and out of apps each time
  • It will be more adaptive to different display sizes, able to be wider and taller as necessary
  • App icons will show a small Google Assistant icon if they can be triggered for immediate audio information. For example, pressing the Weather icon will give you a vocal weather report immediately.

Apple Carplay for iOS 13

For Apple CarPlay, the new iOS 13 (still in 'beta' testing at the time of writing) will bring in a lot of new features on its own – but here is what we can be excited about with the new CarPlay.

  • A new dashboard style look to give you a view of more options rather than just apps
  • You’ll be able to see which song is playing, your navigation, Siri suggestions and HomeKit controls (open the Garage) on one screen
  • The Calendar in CarPlay integrates nicely into navigation or if you have a conference call scheduled, dial in with one press
  • For when your mates are in the car, a simple Do Not Disturb feature will keep messages appearing or being read out to the whole group
  • If you’re an Apple Music user, the interface looks completely different with a simpler way to discover new music and scroll through your favourite tunes. We’ll have to wait and see how Spotify and others redesign for this interface
  • Siri will support other navigation apps (eg Waze or Google Maps) and support third party music services (eg Spotify, Google Music, Amazon Music), so your hands can stay on the wheel and let your voice do the work.

For Apple and Android, we’ve seen both relax their restrictions over time and allow more and more apps to integrate with their software. This has meant that whatever music app you use, or whatever navigation app you prefer, they’ll all work in the safest way possible.

Both of these updates will be coming around September so you can welcome the summer with a whole new in car experience, and it didn’t cost a cent.