With more and more cars getting support for smartphone integration, we compare the two on various grounds to see which one comes out on top
As technology moves further and screens pop up in all kinds of places and the need to stay connected rises, carmakers have been making great high definition screens so we don’t miss our smartphones while we drive. However, the two giants of the smartphone industry, Apple and Google, came out with softwares specially designed for use in cars. The idea was great — a user interface optimised for use in a car, big icons, easy to use and there would be a uniform experience no matter which car you jump in. But Apple CarPlay and Android Auto actually differ from each other quite a bit if you look closely.
Let’s start with the first thing that greets you, the interface. Now, CarPlay has had an icon based layout since its inception and Android Auto has recently followed in Apple’s footsteps and ditched the horrible unintuitive screen they had before. However, the icons on CarPlay are layed out further apart from each other and are bigger in size, making them easier to touch while driving. Another thing Apple nails is the home screen where you can have multiple customisable widgets that can display maps (Apple Maps only, sigh), music and a calendar, for example. There are shortcuts for your last three used apps on the left corner and a home button so switching between apps and screens is a breeze. Android Auto has shortcuts too but it is just your last used app, not the last three. Apple wins this round.
One of the main reasons someone would prefer using one of these two softwares over just connecting music via bluetooth is to use maps. Now, both Apple and Google have their native maps pre-installed but Apple Maps is not a patch on Google Maps. Google Maps is more reliable, more comprehensive, easier to use, has better directions and is just miles and miles ahead. This means that even as an Apple user you are probably going to be using Google Maps on CarPlay and that is not the greatest experience. Yes, you can tell Siri to navigate to a destination “via Google Maps” and that works fine but CarPlay does not get pinch to zoom support and it is slightly clunkier. Android Auto’s maps experience is brilliant, it is as close to a smartphone experience as possible on a car’s screen. Just this round alone probably earns Android Auto two additional points, because maps are the things you need the most and end up using the most on a car’s screen.
Another fairly important aspect of these two is voice control. Ideally, you should be able to do everything you need to do without ever having to take your eyes off the road. Most cars with smartphone integration get a dedicated button to activate the voice assistant, be it Siri or the Google lady. In terms of voice clarity Siri just about edges out the Google Assistant, but that’s the only win it gets over here. The Google Assistant is smarter, way smarter, reacts faster and it responds to the “Ok Google” command more times than Siri does to “Hey Siri”. In terms of functionality they’re both about the same — both will read out your messages, navigate to a place or play your favourite music. However, with Google’s seamless integration with Google Maps, it makes for an easier to navigate to a place via Android Auto. Score for Android Auto here too.
This is split into three sections - phone compatibility, app compatibility and car compatibility.
Apple CarPlay works with all iPhones later than iPhone 5. On the Android side of things it could be any phone that is running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher. So, both cover quite a wide range of devices in their eco-systems. In terms of app compatibility, both are evenly matched. Both will run your music apps like Spotify, Youtube Music and Google Play Music or Apple Music. Both have support for third party messaging software, like Whatsapp. Also, the apps have very similar layouts in both cases. So, in that respect they are equal. However, in terms of car compatibility there are a few cars that do not offer Android Auto — BMW and Ferrari, for example. Ferrari actually charges Rs 3 lakh to even have Apple Carplay so you’re probably better off without it anyways.
This is CarPlay’s USP in my opinion. It is much much easier to use. One massive complaint I have of Android Auto is the fact that you cannot initiate it while the car is in motion, which you shouldn’t be doing if you’re driving but what if you have a co-passenger! It does not allow for it, Apple does. The speed of the connection is also faster, the instant you connect your iPhone via the cable, you can set off. With Android Auto you need to wait for a bit because you know that if the connection fails for some reason, you’re going to have to stop again. The applications on Apple CarPlay also crash less. For instance, the Spotify app on Android Auto kept having troubles for me. But when I plugged in my iPhone, it worked perfectly for the rest of the journey. Apple wins this one by far.
Android Auto does a lot of things better, but with Apple CarPlay stuff is easier and when you are in a car at highway speeds, you probably would prefer ease of use over functionality. However, it’s not like you are going to rush into the store (especially with the current situation) and pick up the competitor smartphone to have a different experience on your car’s screen. So, have I wasted your time? Yes.