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Apple CarPlay Is Getting an Overhaul — and You’re Gonna Want It

New Apple CarPlay dashboard view that can display multiple sources of information

At its developer conference this week, Apple made many announcements (a moment of silence here for the death of iTunes), but the most significant for car folks is a major overhaul of CarPlay that will update the features and look of the road-trip companion for iPhone users that rolled out in 2014.

Related: Android Auto Gets Easier on the Eyes

The updated CarPlay will show up in the fall as part of iOS 13 and appears to be useful enough that you might want to update right away — even if, like me, you like to wait a few months on a new iOS for the kinks to be worked out. The announcement follows Google’s announcement in May of an update for Android Auto.

The news, along with Google’s, is as big a deal for new- and used-car buyers who value the phone-based multimedia interfaces for their familiarity from car to car, as well as an alternative to (too often) outdated, hard-to-use or just plain lame user interfaces from automakers, not to mention bargain navigation with free updates.

Another of the company’s announcements was a major retooling for Apple Maps, which once left me in the middle of cornfields and which I haven’t used since iOS 12 brought Google Maps and Waze into the CarPlay universe. It’s worth a look, but for many of us, you’d have to pry Waze from our cold, dead hands.

Meanwhile, here’s what Apple says iPhone users can look forward to in a new and improved CarPlay:

  • New look for the home screen: The freshened look of the familiar home screen has a redone status bar, rounded corners and new table views. Displayed at the conference, it’s not radically different, just fresher. And you can switch back and forth between this screen and the new dashboard.
  • New dashboard view: This is a new split-screen view also shown at the conference that can display maps, audio controls, Siri suggestions or other information in one view.
  • Easier-to-use Calendar: A redesigned Calendar app can give you a view of your day and can be tapped for directions or to dial in to a meeting.
  • Easier-to-use Apple Music tab: Apple says the updated Apple Music tab will make it easier to find new tunes, as well as favorites.
  • Dark Mode: With iOS 13, your iPhone, as well as CarPlay, will let you to switch to an alternative, easier-on-the-eyes dark view for different light conditions.
  • Independent app views: Thank you, Apple. With the new CarPlay, opening an app on the connected iPhone won’t preempt what is displayed on the car’s screen. That means, for example, your companion can search for tunes while you still can see the navigation and map — or, as I found while alone in a test car recently, Aha Radio won’t randomly launch and make your map disappear.
  • Album art in Now Playing: This will vary by car, but automakers can choose to show album art to make it easier to find songs, albums or playlists.
  • Bluetooth album art: The new iOS will support the tech standard that includes album art when connected to a compatible car kit or speaker.
  • Apple Maps always there: Apple says that Maps will always appear on the dashboard, even when points of interest pop up. 
  • Better Maps view of intersections: The so-called Junction View for Apple Maps in CarPlay will provide a more detailed view of intersections.
  • Siri no longer takes over: Siri will take up only part of the screen, so you still can see things like direction while talking to Siri.
  • Screen can be resized: This will vary by car, but automakers will have the flexibility to develop CarPlay systems that change the size of the display.
  • CarPlay info in instrument or head-up displays: Again, this will vary by car, but the new CarPlay will let automakers develop CarPlay systems that display select data in a second screen, such as in an instrument-cluster information display or a head-up display.
  • CarPlay could support “irregular” screen shapes: Varying by car, automakers can develop CarPlay systems that can fill screens that are not rectangular.
  • Siri listens to car mic: Also varying by car, automakers will be able to develop CarPlay systems that let you say “Hey, Siri” to the car’s microphone.
  • Do not disturb my me-time: Enable “Do Not Disturb While Driving” in CarPlay and you’ll be spared enticing/demanding notifications.
  • Settings control: CarPlay will include a place to change Do Not Disturb settings, as well as display settings.

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