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Hands on with the new iOS 15 CarPlay features

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It didn't get much stage time during WWDC, but CarPlay is still adding features in the fall as part of iOS 15. Here are some of the new features you can expect.

iOS 15 CarPlay - Car keys

For iOS 15, Apple is improving the capabilities of virtual car keys. CarKey can now utilize Apple's ultra-wideband U1 chip found on recent devices. This exact spatial awareness ensures that the car can never be started without your phone in the vehicle and that you will never lock your doors with your phone inside.

CarKey was originally introduced with iOS 14, but worked on iOS 13 as well.

It will require support from car manufacturers, and so far, BMW is the first partner announced.

iOS 15 CarPlay - Driving Focus

Focus in iOS 15
Focus in iOS 15

Focus is an entirely new feature within iOS 15, but driving is a subset by itself. With Focus, you can set custom notifications based on your task — be it driving, sleeping, working, or personal time. This will replace Do Not Disturb While Driving we had before.

Focus while driving settings in iOS 15
Focus while driving settings in iOS 15

Users can have Driving Focus turn on or off automatically when you connect to your car's Bluetooth, manually, or when CarPlay is active.

Each Focus, including the driving category, can restrict which notifications come in. For example, while driving, I only want my wife to be able to contact me, and I only want my security or smart home apps to be able to send notifications.

iOS 15 CarPlay - Wallpapers

Apple is bundling four new wallpapers as part of iOS 15 for CarPlay. All four look similar to the default background for iOS 15 found on iPhone and iPad.

Wallpapers in iOS 15
Wallpapers in iOS 15

Each of these wallpapers has both a dark and light version. CarPlay can automatically switch between the light and dark modes based on time of day, or you can always keep it sporting the dark aesthetic.

iOS 15 CarPlay - Other new features

Some features Apple won't have ready in time for the initial iOS 15 release. One of those features is the ability for Siri to announce your messages as they arrive. This feature also works with AirPods and reduces the need for drivers to interact with their infotainment system while on the road. Users are able to listen to Siri and respond entirely hands-free.

Siri gets better in iOS 15
Siri gets better in iOS 15

Apple says this will be coming later this year in a subsequent iOS 15 update.

Similarly, Apple is also saying that the revamped Maps experience will be arriving after the iOS 15 launch. The new Maps app will have much more detail than it does now. "Explore cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and London with unprecedented detail for elevation, roads, trees, buildings, landmarks, and more" is how Apple describes it.

Coming this fall

Apple is set to release iOS 15 to the masses this fall as a free software update for iPhone users. The changes in CarPlay are just a small subset of countless new features that will be making their debut.

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