The best apps for Apple CarPlay
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Ahead of Apple's full CarPlay overhaul later this year, we wanted to highlight a few of our favorite apps for Apple's in-car system.
CarPlay, available in nearly all new vehicles, provides an iPhone-like interface on your car's built-in infotainment system. Between its familiarity and ease of use, it's become a must-have for iPhone owners.
The number of apps has continued to grow as more developers integrate CarPlay functionality into their apps, and as Apple adds new app categories to the platform.
Some apps continue to offer lackluster experiences — we're looking at you SiriusXM — but others are invaluable. Here are our current top apps that support CarPlay.
It's easy to find your way to the nearest cafe to get your daily carb and coffee fix in the Panera CarPlay app. What's most impressive is the ability to order directly through your car's screen.
You can peruse your recent orders or fan favorites. Just tap an item to add it to your cart, view your cart, and tap checkout to send your order.
It's super useful for frequent visitors who can send along their daily orders, all with no more than a few taps on the screen.
Apple has its audiobook store, though we've always been partial to Amazon-owned Audible. It has a massive library of audiobooks and a growing selection of Amazon original stories narrated by some of the best actors out of Hollywood.
The Audible CarPlay app shows you your audiobook and podcast libraries and any collections you've set up. You can adjust playback speed, jump chapters, and more while listening to a book or podcast.
Apple added fuel apps as a category type with iOS 16 and Chevron is one of, if not the first, to support it. With the Chevron app in CarPlay, you can pay for your fuel without leaving your vehicle.
Once you pull into a Chevron or Texaco station, the app will automatically detect your location. You can then choose your pump number and charge your on-file payment for as much fuel as you dispense.
The app also lets you find your nearest station if you're partial to their brand versus others in a more generic mapping application.
Many sports leagues have dedicated apps like the NBA and NHL, but our favorite's been MLB. You can change the app icon to represent your favorite team, which shows on the CarPlay interface the same way as it does on iPhone and iPad.
With a corresponding MLB subscription, you can get loads of audio content through the league's first-party app. During baseball season, it's a great companion app.
The downside is that there's no content available for non-subscribers. When you launch the app without a subscription, an alert appears to let you know to subscribe within the iOS app, which isn't advisable to do when behind the wheel.
The browser wars on macOS and iOS has been heating up, especially as rumors swirl that Apple will drop its webKit requirement in iOS 17. Brave, available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac, tries to set itself apart with several seldom-seen features.
For CarPlay users, you can play audio directly from the car interface. If you save a video from YouTube or other locations on the Brave browser on iOS, you can then listen along to it when you hop into the car.
The app won't play the video for obvious reasons, but the audio is supported. This makes it a great way to keep up with video podcasts, storytellers, and other video series where the visuals aren't important.
If you're looking for a more verbose podcast app than Apple's own, Overcast is an excellent choice. Its iOS app is packed full of useful features, and its CarPlay interface is quite good too.
You can filter the app by recent podcasts to quickly jump into your last listen or you can view all podcasts you've subscribed to.
The CarPlay app has a favorite button, playback speed controls, and chapter selection when listening to a podcast. The chapters also support custom artwork if the podcast creator set them up.
The best feature though is support for both Smart Speed and Voice Boost. The former helps decrease listening time by cutting out dead time and the latter helps make voices easier to understand.
Apple Maps has improved significantly since its launch, but many users still turn to third-party mapping applications. Waze is arguably the most popular with its ability to reroute you mid-journey so you always arrive as fast as possible.
With Waze, you can also see the current speed limit, railroad tracks, construction, stop lights, and more. Plus, it supports the CarPlay split-screen dashboard so you can see your media while you navigate.
While navigating in Waze, you can also report road incidents. You can flag speed traps, traffic, crashes, and hazards, which can potentially help other road users equipped with the same app.
A new CarPlay coming soon
Starting in late 2023, Apple will begin shipping an updated version of CarPlay that has the potential to support all the screens in your vehicle as well as control vital car systems like the AC or seat positions.
Apple previewed the new system at WWDC 2022 with iOS 16 but will start rolling out to select vehicles with iOS 17.
Unfortunately, there will be a slow adoption rate for the next generation of CarPlay. Only a few luxury auto manufacturers have signed up thus far, and it will likely be years before most mass-market vehicles support it.
It will be a long wait, but it will be worth it in the end.