Apple CarPlay vs. Android Auto: Which Is Better?

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have become commonplace features in the base trims of many modern cars. These smartphone integration programs allow you to mirror certain apps on your car’s infotainment screen. With this feature, you can also take calls and answer texts without taking your hands off the steering wheel.

While both programs are very similar, each one has its own unique quirks. Is one operating system more suited to in-car assistance than the other? Here’s a quick comparison.

The origins of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Apple CarPlay vs. Android Auto: A screen displaying the choice between Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
A screen displaying the choice between Apple CarPlay or Android Auto | Britta Pedersen/picture alliance via Getty Images

According to the Apple Wiki, the tech giant unveiled CarPlay in March 2014. The Ferrari FF, released in September of that year, was the first vehicle to have Apple CarPlay. The feature wouldn’t become widely available until 2016.

Apple CarPlay has continued to receive valuable updates, including wireless connectivity on specific models. A major software upgrade is scheduled for next year, including even more helpful driver diagnostic tools and comfort controls.

Apple CarPlay has a substantial amount of users. According to Statista research, it has about 118 million in North America alone. Statista says Android is more popular with U.S. consumers, boasting over 133 million users.

Auto Evolution reports that Android Auto made its debut in June 2014. While it started with relatively basic menus, drivers and critics still appreciated the interface’s intuitiveness. Even the earliest Android Auto version still allowed drivers to use voice commands and apps.

Which program has the better interface?

While both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto share many features, Android Auto is the friendlier system for third-party app users. Both programs offer the Phone, Maps, Audiobooks, Music, News, Podcasts, Settings, Music, and Calendar apps. According to Android Police, Android users have a wider selection of apps, with more popular apps like YouTube currently in development. 

Many drivers also find using the Maps app from Android Auto easier than Apple CarPlay. That’s likely because Google was thoughtful enough to remember the pinch-and-zoom function, which isn’t present on Apple’s interface. However, Android Police says Apple CarPlay might have the better UI overall.

Navigating between apps is more efficient because CarPlay consolidates apps on a dashboard layout. Android Auto is reportedly switching to this layout soon, but you currently have to pull up apps one at a time. Apple CarPlay also allows you to take screenshots without too much hassle.

Both apps also utilize a virtual voice assistant: Siri for Apple and Google Assistant for Android. Android Police reports that Google Assistant has better voice recognition and other features that Siri can’t provide. For example, you can see your text messages being transcribed on the infotainment screen as you speak. 

Android Auto also lets you dismiss texts or app notifications. Auto Evolution also prefers Android Auto because of the program’s easily accessible downgrade support and more consistent updates.

Recent problems associated with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Despite Android Auto being supposedly the more user-friendly version, Google is currently investigating the software for the cause of a new glitch. After updating the interface to Android 12, some drivers no longer had access to their music and navigation apps

In an Initial Quality Study conducted by J.D. Power last year, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay garnered a lot of complaints. Initial syncing issues are common, and some drivers struggle to maintain their device’s connection to the integration software. Still, when either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is running smoothly, both are convenient programs to have while driving. 

The better choice likely depends on your preferences. Lifetime iPhone users will probably have an easier time with CarPlay compared to the average Android fan and vice versa. Fortunately, most cars are compatible with Android and Apple devices.

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