Hybrids & Electrics

Why Doesn’t the Tesla Model X Have Apple CarPlay?

The Tesla Model X luxury SUV is hard to beat when it comes to a fun ride, impressive range, and fast charging. Based on its sibling the Model S, the Model X offers two electric motors to power a dynamic system with all-wheel drive and impressive acceleration. It’s practical, nimble, and loaded with all the driver-assist and tech features you’d expect from Tesla.

But the Tesla Model X lacks a popular feature. It doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay. Why not?

What is Apple CarPlay?

Tesla doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in any of its models. 

That seems odd at first because Tesla is known for its advanced technology, and the Model X is no exception. With its impressive graphics on a 17-inch screen and infotainment features, Tesla’s system used in the Model X hasn’t seen a major update in a while. But it still feels state-of-the-art when you’re behind the wheel.

Launched in March 2014, Apple CarPlay was available in one model its first year, according to TeslaTap. Since then, numerous models with infotainment systems offer Apple CarPlay. The integration allows car-specific iPhone apps to display on the infotainment screen and passes touch operations back to the phone. 

TeslaTap says CarPlay works through a proprietary lightning connector and some wireless setups. You must have an iPhone 5 or later version to use CarPlay.

Automakers don’t implement CarPlay in-house, TeslaTap explains. That’s handled by a small number of third-party infotainment system vendors who sell to the automakers. CarPlay lets you accept and make phone calls hands-free and listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks. It can be used for text messaging, Siri voice commands, maps, and step-by-step navigational directions.

Why don’t Tesla models offer Apple CarPlay?

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Many newer cars offer Apple CarPlay. So why doesn’t Tesla include the popular feature on its EVs? According to TurboGadgetReviews.com, Tesla has its own app to sync smartphones to its cars, including the Model X. You can even use the app to unlock your car or bring it to you. 

We don’t know exactly why Tesla refuses to offer Apple CarPlay, but theories abound.

Maybe Tesla prefers to use only its own software. Perhaps Apple’s software interferes with Tesla’s programs. TeslaTap says that to offer CarPlay, manufacturers must pay Apple to license and use its technology. The terms of the license aren’t available to the public, so we don’t know what’s in there. 

Another issue is that many features of Tesla’s and Apple’s systems overlap. They each have strengths and weaknesses, and it’s not known what would happen if you tried to combine them. It’s not even known if you can combine them.

You wouldn’t think the high-powered quad-core computer Tesla uses for its infotainment system would pose an obstacle. But we don’t know what memory is needed to support CarPlay and if any is available to do so in Tesla’s system. What would Tesla have to modify to make Apple CarPlay work? How much would it cost if it were possible?

To make this happen, Tesla would need to give up control to an outside vendor. This could be beneficial or harmful to Tesla’s brand and direction, depending on the issue. 

It’s also rumored that one day soon, Apple will be Tesla’s competitor. If Apple is indeed developing an EV of its own, Tesla would surely not want any part of its operation in the competition’s hands.

Features that Tesla’s system offers

You can still use your iPhone in a Tesla Model X. Simply sync it via Bluetooth for calendar access, calls, contacts, and music.

There’s an entire slate of apps you can access on Tesla’s infotainment system through Apple’s MirrorLink. The automaker has acknowledged that mirroring capabilities might be added to its software at some point. But diehard Apple users aren’t satisfied with that answer and would prefer to have CarPlay.

Others mount their iPhone to their Tesla’s dash to enjoy access. It’s just not the same as having a fully integrated system linked to that huge Tesla screen.