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Ok, so many modern cars now have touchscreens and the like, but even these are bumbling idiots compared to the sophisticated smartphone operating systems we use every day.

Wisely, rather than continue the futile game of catch-up, a whole bunch of manufacturers now let you get a car-specific version of Android or iOS onto their infotainment systems. You can even add either or both to your existing car with a third-party head unit from the likes of Pioneer or Alpine.

But should you? And which of the two is the best? It’s time for Android Auto to take on Apple CarPlay in the battle to reawesomise your automobile.

Android Auto

This is a far friendlier interface than the impassive grid of icons that CarPlay gives you, thanks mostly to a customisable wallpaper. Five small icons (for navigation, telephony, home, audio, and manufacturer apps) are arranged in a row at the bottom.

Keeping these icons out of the way means the main display can be used for notifications. At first plug-in you’re told what the weather’s like. Then Google Now will automatically use your driving habits, emails, etc, to try to guess where you’re going and create a banner with distance and traffic details for that drive. Click on that banner and Google Maps pops up, ready to guide you. It’s lovely and slick.

If you return to the home screen during your drive the top notification will always give you your next navigation instruction, and things such as messages (which can be read to you and to which you can dictate a reply) will appear beneath it.

Apple CarPlay

It should come as no surprise that Apple’s gone with a grid of square icons for its in-car homescreen, given that that’s been the stylistic approach of its mobile operating system since the first iPhone launched way back in 2008.

With just eight icons on each ‘page’, prodding the one you’re after is mighty simple even when doing 70mph on the M25 (should the M25 ever clear up enough to make 70mph possible), but you miss out on the clear notifications you get on the Android Auto homescreen. You do, though, get notified when a text message comes in and you can send and receive using audio and dictation.

Irritatingly, you can’t reorder the apps, so Apple’s Podcasts, for example, will always appear on the first page, while your chosen podcasts app is relegated to the second or third.

Winner: Android Auto


Because each app has to be specifically tailored and approved for use in-car, you only get a small portion of the overall selection on Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Even so, around half the apps available on each infotainment platform are fairly worthless, so allow me to run you through the ones that are most useful on each platform:

Android Auto

Audible ● Google Maps ● Google Play Music ● Spotify ● TuneIn ● WhatsApp Messenger ● Skype ● Amazon Music ● Pocket Casts ● Stitcher ● Podcast Player ● 7digital

Apple CarPlay

Audible ● Apple Maps ● Apple Music ● Spotify ● TuneIn ● Deezer ● Downcast ● Overcast ● Podcasts ● Radioplayer ● Rdio ● Stitcher

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