When it was first introduced in 2014, Apple’s CarPlay had very limited functions. There was no navigation, messaging, or automaker, so the only way you could use the system was listening to music in iTunes (that’s right, there was no Apple Music back then). Nowadays, all these features are available to any iPhone user who has a suitable stereo. You don’t even need a new vehicle to use CarPlay – there are numerous third-party stereo systems that you can fit into your current car. How to pick the best one of them? Let’s find out!
Why Use Third-Party Stereos?
The best car stereo with Apple CarPlay includes extended functionality that your default radio is missing. Here are some of the features you can access with Apple’s software:
- Voice over calls and messages. There’s no need to pick up your phone to answer an incoming call or type a message. The best car stereo with Apple CarPlay integrates with IOS’s interfaces for respective applications, allowing you to dictate messages to Siri while driving.
- Music and other audio content. Using a car stereo with Apple CarPlay, you can listen to songs from your iTunes or Apple Music library along with podcasts and audiobooks at any time.
- Navigation. This feature is among the most useful ones you’ll find in a smart stereo. Ever heard of BMW selling satellite navigation even in their most expensive cars for additional annual payment? That’s right, you had to pay something like $20 per year to access the sat nav, even if you have already bought a vehicle for $100.000. With Apple CarPlay, that’s no longer the case. You can use Apple or Google Maps as much as you need, without paying a cent for this feature.
- Details about your car. The best car stereo with Apple CarPlay should integrate with your particular vehicle to provide you with access to specific features. Different car manufacturers develop their own applications for CarPlay, allowing you to observe gas levels, use climate control and other features of the vehicle.
An aftermarket car stereo with Apple CarPlay is a suitable option for those drivers willing to use their phones to the maximum of their capabilities. Such stereos combine all the features of Apple’s software with regular radio, CD/DVD players, and other functions. A car stereo with Apple CarPlay allows you to stay focused on driving while switching between radio stations, using the navigation system, or even replying to messages and answering calls. Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri, constantly listens to your voice commands and performs necessary actions immediately. With the upcoming IOS 14, you’ll be able to order food and use parking services apps on the go.
It’s worth remembering that despite their seeming similarity, all car stereos provide different functions and come at varying prices. While the cheapest options are available at approx. $300, the most expensive stereos can reach $1.500, so the difference is quite significant. The price is influenced by the stereo’s functions, hardware that comes along with the system, and the manufacturer’s reputation. Make sure to choose wisely and don’t fall for unnecessary options you’ll never use.
How to Choose the Best Car Stereo with Apple CarPlay?
When picking a car stereo with Apple CarPlay, you should consider multiple factors. First and foremost, make sure that it’ll fit into your dashboard. Consider measuring your current stereo to see which solution you should purchase. Remember that the size of your car’s opening may not be exactly equal to the dimensions of the currently installed stereo. It’s highly suggested to review your vehicle’s specifications online to see if a certain system will fit. You can also reach your local auto repair shop for assistance. Digital manuals should contain all necessary information on the installation of new car parts along with lists of necessary instruments and additional gear that you may need.
After finding out which stereo can be installed into your vehicle, review the main characteristics of each device. Here’s what you should consider when buying a stereo system with Apple CarPlay:
Single or Double DIN?
Any car stereo with Apple CarPlay has a standardized body size, otherwise known as DIN standard. There are 2 types of DINs – single, which is equal to 2 x 7 inches, and double, which is 4 x 7”. The vast majority of modern stereos are double-DIN since it’s much simpler to attach a display to a body of this size. A double DIN car stereo with Apple CarPlay is much more likely to have an optical drive, so you should opt for this type if you are planning to use CD-disks frequently. However, single-DINs have their own advantages as well. Although most of them are quite costly, such stereos come with a huge touchscreen attached to tiny heads, which allows manufacturers to make the displays adjustable. Single DIN systems are also more likely to fit older and cheaper cars, as they mostly include respective openings for factory stereos.
Pay Only for the Features You Need
If the last time you saw a CD was in 2009, you’d probably never use an optical drive in the stereo. Satellite navigation seems to be a great feature, but will you ever turn it on? Purchasing in-build navigation doesn’t make any sense if you have a car stereo with Apple CarPlay. Apple or Google Maps are a much better alternative to any other software, as they work faster, get updated more frequently, and, of course, are completely free of charge. Some stereo systems come with displays of very high resolution, which seems to be a great thing. However, higher pixel density inevitably presupposes a larger price, which is often a crucial factor when it comes to car stereos. Overall, rushing for the most expensive option is not the best step to take, especially if you own a cheap or outdated car.
Availability of Multiple Input Methods
When it comes to inputs in a car stereo, most people think of an optical drive, capable of reading CDs/DVDs. However, modern solutions provide many more data transferring methods, from USB to memory cards. Frequently observed options include HDMI ports (both regular ones and micro-HDMI), AUX connectors, Bluetooth, RCA, mini A/Vs, and cameras. The availability of various ports is an important consideration when purchasing a stereo since their quantity can directly affect the price. If you are purchasing a new stereo to use Apple CarPlay solely, AUX, memory card reader, and HDMI are not what you should look for. Ports can be overlooked in favor of a larger display or a better sound system.
Wired or Wireless?
Not every stereo around supports wireless access to CarPlay. Some of the older and less costly options may include only wired connection through USB, so keep that in mind when trying to save some funds on your new stereo. However, all the systems that allow for wireless connection also include a possibility to use a cable if something goes wrong with Wi-Fi, or if you need to charge your smartphone. That’s right, the wireless connection is performed using a Wi-Fi network, not Bluetooth. But why can’t one connect to CarPlay with Bluetooth? It’s much cheaper to install, offers decent data transfer speed, and works seamlessly on most devices. Unfortunately, using CarPlay requires transferring too much data, so Bluetooth is not an option here. Car stereos use Wi-Fi for wireless connection.
Screen Resolution, Size, and Type
The device’s screen is the most convenient way to interact with the stereo, so you’ll use it quite frequently. A screen should possess decent characteristics, particularly, proper size and resolution. Most stereo systems offer screens ranging from 6.4 to 7 inches, which is enough for most users. The larger your display, the more expensive it would be, so you’ll need to reach a solution depending on your budget. The screen’s resolution is also essential – everyone has a smartphone, so people are used to high resolutions – full HD (1920×1080 pixels) or higher. Car stereos (especially cheap ones) rarely reach this quality. It’s a fairly common thing to see resolutions of 800×400 and 1280×720 px.
When choosing a display, pay attention to its type. Analyzing this point isn’t complicated, as there are only 2 major types of touchscreens:
- Capacitive. This display is most likely installed on your smartphone, so you already have a general understanding of its capabilities. Multi-touch gestures, decent resolution and brightness, and a high price are the major characteristics of capacitive screens.
- Resistive. Cheap, less convenient and technologically advanced, these displays are installed in most moderately-to-low priced car stereos. Resistive screens can’t recognize multiple simultaneous touches.
Some stereos include interesting features, which may be a key factor influencing customers’ buying decisions. For instance, additional backup cameras, satellite radio, or remote control can be important to some users, though the majority of people won’t ever use these features. If you value the quality of sound more than any other features, you may need an additional amplifier. Expensive car stereos are commonly supplied with decent amplifiers, which should satisfy the needs of most users.