Apple’s CarPlay installed in the Pioneer AVIC-F970BT head unit is a solution that lets drivers use their iPhones without getting distracted. We test it to find out if the nascent technology makes a compelling case for itself.
Breaking barriers is what Apple does best and after conquering the high-end mobile phone and tablet market, the California-based company has its eyes firmly set on the car infotainment segment. This is where the Apple CarPlay comes in and Pioneer, at the moment, is the only car entertainment brand that has this feature on its units. We got an opportunity to spend a couple of days with their demo car which had the AVIC-F970BT system installed with CarPlay to find out whether this is actually helpful or just a marketing gimmick.
First thing, what is a CarPlay? It’s basically a software that let’s the Pioneer car stereo feature some of the functions that are already present in your iPhone. It is not just about convenience but also safety, thanks to Siri and the capability to control the system via voice commands. As the system is Apple bound, you must have an iPhone 5, 5S or 6 and it must be running on iOS 7.1 or above. Bad news for iPad users though, CarPlay is not compatible with tablets as of yet.
To make it work, all you need to do is plug in the iPhone to the music system with Apple’s Lighting Bolt cable. It syncs easily and transfers your phone’s contacts and music play lists to the stereo. In addition to this, Siri also reads out your text messages, making sure you don’t have to take your hands or eyes off the steering wheel. CarPlay also retains all your favourite settings in the iPhone. Other mobile music apps, including Spotify, Beats Music and iHeartRadio, will eventually be available on CarPlay, too. For all social media buffs, Facebook, YouTube and other apps that have a lot of photos and video content will not be available on CarPlay due to safety reasons.
The 15.7cm or 6.2-inch touch screen is responsive, though we would have preferred if most of the functions worked on one go as we had to tap the screen a couple of times to make them work. But just to keep in mind, CarPlay’s objective is to keep your eyes on the road and let voice control interaction through Siri to do the needful. Its success is Siri’s digital assistance, which even scans the system for a song request or a specific genre of music. There is also an external mic attached to ensure that your commands are clear and audible to Siri, though it does struggle with Indian names.
Now the Indian edition of CarPlay does not have access to Apple Maps, but before you fret, it is preloaded with Mapmyindia maps. They provide a lot of 3D points of interest; recalculate alternative routes within a couple of seconds and remain fairly accurate. The best part about these maps is that they are preloaded so you don’t have to rely on your smart phone’s internet connection to access them. For upgrading the maps, one has to pay a nominal fee and when new maps are available, the user will be informed.
CarPlay is an expensive car “smart” music system, which actually manages to let you stream music, accept calls and check your messages without taking your eyes off the road. For such limited and basic functions, the Pioneer AVIC-F970BT system has a steep price — RS.39,990. But one needs to keep in mind that this is an evolving technology and will receive more and more features in time to come, so this is just the beginning.