Car Tech

Apple CarPlay's high and low notes

Pioneer's flagship in-car audio/video receiver AVH-X8750BT is the first in Singapore to come pre-loaded with Apple CarPlay.
Pioneer's flagship in-car audio/video receiver AVH-X8750BT is the first in Singapore to come pre-loaded with Apple CarPlay.HighPHOTO: PIONEER

Siri's a capable messenger, Apple Maps works well but traffic display's a blind spot

CarPlay is Apple's new assault on a different front.

It integrates with car entertainment systems and lets drivers control their iPhone and its apps easily and safely while driving.

I tested it via Pioneer's flagship in-car audio/video receiver AVH-X8750BT ($1,099), the first in Singapore to come pre-loaded with Apple CarPlay.

I started by connecting my iPhone to the AVH-X8750BT, via a lightning cable (not included).

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: Free

    COMPATIBILITY: Apple iPhone 5 and later


    RATING

    FEATURES 1 2 3 4 5

    DESIGN 1 2 3 4 5

    PERFORMANCE 1 2 3 4 5

    OVERALL 1 2 3 4 5

The CarPlay's interface looks like iOS, with large icons taking up most of the display.

For now, there are only a handful of native iOS apps that you can use in CarPlay. One of them is Messages, in which Siri will send, read and reply to messages for you.

If you are listening to the radio, the radio will stop and Siri will take over. After reading you the latest messages, it will ask if you want to reply. Say "yes" and Siri will get ready to take down your messages. It then reads back your reply and asks if you want to send it. Say "yes" again to send the message.

After setting Siri's language to English (Singapore), I found it was able to pick up my diction and compose replies quite accurately.

Receiving calls is pretty straightforward. When there is an incoming call, simply tap "accept" on the display to answer it.

But making calls with Siri can be a hit-and-miss affair. At times, it could recognise my friends' dialect names. But it sometimes could not to recognise simple English names.

MAPS AND MUSIC

You can tell Siri where to go and it will search for it. However, it was not able to understand me when I called out road names like Toa Payoh and Jelapang Road.

I ended up just typing the address on the screen in most cases.

I found the much-maligned Apple Maps to work very well. It led me to my destination without fuss, and was able to quickly plot new routes when I deviated from its proposed route. Just try not to laugh when Siri pronounces Ang Mo Kio or Jalan Bukit Merah.

One letdown is the display of traffic status. While CarPlay does show traffic conditions, the colour scheme for heavy traffic is too similar to that for normal traffic. There are also no speed-camera locations or warnings about accidents.

CarPlay can play tunes from your music library and playlists, as well as stream music from Apple Music. Other music services like Spotify, Stitcher and Rdio are supported.

And it is a pity that WhatsApp is not supported.

• Apart from a lack of third-party apps, using CarPlay is a liberating experience. You no longer have to fiddle with your iPhone and risk breaking the law when driving.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'CarPlay's high and low notes'. Print Edition | Subscribe