Apple versus Android used to be one of the hottest rivalries in the tech world, with devotees of each brand frequently airing their distaste for the other “side” to anyone that would listen. While there are likely still people clinging to their long-held battle positions, Apple and Android aren’t all that far off from each other in how they function. Both companies’ operating systems do basically the same things at this point, drawing users more on their overall brand philosophies instead of raw functionality.
The two rivals have also made their way into our vehicles with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Both products project some degree of the smartphone’s home screen onto screen in the dash of the vehicle and both offer the ability to manage basic phone features hands free. Regardless of whether it’s Android or Apple, the benefits are clear. Both systems bring elevated functionality and a wide array of apps to vehicles that wouldn’t otherwise have those capabilities. Navigation and streaming audio were once reserved for the most expensive vehicles, but with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, those features are available to buyers of much more affordable vehicles. More and more automakers are getting on board with including the interfaces in their vehicles as time goes on. Manufacturers like Toyota and Lexus (same parent company, but still) are just now including the functionality in their vehicles for the first time.
How they’re similar
In many ways, the two systems reach the same destination, but how they get there is a bit different. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto project a simplified version of a smartphone interface onto the in-dash screens of newer vehicles. The interfaces include apps that run from the phone’s operating system and offer some degree of hands-free calls and text messaging.
Maps and music are also default inclusions in both systems, though the flavors of each vary between Apple and Google products. CarPlay supports the use of Google Maps in addition to the built-in Apple Maps, but Apple Maps won’t work on Android Auto. Both systems also support the use of third-party apps for music and other functionality. Multiple podcast and music apps are supported by both, like Spotify, Stitcher, and Pandora.
Connections for both systems work very similarly. The most basic connections require that the smartphone have a direct USB connection to the vehicle, but some of the newest vehicles support a wireless connection. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are able to be used with a wireless connection over Bluetooth, but there are a limited number of vehicles that are compatible and only the newest devices are able to connect.
How they’re different
It’s true that Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are closer now in functionality than they’ve ever been, but there are still some key differences to keep in mind. Apple’s ecosystem is more closely guarded than Google’s, which in part means that CarPlay only works with iPhones, just like iOS. CarPlay works with the iPhone 5 and newer models, as long as they’re running the latest software versions and have a functioning lightning port. Android, on the other hand, runs on a wide variety of devices that range from budget to extravagant. That makes things a little more confusing for Android users, but the good news is that Android Auto will work with any device that is able to run at least Android 5.0 Lollipop. Google recommends that the device have Android 6.0, but it’s not required.
There’s also the matter of Google Assistant vs. Apple’s Siri. Though both do roughly the same things, Google Assistant tends to be more useful in the information it can deliver and the variety of commands it recognizes. In-vehicle operation isn’t all that different in most cases, however, as both can start songs, call or text someone and control basic system functionality.
Where you land on the spectrum between the two systems will depend completely on the type of phone you prefer using. Both systems do a good job at their intended purposes, which is to offer enough smartphone functionality to be convenient without distracting too much from driving (they’re still distracting). If you’ve got one or the other brand of smartphone, there’s no reason to switch for use in your vehicle. Either system will get the job done. Just be sure you’re saving some attention for the road ahead.