An increasing number of new cars come with Apple CarPlay. It’s a neat extra if you’re an iPhone owner, allowing you to hook up your phone to your car, and glean a few new features from it. Here are our favorite third-party CarPlay apps.
Our exploration of third-party apps shouldn’t be taken to mean that preinstalled stock apps are rubbish. Apps like Messages, Podcasts, and iBook Audiobooks work pretty well on CarPlay. They’re fine, but there are definitely better options out there if you want a little more oomph to your app usage in the car.
Heads up though—for now, you can’t use third party navigation apps. You’re stuck with Apple Maps but that’s set to change with iOS 12. Finally, Apple will allow you to use Google Maps, Waze, and other navigation apps through CarPlay. For now though, we solely focus on other useful CarPlay apps.
One of the biggest messaging apps out there, WhatsApp is kind of a big deal for many of us. A real-time messaging service, you can use it to quickly send photos, videos, links, voice messages, or mostly anything you want to loved ones and friends. It’s a useful app for sure.
Popularity aside, where WhatsApp stands out here is it’s currently the only third-party messaging app available for the CarPlay. It functions a lot like the Messages app so it’s straightforward to use, with familiar functionality like Siri reading your messages aloud. You can also use the voice assistant to respond to messages. The only downside is you can’t scroll through lists of conversations but that’s a small issue (and you should save the scrolling for when you’re safely parked anyhow).
Want to listen to the exact radio station you want to hear, even if you’re not close enough to pick it up with the antenna in your car? iHeartRadio is the solution for you. Through the CarPlay app, it’s possible to browse thousands of radio stations from around the world. You can browse according to what you’re in the mood for, with music, news, sports, talk and comedy all options.
It’s also possible to stream podcasts through the service, or listen to hand-curated playlists to discover something new. There’s no risk of boredeom on long journeys with this kind of choice at your fingertips.
Sure, Apple Music is good but, well, Spotify is better. It’s available for CarPlay too and particularly ideal if you already listen to it a lot at home. Simply search for any track, artist or album and you can listen for free. No matter how obscure you get, Spotify almost certainly has it.
The basic app is entirely free but it’s ad-supported. It’s worth subscribing to the Premium service as you can listen offline as well as avoid those pesky ads. Regardless of what you do, this will be a firm favorite in your car.
For those times you don’t want to listen to music, Audible is a great alternative. The Amazon-owned audiobook service offers thousands upon thousands of different audiobooks to listen to. The selection encompasses every genre imaginable, with Audible also providing original audio shows and top stories from the likes of The New York Times and The Washington Post.
If you want to keep informed, or simply be entertained on your journey, this is a great place to start. Just bear in mind that you will have to pay for the service. The app and the first book is free, but beyond that it’s $15 a month.
The stock Podcast app isn’t so great. It works, sure, but it’s far too minimalist to be particularly useful. Download Overcast instead. It looks simple but it packs some very useful features. Features that, importantly, extend to the CarPlay version.
The app offers you the option to create custom playlists with smart filters and per podcast priorities, so that it quickly learns your tastes. It’s possible to add single episodes rather than commit to an entire new show. You can adjust playback speed too, and use Smart Speed which automatically speeds things up to a level that doesn’t distort the conversation but lets you enjoy more podcasts in less time. It’s like Podcasts but so much better.
NPR One (Free)
Want to catch up with news rather than an audiobook or music playlist? NPR One provides public radio news, podcasts, and other interesting stories. If you’re keen to learn more about the area around you, this is a good source.
Our favorite app feature is the personalization. NPR One personalizes your experience gradually, offering up the top news of the day but also stories that it feels particularly match with your interests. If you travel regularly, and you want to keep up to date and engaged with the world, this is a good app to use.
Radio Disney (Free)
Got the kids in the car? Stick Radio Disney on and you’ll be sure to win them over. You may go insane too but it’s worth it, right? The app offers unlimited streaming of music from ‘your’ favorite Disney artists. That means a heart mix of pop and country music from the likes of Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, Zendaya, and numerous others.
Sure, it’s not to everyone’s taste but it is a neat alternative to looking up relevant Spotify playlists, and it’s a good way to keep the kids happy while on a long trip.