The best CarPlay apps for navigation, entertainment and more
CarPlay allows you to use compatible iPhone apps in the car with a simplified interface better suited for driving. Here are some of our favorite apps that come with CarPlay integration, from navigation apps to in-car entertainment and beyond.
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Instead of mounting your iPhone on the dashboard and using it as a floating GPS, CarPlay integrates your favorite navigation apps into your car’s dashboard. This alone is reason to consider adding CarPlay to your vehicle, if you don’t already have it.
Apple Maps had a rocky start back in 2012 when it first launched, but things have improved dramatically over the past decade. The app has everything you’d expect from a modern navigation app, including turn-by-turn directions (using your chosen Siri voice), speed limit and traffic hazard warnings, real-time traffic information, lane guidance and more.
Maps look great, and the app uses Siri to make helpful predictions; for example, if someone sends you an address in messages, Maps will offer to route you there. It also learns based on your habits and offers a one-touch route to common places at the appropriate time of day. If you haven’t tried Apple Maps recently, it’s definitely worth a second chance.
If Apple Maps isn’t for you, Google Maps is arguably your best bet. The search giant’s mapping service serves a large number of users every day, which means it’s probably the best-maintained navigation app you can choose for your CarPlay. If you’re a big fan of Google Maps on the web or in the app, you’ll love the look of the CarPlay integration.
Google has a large selection of real-time traffic data to draw from to provide you with up-to-date information on conditions, speed limits and reports. Google is even integrating audience-based reports from Waze into the app now, further enhancing its usefulness. You can even add your commute route and favorite places to get where you want to go faster.
Waze, also owned by Google, is another worthy navigation app for CarPlay that is similar in many ways to Google Maps. The two services have become more similar over the years, but there are some differences. The first is how keen Waze is to change your route based on changing traffic conditions. This may suit users in dense environments such as busy cities better than those in rural areas. Waze does this by relying on users and their willingness to create reports.
You can see more reports on traffic conditions on Waze, including police stops, map inaccuracies and crashes. The app also has a different look and feel, with a less colorful map, a prominent “report” button and the ability to customize how your vehicle appears on the map (which other users will see).
TomTom made a name for itself by selling dedicated GPS units, but the world has moved on. The TomTom GO app for CarPlay combines the best of two worlds: real-time, live traffic data and offline maps that work anywhere. The cost? About $24.99 per year for a premium subscription (free trial included).
TomTom GO does just about everything else you’d expect, including providing speed alerts, turn-by-turn directions, alternative route suggestions and more. There are some quirky features like the ability to drive to a photo’s geotagged location or share your estimated arrival time with contacts.
Which entertainment apps you search for depends heavily on which premium services you pay for each month. We’ve covered some of our favorites below, but expect most major services to have CarPlay integration, including Amazon Music, TIDAL, Pandora, SiriusXM, and YouTube Music.
The standard “Music” app on the iPhone allows you to access the Apple Music streaming service in the car. The app focuses heavily on consuming music, and mirrors the same tabbed format as the iPhone app, with limited interactions to discourage distracted driving. You can access “Top Picks” and stations based on your activity, browse your library and access radio, but the ability to add songs to playlists and manually search for music not in your library has been removed.
Fortunately, you can ask Siri to do these things instead. Apple Music also integrates radio stations around the world (with TuneIn integration), plus Apple’s own Apple Music 1, Apple Music Hits and Apple Music Country stations (which you can listen to for free without a subscription).
Spotify is to Apple Music what Google Maps is to Apple Maps: the obvious third-party alternative. The CarPlay app works much the way you’d expect, with a Home tab for recommendations, a Recently Played tab for music you’re into, a Browse tab for finding new stuff, and a tab for your Library to select favorites you have already added.
It also integrates with Siri, just like Apple Music as long as you follow your command with “on Spotify,” such as “play my drum and bass playlist on Spotify.” Spotify is a solid choice if you also want access to the service’s library of podcasts in addition to music.
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The default Podcast app on the iPhone also works great in CarPlay. This gives you access to Apple’s burgeoning library of (what was once iTunes) podcasts in your car. The interface is simple and boring, but the app works just fine as long as you have subscribed and set everything up on your iPhone first.
Pocket Cast or Overcast
There is no such thing as a perfect podcast app, but if you consume podcasts a lot, you probably have strong feelings about the matter. The two apps that stand out the most for iPhone are Pocket Casts and Overcast, both of which are premium apps with $9.99 annual subscription models (although Pocket Casts also lets you pay monthly for $0.99).
Fortunately, both have CarPlay support, so whichever you choose can be used to listen to podcasts both offline and online in your car. If Apple Podcasts doesn’t cut it, one of these will.
Remember the days when you would add music files to a device to listen to them? Evermusic lets you do just that, with full CarPlay integration. You can transfer files to your iPhone over a wireless connection with a web browser, by using the Finder or iTunes, by connecting to cloud services, by using a NAS or network drive, or by using your iPhone’s Files app.
The app is ad-supported with a one-time premium purchase of $9.99 to unlock full functionality (including unlimited cloud storage services, queuing, playlists and more). The app supports most of the popular formats like MP3, AAC, M4A, WAV, AIFF and M4R, but you may need to convert some audio files if you are a fan of FLAC or OGG.
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If you prefer to immerse yourself in a good story on those long drives, why not give Audible a try? The Amazon-owned audiobook app has full CarPlay functionality, including controls to fine-tune your listening experience (like vocal tone adjustments and narration speed).
Audible syncs progress between devices, so if you’re listening online or reading with a Fire tablet, there’s no problem picking up where you left off with your iPhone. The app works both as a player for titles you’ve purchased outright and a premium subscription service with a monthly cost of $15.99 (or $7.99 “plus” monthly).
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Stream standard FM and AM radio plus over 100,000 online stations from around the world with the TuneIn app. The app has a large selection of music, news, sports, podcasts and more. Select and save your favorite stations and access them in your car using TuneIn Radio’s CarPlay interface.
The app is ad-supported, but you can enjoy it uninterrupted (plus access to live sports and hear fewer ads on all stations) for a monthly fee of $9.99. If you pay for Apple Music, you already get access to TuneIn’s huge selection of radio stations, but you have to use the Music app to access them.
The BBC sounds
BBC Sounds gives you access to a range of live BBC radio stations, podcasts and clips ranging from news and current affairs to music, sport, entertainment and special interest programmes. The app has full CarPlay integration, so you can access all BBC services available in your area (you’ll need to sign in first).
You can download content to listen offline, get personalized recommendations based on your listening history or simply browse the BBC’s content library, so you’ll never be bored in the car again.
If you care enough about chiptune to collect a library of chiptune files in an app like Modizer so you can listen anywhere, anytime, you’ll probably be interested in using the app in your car as well. Fortunately, chiptune player Modizer has rudimentary CarPlay support that lets you listen to carefully selected playlists in the car.
The app itself is a temperamental beast, so the best we can say is that CarPlay works just as well as the main iPhone interface.
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These apps don’t fit into the other two categories, but are worth checking out anyway.
If you drive an electric car, you might be interested in PlugShare, an app that can help you find charging stations all over the world. In addition to working like a standard iPhone app, PlugShare has CarPlay integration that lets you quickly boot it up in your car to find somewhere to plug in if you’re low on juice.
The app shows the type of charger including watts with images of the charging station where it is available. You can plan trips and access them in the car, or bookmark chargers to access them later.
Autio travel companion
Formerly known as HearHere, Autio is a unique CarPlay app that tells over 9,000 location-based stories across the United States. The app has been helped by some famous voices to provide snippets of information while you drive. New stories are added weekly, and there’s even an option to be notified when you’re near stories you haven’t yet heard.
One of the ultimate road trip apps, Autio has a niche appeal and a price tag to match. At the time of writing, you can subscribe for a full year for $35.99, or get three years for $69.99.
Be on your way
Weather on the Way is a trip planner that pays particular attention to the weather. You can use the app to plan your trip, including the best route, the best time to go and a forecast of what to expect along the way. The app also has CarPlay integration, with full weather radar and power conditions wherever you are.
The app works globally, but severe weather alerts are limited to a handful of countries, including the US, Canada and EU member states. Your first five trips are eligible for free PRO processing, after which you can choose to pay $24.99 per year, $4.99 per month, or $84.99 for a lifetime subscription.
Don’t forget Siri
You can do all kinds of things with Siri while driving, even in the absence of a dedicated app. For example, you can add things to reminders or notes, make calls, reply to texts, and get information like news and sports scores.
CarPlay is now more ubiquitous than ever, appearing as a standard feature in many cars (or optional in others). Check out the full list of CarPlay-enabled vehicles.