Review: What’s New in Apple CarPlay in iOS 13.4

Apple CarPlay in iOS 13.4 on a the display of a 2020 Lexus NX 300

By Kurt Stolz on 20 April 2020
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Since its launch in 2014, Apple CarPlay has become, at least unofficially, a universal infotainment interface for vehicles from over two dozen automakers.

Virtually every car manufacturer offers multiple models that support CarPlay. The list includes Acura, Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Citroën, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Jeep, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, Porsche, Renault, Skoda, Toyota, VW, and Volvo.

With the introduction of iOS 13, CarPlay received a new user interface, a dual-pane dashboard view. While the Task Switcher, introduced with iOS 10.3, remains on the far left, the new view placed Apple Maps on the left half of the screen while the right-hand side is divided between upcoming turns, Siri suggestions, audio controls, and calendar info.

Apple CarPlay on the 2020 Volkswagen Golf

With iOS 13.4, Apple has added several key features including support for third-party navigation apps, support for wide-screen displays, and responsive and dynamically resizing Dashboard cards.

To see how these new features worked, we tested two the latest version of CarPlay on a 2020 Lexus NX 300 and on a 2020 Volkswagen Golf.

To start with, thanks to a responsive Dashboard that dynamically resizes, CarPlay offers drivers a more polished experience in vehicles with wider screens.  On one such a display, the massive 10.3” screen on the Lexus, the map’s user interface covered a larger part of the display than the information panels to the right, for example.   Previous versions of CarPlay hadn’t been optimized by Apple to take full advantage of different size displays, and the ratio between the width of the main window of the Dashboard and the width of the cards on the right side was 50-50.  On the Lexus’ expansion display, the main window took up roughly two-thirds of the display, a noted improvement.

With 13.4, the Dashboard panel cards will intelligently resize themselves and display content based on what is currently active in CarPlay.  For example, if navigation is active, the Now Playing card will take up less space and only display minimal controls.  If navigation isn’t active, the Now Playing panel will take up more space and display additional metadata, such as album art, in addition to the standard controls.

CarPlay now supports two different card sizes on the Dashboard in order to better adapt to the information that it needs to display.  One example we noted was the call control card, which can expand or contract based on what else needs to be displayed on the Dashboard.

While Apple has added support for apps such as Google Maps and Waze to appear in the CarPlay Dashboard, it’s incumbent upon the apps’ developers to add support that feature, something that, at press time, has not yet been announced.  As a result, we can’t actually review this feature until such support as been added.

Finally, when you share your ETA with someone for the first time using CarPlay, you will see a new splash screen that shows how your name and e-mail address will appear to the recipient.

BOTTOM LINE

We found CarPlay’s new support for wide-screen displays and its new responsive and dynamically resizing Dashboard cards greatly enhanced the user experience and resulted in a better and more useable Apple CarPlay.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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