iOS 9.3 added a few new features to CarPlay. GM was nice enough to loan me this sweet new Chevy Volt to show them to you. Let's go for a ride!
Apple Music subscribers benefit the most from these new CarPlay features, because now the For You and New sections of Apple Music are here. That's awesome, and frankly long overdue, because most Apple Music users I know spend a lot of time in that section.
You only get one screen of For You, and there isn't a way to refresh it. But it's still nice that it's there. I work around the limitations by refreshing For You a few times on my iPhone before I start driving. You can also be sure to save any playlists that look interesting to your music library, and then they'll show up in your Playlists tab.
The New section is great because it's not just new albums, like the New releases section of Spotify. You'll also find new playlists by the Apple Music editors and special curators. And if you really don't know what to listen to,
But the real selling point of Apple Music in the car is Siri. I typically use Spotify, but its CarPlay app is just sad in comparison to Apple Music. Without Siri integration, I have to do everything myself, and tapping at the screen is so distracting when I'm trying to drive.
Asking Siri to play me an album or playlist is a lot more fun, and when I hear a song that really rocks, I can just say, "Play more like this" to start a Genius playlist and keep the vibe rolling.
Now, entertainment is only half the story with CarPlay. It's awesome at navigation too, and now it can use the Nearby feature that was added to Maps in iOS 9. That's those bubbles you see when you start a new search, offering you categories like food, drinks, shopping, and services. Tap one for more choices to narrow down the results, and you can always tap something in the list for directions.
Nearby is super useful in the car, but the Maps app could still get a little smarter. When I ask Siri to find a gas station or a Starbucks "between here and home," for example, sometimes she'll find me an option that's right on my route, and other times she'll want me to turn around and head back to something I already passed. No thanks!
Now, if these new features sound familiar, that's because they've already been in iOS for months, and they're just now coming to CarPlay. Nearby was added to Maps in iOS 9, and those Apple Music features launched with the service back on iOS 8.4.
So if you can't afford a new car or a CarPlay stereo just yet, don't sweat it too much. The big screen is really nice, but a lot of more affordable stereos let you connect your iPhone via USB. Then all you have to do is mount the phone on the dash and yell HEY SIRI at it for music controls and directions. It’s not quite as luxe as the CarPlay experience, but hey, my car isn’t quite as luxe as this gorgeous Chevy Volt.