Android Auto or Apple CarPlay integration is found in almost every new car today. These systems make access to your phone’s features and apps easy and intuitive. But are you getting the most out of these features?
While these systems offer up easy-to-recognize icons with shortcuts to your favourite apps and an interface similar to your phone, they also feature a robust voice recognition system and a digital assistant which is ideal for keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel.
While Android and Apple like to promote their voice recognition systems as being natural and easy to use, sometimes it’s unclear what kind of tasks they can perform and what information you can get from these systems. We, however, have been using these systems since they debuted back in 2014, and these are our favourite tricks.
In the vast majority of vehicles with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, you’ll need to plug in your smartphone into one of the car’s USB ports. Some vehicles need the phone to be plugged into a specific port, usually labelled with an image of a smartphone. Some newer vehicles will also allow you to connect your phone wirelessly – check the owner’s manual for your vehicle for the exact procedure.
Once plugged in, you will have to select the app on your car’s infotainment system. The Android Auto icon looks like an arrowhead capped with a chevron, resembling a stylized letter A; while the Apple CarPlay icon features a triangular “Play” symbol inside of a thin letter C. The app will ask you to confirm a few things on your phone and then you’ll be good to go. Next time you get in the car, just plug the phone in and select the icon on your infotainment system and Android Auto or Apple CarPlay will fire right up.
To trigger the Google Assistant’s voice recognition system you can press the button on your steering wheel or the microphone icon on your Android Auto screen. You can also say “OK, Google” or “Hey, Google.” Note that your Google Assistant must be enabled for these features to work – you can turn it on in the Google app on your phone.
The Google Assistant is great at providing information about the world, weather, sports, stocks, appointments and more. Just ask away. Here are a few examples:
- “What’s the forecast?” or “What’s the weather?”
For rain specifically: “Is it going to rain?” or “Do I need an umbrella?”
- “Did [sports team] win last night?” or “When is the next [sports team] game?”
- “What is [company]’s stock price?”
- “Remind me to/about [task/detail] when I get to/next time I’m at [location].”
- “What’s my next appointment?” (If you use Google Calendar.)
Making a call is easy, just say “Call [contact name]”; but you can also say “Text [contact name]” then dictate your message. The assistant will ask you to confirm the message before sending it.
Android Auto will also dictate incoming messages to you and allow you to respond to them, including texts, and Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp messages.
If you want to send a message using one of these services instead of text, say “Send a [Whatsapp, Viber, Messenger, chat app] message to [contact name].”
Using the voice recognition system and digital assistant for directions and navigation is very intuitive. Just say “Directions to”, “Navigate to”, or simply “Go to” followed by your destination and Android Auto should bring up Google Maps and ask you to confirm the destination.
Other commands include:
- “How long will it take to get to [destination]?”
- “Where is the closest [business, gas station, bank, etc.]?”
If you have your home and work locations saved in Google Maps, you can also ask about times to reach those locations and the best routes to take to get home or to work.
Android Auto lets you use your phone’s media applications in your car. Music, podcasts, and newscasts can all be accessed through the voice-activated digital assistant.
Saying “Play music” will start music playback on your phone’s default app. You can specify a different music app by adding it to the end of the command: “Play music on Spotify,” for example.
You can also pick playlists or genres easily this way as well: for example, “Play country on Spotify” or “Play playlist ‘Chill Hits’ on Spotify.” You can also pick specific albums or songs by artists using voice commands, but we found it to be a bit inconsistent.
You say the same commands for podcasts as well. If you want news, say “Play me the news” or you can pick specific subjects by saying “Play news about [category].”
Fun and Games
If you find yourself getting bored on the road, try one of these commands.
- “Play Lucky Trivia.”
- “Tell me a riddle.”
As with Android Auto, you can use Apple’s Siri digital assistant for specific tasks while using Apple CarPlay. You can use the voice recognition button on your car’s steering wheel or hold down the Apple home button on the infotainment system’s screen.
You can ask Siri for information about the weather, sports, calendar events and general information pretty easily. Just say the following commands:
- “What’s the weather like [today, tomorrow, in a specific location]?”
- “What are my upcoming appointments?”
- “Did [Sports team name] win?”
- “Set a reminder to [what you want to be reminded about].”
Initiating a call through voice communication is easy, just say “Call [contact’s name].” You can also use Siri to return a missed call by saying “Return my last call.” Additionally, you can listen to your voicemails by saying “Play my voicemails.”
You can even use Facetime in your car, although CarPlay won’t enable the video feed, just the audio, like a phone call. Just say “Facetime [contact’s name].”
For messages, just say “Read my messages.” to listen to your unread messages. You can send a text by saying “Send a text.” or “Text [contact’s name].”
Apple CarPlay even has support for WhatsApp. Say “Send a message on WhatsApp” to dictate your message, or “Read my WhatsApp messages” to hear any unread messages.
If you have your home and work locations set in Apple Maps, you can easily ask for directions to reach those destinations.
Otherwise, you can say “Take me to [destination]” to start navigation to a location.
“Find the closest [gas station, bank, restaurant, etc.]”
By default, CarPlay likes to use Apple Music, but you can have it use other services by specifying it at the end of the command, like “with Spotify.” A few examples of media-related voice commands are:
- “Play [artist name].”
- “Play [playlist name] playlist.”
- “Play the latest album by [artist name].”
- “Play the radio.”
You can also use Siri to play podcasts. “Play the latest podcast” will play the newest podcast from your list, while “Play [podcast name] podcast” will look for and play the latest podcast from your command.