Back in the day, when radio/cassettes (remember them?) were so easy to steal car crime was rampant, it was easy to upgrade your sound system. Now with built-in systems, it’s not so simple. But there are still aftermarket units that enable you to bring the very latest tech to your motor.
What is Apple CarPlay?
Apple CarPlay is a piece of software in the sound systems of modern cars that enables the car to talk to Apple iPhones. You basically plug the iPhone in, go through the one-time set up and you have access to selected apps on your phone through the screen of your car. It works with iPhone 5 or newer.
What can you do?
When your car has CarPlay, you can listen to music via iTunes, Apple Music, or even apps such as Spotify. If your car doesn’t have sat nav, no problem. With CarPlay you can access Apple or Google mapping services. And that turns your nav-less car into one that effectively has sat nav.
CarPlay will also alert you to incoming text messages and you can ask Siri to read them out to you. You can use the voice control to make completely hands-free calls as well.
Can you get it in an older car?
Not if your head unit (the bit of the sound system that you can see) isn’t compatible. However, you can upgrade car head units so that they work with CarPlay.
How do you go about it?
First you have to check what system your car has. Some new cars have a system that’s completely integrated into the dash. Others have simpler DIN installation that enables an aftermarket head unit to be slotted into the hole in the dash that the old sound system left.
It’s best to discuss the installation with a professional. You can do it yourself but you don’t want to accidentally lose some of the functionality by not connecting the right wire.
How much will it cost?
How long is a piece of string? You can get an Apple CarPlay compatible head unit for around £250. Or you might want to spend £1,250 on an all-singing all-dancing model. Then factor in around £100 for fitting.
Where do you get them?
Motor retailers and specialist manufacturers produce them. For example, Alpine make a 9-inch head unit that’s compatible with the VW Golf Mk6 that was built between 2008 and 2013. But manufacturers such as Kenwood, Sony and Pioneer produce the same sort of head units. Some car manufacturers even provide upgraded head units for their cars. The one you choose depends on your car and budget.
T3 Magazine recommends the Pioneer SPH-EVO62DAB-UNI Car Stereo as the best aftermarket unit.
Very often, aftermarket units like these offer bigger screens and better functionality than the head units they replace. This is because they benefit from newer technology. If your car has steering wheel controls for the sound system, these retro-fit systems should work with those too.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.