New Apple CarPlay Features and Updates You’ll Love in iOS 15

Apple CarPlay iOS 15 Credit: Roman Vyshnikov / Shutterstock
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Apple’s latest WWDC didn’t ignore CarPlay. On the contrary, Apple’s car platform is getting some serious attention in iOS 15, with several updates to improve usability and add features that users have really wanted, along with other changes that make CarPlay safer.

CarPlay is becoming a standard feature on even mid-range vehicles, and more and more of us have the opportunity to use it on our commutes and adventures, so let’s take a look at what Apple is changing and how it will enhance how you drive.

New Car Key Functionality

Car Keys were introduced back in iOS 14, and people are still getting used to them; but the new features coming to those with iPhones are welcome, and Apple seems intent on expanding Car Key’s usefulness.

In addition to using your iPhone to unlock your car automatically, Car Keys can now use the U1 chip on newer iPhones to tell exactly where your phone is in proximity to the car. If your phone is outside of your car, it simply won’t start (a theft deterrent and a handy reminder that you may have forgotten or dropped your iPhone somewhere). If your iPhone is left inside of your car, CarPlay won’t let the doors lock.

Of course, the biggest issue with Car Key is that it’s still pretty rare. Only BMW is currently offering support for it, although hopefully, more manufacturers are on their way.

Focus for Driving

iOS is introducing a whole new feature called Focus, which allows you to put your iPhone into a highly customizable “Do Not Disturb” mode that lets contacts know you’re busy and hides all alerts or communication except those that you specifically want to let through. It takes a while to set up, but it looks like it will be a very useful feature.

Within Focus, there’s a specific driving Focus option that kicks in when you’re in your car and connected to CarPlay. You can arrange it to silence notifications or only let calls in from loved ones or certain devices that you care about the most. You can also choose to automatically send back a customized message to anyone who tries to text you that says something like, “Sorry, Tyler is driving right now.”

Announce Messages with Siri

A new feature called Announce Messages with Siri is also arriving on CarPlay. You can already experience this feature on your AirPods, where Siri can read aloud incoming texts without you needing to take out your phone – useful during workouts, for example. Soon, CarPlay will do the same thing, so Siri can read off texts without you needing to glance at the screen, which is safer for everyone and doesn’t require you to pay attention to alerts.

You can also set up muting protocols if there’s a chance that this will get too distracting or interrupt your music too much, such as the option to mute a specific conversation thread.

There’s a small caveat to this feature – it’s rolling out slowly, and won’t be available to everyone when iOS 15 first drops.

A New Look for CarPlay

iOS 15 will also drop several new wallpapers for CarPlay that are essentially iOS 15 themed, with similar colors and shapes used for the iOS 15 announcement. It’s not the most important thing, but it is nice to have new options to play with.

Every new wallpaper will also have a Light and Dark Mode, and CarPlay can even switch between them based on the time of day.

New Maps Options

Do you use Maps a lot with CarPlay? It’s getting a major interface boost that should make navigation easier for many. New details are being added to indicate elevation, buildings, trees, and other landmarks, which means you’ll be able to recognize where you are going with even greater accuracy.

When it rolls out, the feature will only be available for certain large cities, although we can expect it to expand in the future. What you can do now is use the new Maps Dark Mode that’s coming in iOS 15, which frankly makes Maps navigation look a lot more pleasant.

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