There are a whole host of apps available for your car to make journeys smoother and more enjoyable. If your vehicle has an infotainment system that's a bit fiddly to use, then that's never ideal when you have other things to focus on, particularly keeping your eyes on the road. Luckily the slew of car apps out there can help things out massively in this regard.

Whether it's controlling the music or a sat-nav app to help you get from A to B, this guide is here to get you up to speed with connecting your car to the plethora of different apps you can use at the wheel. Two of the most popular include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which we'll be focusing on below.

Connecting to your car via Bluetooth

Connecting your phone to your car via Bluetooth allows you to use hands-free functions and stream music wirelessly.

It's possible to have two Bluetooth devices connected simultaneously, one of which is only for streaming media. Whichever was the last phone to be connected is automatically connected to make calls, send/receive messages, stream media and provide an internet connection. Note that your mobile phone needs to be equipped with Bluetooth and support tethering. Connection is performed once per device; after connection, you don't need anything else other than having Bluetooth activated on your device.

To connect your phone via Bluetooth, you need to perform the following steps:

  1. Activate Bluetooth on your phone
  2. To connect your car to the internet via the phone's Bluetooth, ensure that your phone supports tethering and that the function is activated. On Apple devices, this function is known as "tethering", but on Android devices, it's called "personal hotspot". If you're using an iPhone, then the tethering menu page must remain open until the internet connection has been established.
  3. If no phone has been previously connected, press Add phone. If a phone has already been connected to the car, press Change. In the pop-up box, press Add phone.
  4. Press the name of the phone to be connected and follow the instructions in the dashboard's centre display.

Note that if the phone's operating system is being updated, it's possible that the connection will be interrupted. If this is the case, then delete the phone from your car and reconnect.​

Apple CarPlay

CarPlay is like a pared-down version of iOS that's designed for cars. Once you're set up, you can send messages with iMessage, play music, get directions, listen to podcasts, stream radio and call people without ever having to pick up your phone.

Because of this, it relies heavily on Apple's Siri voice command technology, allowing you to focus on what's in front you when you're behind the wheel rather than trying to fiddle around on your phone's small screen.

Note that CarPlay does not replace your car's standard entertainment system, it is only an app, after all. If you need to do car-specific tasks such as adjusting the temperature, view a backup camera or adjust general settings, you'll need to exit the app and revert back to the standard interface.

Setting up CarPlay

Using a lightning-to-USB cable, connect your phone to the car while it's turned on but in park. The first time you plug in your phone, you'll have to go through an approval process to let your car access your phone. From here, your phone will automatically go into CarPlay mode.

At this point, the CarPlay app will launch, or you'll select it from the infotainment system's menu. On your screen, you should see a grid of app icons that look similar to your iPhone's home screen.

Android Auto

Designed to make it easier to access Android in the car and use Google apps such as Maps through a more user-friendly, distraction-free interface, Android Auto connects Android devices to the dashboard of new vehicles.

That means having the apps and features from your Android device at your fingertips whether you're driving or you're the passenger. And recently, it received a bit of a facelift that included a new darker theme, an updated app launcher layout, and a more intuitive interface for greater ease of use on the road.

Another great feature of Android Auto is its Google Maps-powered navigation system, which provides step-by-step direction and automatically finds an alternative route if it detects heavy traffic. It also ports over saved destinations from your phone, which saves you from having to manually type in the address to your house, office or school. Like CarPlay, there's also a voice-activated function, even if your car isn't equipped with voice-recognition technology.

Setting up Android Auto

Make sure you have Android Auto installed on your phone. If not, you can download it for free from the Play Store, alternatively it may ask you to update the newest version of the app. Connect your phone to your car with a USB cable. Once plugged in, the app will be detected and automatically launched. Connecting via a USB automatically turns on your phone's Bluetooth too. From here, you're ready to use Android Auto's plethora of apps and functions when you're on the move!

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