Wednesday, May 3, 2023

CarPlay in the Age of Large Screens

Stephen Hackett:

Yesterday, I picked up my new truck, a 2023 Toyota Tundra. Coming from an older Tacoma, this truck is amazing, and that includes the large 14-inch screen. The truck has wireless CarPlay, and I noticed something right away: CarPlay’s UI doesn’t stretch very gracefully for these larger displays.


The phone app is okay but the full-width cells in that table view are a bit odd. I also have no idea why the dialer looks the way it does.


Full-screen media playback is perhaps the worst of the screens, with both Overcast and Apple Music showing how much work Apple needs to do here[…]

My car has a 9-inch screen, and it’s frustrating how CarPlay doesn’t seem to use the space very well:


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I haven’t used CarPlay with such large screens but there’s some stuff on the smaller ones that is odd. My favorite bug (?) relates to the infamous orange dot that is displayed when microphone is active. For some reason it forces the focus mode icon (I use driving focus when I’m the driver) to jump below the “dock”. Incredibly annoying.
There are other things that could use improvement too. There’s no easy way to jump to a particular artist in the music app, for example. Say I’m playing a playlist and a song by X comes up. Going to the album is trivial in this case. Going to the artist requires you to basically find it manually anyway. So, so frustrating.
I think CarPlay is mostly stuck in the era of old, low resolution car displays. I don’t know if a lot can be changed without breaking the backwards compatibility. Although there seems to be plenty of low hanging fruit here – stretching the diaper doesn’t seem to be much of an ask.

I believe the battery icon only shows up when using wireless CarPlay, maybe that's why you only see it sometimes?

Also, the on-screen audio playback controls change depending on the playing app (i.e. 15/30 second skip for Podcasts, Pandora only has forward but no backwards, etc.). I don't know if steering wheel controls work the same way, or if they just send a generic "next/prev track" command.

@Brendan Apparently you can be plugged in but still connected wirelessly. The hardware buttons do adapt for Overcast. I’m not sure about those other apps.


Presumably, this is what the CarPlay2 thing announced this year was supposed to address. Wonder if this is something that prompted the GM move.

I think the steering wheel buttons follow the same pattern as with the headphones attached to an iPhone. For music apps it's the usual next/previous track, for podcasts it's likely to be X seconds this or that way.
Side note: I have actually visited the official CarPlay website and it kind of shows. The car dashboard shown is very generic, from ~5 years ago and the unit shown is something very basic, likely 6 or 7 inch diagonal and fairly low resolution. Note that even on the leading photo, the text in the calendar widget is already truncated. Bit unusual for Apple in an official photo.

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