Apple Car Play, Android Auto - 2 Hidden Weaknesses and 1 Strength
Android Auto and Apple Car Play are two excellent, low-cost ways to access high-quality navigation in a vehicle that does not have it. In fact, that is sort of the point, Automakers will add this capability instead of charging thousands for Nav that is barely better than a $100 Tom Tom from Radio Shack.
Even better, your phone is always updating and getting better. In-dash infotainment systems don't. There is also a lot more to these apps than just Nav. Your voice commands work and many of your apps like Pandora are easily accessed. However, in real-world use on road trips, we have found a couple of things not often mentioned in overviews of these two apps.
First, the Nav is great, but it does not work if there is no cell phone signal. That may seem like no big deal, but in our recent travels in central New Hampshire, we found that the Nav would go blank frequently on rural roads. Which are places that Nav is very handy. GPS can also be blocked by mountains, but it returns a lot more often than does the cell signal. As our image above shows, when the cell coverage goes away, so too does your map and guidance.
We also found the cord a hassle. Plugging in every time one enters the car is not our habit but if you are relying on Android Auto or for Nav and tunes you must. Alpine has developed an aftermarket head unit that does not require plugging in, but automakers are not yet offering this convenience.
Ironically, plugging in every time you enter and exit is also a plus. Your phone charge constantly grows or stays at 100%. So one of the weaknesses of these apps turns out to have a positive side effect.