In an age of universal connectivity, the car is no exception. From cutting-edge vehicles like the Tesla Model 3 — which lets drivers download updates to their vehicle as if they were updating their smartphone — to services like Apple CarPlay, drivers who love technology certainly do not lack for dashboard gadgetry. CarPlay allows popular iPhone features to appear on your late model car’s dashboard screen, which you can control by voice, touchscreen, or other built-in car controls, so you can concentrate on driving even while using the app. Which apps should you use? We’ve put together a list of the best CarPlay apps, each of which should make your daily commute more fun.
With an incredibly useful, crowdsourced mix of information — from snapshots of real-time traffic, locations of the cheapest gas stations, and updates on traffic incidents and accidents — Waze is one of the best navigation apps available. You can access it on your dashboard via CarPlay and always find the fastest route home. You can also listen to music or podcasts from within the app. If you aren’t keen on Apple Maps or Google Maps, then Waze is a solid alternative. Most recent versions make sharing your drive with friends and family easier.
TomTom Go Navigation
If you seek an alternative from Waze, have a look at TomTom Go Navigation. The ad-free app’s maps are customizable, based on what you need, and you can save offline maps. Weekly app updates help you avoid traffic tie-ups with intelligent routes and alternative routes in response to construction, accidents, and other obstacles. You get a heads-up on which lanes lead to junctions and exits accompanied by moving lane guidance, speed alerts, and warnings. The app stores habitual and popular destinations, scenic areas, helps you get to locations from geotagged photos, and lets you share your ETA with people who are awaiting you.
TuneIn Radio has one of the largest selections of content on the planet. Download this app and get access to more than 120,000 stations. You can stream real-time audio from radio stations all around the world, and access sports, news, music, and a variety of other popular formats. A premium subscription comes with a few added perks. For example, the service, for $10 a month, provides play-by-play access to a host of sports, so you never have to miss a beat when it comes to your favorite NFL or MLB team. You also gain access to more than 130 ad-free music stations.
The iHeartRadio app is a great way to discover AM and FM radio stations from around the globe. If you want to listen to your favorite podcast or check out the latest sports scores, this app has you covered. iHeartRadio will even collect the songs you like as you listen, and create a personalized station just for you. Like most radio apps, you can also snag a premium subscription, which allows you to save and replay songs from the radio, create unlimited playlists, and skip as many tracks as you like. Currently, there are two premium options available: iHeartRadio Plus, for $6 per month, and iHeartRadio All Access, for $13 per month. Here’s how to add iHeartRadio on your car via Apple CarPlay. Recent versions let you share a live station or a song on that station with your friends and family, access recently played content in your library, and listen to podcasts at 0.5x, 1x, 1.25x, 1.5x, and 2x speeds. Siri shortcuts let you access iHeartRadio from Siri suggestions and voice commands and share via Snapchat.
Over-the-air commercial radio doesn’t hold a candle to Dash Radio, a free, digital broadcasting platform that features 24/7 livestreaming with popular DJs, personalities, and curators on over 75 original ad-free stations. The app features genuine humans playing music, just like the old days when radio stations were local and catered to the listening public rather than homogenized market research — no algorithms second-guessing your tastes.
If you like podcasts and you’re looking for an alternative to Apple’s proprietary podcast app, have a look at Overcast. This app comes with a myriad of welcome features, including voice boost and smart speed, the latter of which allows you to speed up conversations without distorting the audio. You can also search, browse, or download podcasts for offline use. The app features push notifications too, so you’ll never miss a new episode of your favorite podcast. It’s currently chock-full of ads, though you can purchase a premium subscription for $10 a year for ad-free listening. Recent versions feature improved search and sync, shared clips up to 90 seconds long, and customized podcast downloading, deleting, and sorting.
Amazon owns Audible, so if you’re already a Prime member, you’ll have access to Audible Channels, which offers exclusive original series and features one of the largest selections of audiobooks around. All of your favorite audiobooks are here, whether you’re into psychological thrillers, medieval epics, or something else entirely. The app also lets you navigate via chapter and download individual chapters for offline use. You can even make clips of your favorite passages to share with friends and family. Updates let you use credits to add titles to your library right from the app and improved VoiceOver support. A $15 per month subscription is available for non-Prime members that lets you choose one audiobook and two Audible Originals per month.
If you’re planning a long drive, or just like to listen to audiobooks on your way to work, then you may want to take a look at Audiobooks.com. You can download audiobooks straight to your iPhone without having to sync with your computer, or you can just choose to stream them over Wi-Fi or through your data connection. The app has a selection of featured samples that you can listen to and a huge library of over 8,000 free titles. You get your first premium audiobook for free, then you can choose a new one every month for $15 per month. Recent updates add a podcast feature that lets you access over 700,000 podcasts and makes discovering new audiobooks easy by letting you follow authors, narrators, and book series, and receive notifications about new releases.
If you’re a public domain aficionado, Free Audiobooks has your number. Not only does it offer classics, romances, mysteries, poetry, and other free content, it also features professionally narrated premium free content that you can search by author, title, or narrator. You can stream or download books directly to your phone for offline listening and navigate the narrative with this streamlined app.
Here’s an app for listening to shows and podcasts from NPR and local public radio. You’ll have access to the shows that you already follow, and the app also lets you listen to any news that you missed with its Catch Up section. The more you use the NPR app, the more it will learn what you like and bring you the stories that matter most to you. From news to podcasts, NPR One has something for everyone, and it’s very easy to use. Recent versions have improved VoiceOver support with an interface that spans the edges of newer iPhone models.
MLB At Bat
If you like baseball, you’re probably already familiar with this app. MLB.com At Bat has everything you need to know about baseball. One of the standout features of the app on iPhone is the ability to watch videos. You won’t be able to watch videos while driving, of course, but you can listen to any games available through the radio feature. You get access to stats, breaking news, schedules, and more. Subscription prices are $3 per month or $20 per year, and you need to subscribe to access the radio feature. New releases introduce MLB.TV Live Rewind, which gives you DVR-like control over your MLB.TV stream with Pause and Resume, scrub to past action, watch with delay, or go back to live anytime features. Alternate Audio lets you listen to radio announcers while watching live or archived MLB.TV streams, or remove the commentary in favor of the Park Audio option, which lets you hear the sound of live gameplay in the ballpark.
When it comes to music, Spotify is one of the most popular streaming services with an enormous library of tracks, shared playlists, and more. If you’re not one of the 50 million subscribers who chose Apple Music, then you should check out what Spotify has to offer. When you open the app in your car, three sections allow access: your library, browse, and radio. You can listen for free with ads, or opt for Spotify Premium for ad-free listening and the ability to choose any song to listen on any platform. The premium service costs $10 per month, $5 per month for students, or $15 per month for a family package that includes you and up to five others.
Pandora is as simple as they come. You just launch the app, choose the station, and it will start playing your music. The idea is that selections will evolve with you and your listening tastes. Because Pandora learns from your choices, it will keep playing music you enjoy without needing input from you while you drive. An app that you can just set and forget is ideal while you’re behind the wheel. If you want the ad-free experience, you can subscribe to Pandora Plus which costs $5 per month. For even more features — like downloading songs to listen offline and higher quality audio — a Pandora Premium subscription costs $13 per month. Over 20 exclusive SiriusXM shows are now available on Pandora.
Are you looking for fabulous free audiobooks to listen to on your next commute? We recommend checking out your local public library via the Libby app. We’ve shown you how to download e-books using Overdrive’s Libby in the past, but are you aware that you can also take out audiobooks? Best of all, the Libby app is CarPlay compatible, so you can choose any of your existing loans right from your car’s dashboard and begin listening to your next great adventure. So, download the Libby app, grab your library card, and make your next commute just a bit more interesting.
If you’re a fan of Sirius XM, you might want to take a closer look at the company’s mobile app for iOS, which now offers Apple CarPlay support. While SiriusXM generally charges you to add on additional car radios to your subscription plan, you have a bit more flexibility with the company’s mobile app. The SiriusXM app is also an excellent option for anyone who feels they receive a less than optimal satellite signal, as it instead operates via your cellular data. CarPlay support makes browsing SiriusXM a breeze with control directly on your dashboard.
Not everyone is on board with Spotify and Apple Music. If you prefer to manage your local collection of high-quality audio, taking a look at the VOX app is a great option. VOX is an app that has been popular on Mac for quite some time and enables users to sync their music collection to the cloud, as well as access the previously mentioned streaming services if desired. New CarPlay support means you can call up your high-quality FLAC files in an instant, without having to dig out your iPhone, making for a safer and more enjoyable driving experience.
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