Tag: navigation

The Future of In-Vehicle Navigation: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

The Future of In-Vehicle Navigation: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

I have a prediction, one that I don’t think is that much of a leap. My prediction is this: Full navigation systems that come built into cars by the manufacturers will soon either be very rare or a thing of the past completely. The reasons for this are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two pieces of technology that allow you to “project” specific apps from your smartphone onto your vehicle’s infotainment screen. The most useful of these are the “maps” apps: Android Auto uses Google Maps, and Apple CarPlay uses Apple Maps. So instead of having a navigation system built into your vehicle, you can use the one already on your phone on your vehicle’s big screen. Let’s look at both systems.

apple carplay (s)

Apple CarPlay – If you are an iPhone user you’ll use Apple CarPlay as your phone/car interface software of choice. It looks very similar to the layout of your iPhone, and it is the easiest of the two systems to set up the first time. This will allow you access to apps from your phone such as Phone, Music, Maps, Messages, Podcasts, Audiobooks, and other apps you might have added on your own like Pandora or Spotify. Not all of the apps on your phone will show up on your vehicle’s screen – only the specific apps that have been optimized to work with the CarPlay system. (A full list of compatible apps can be found here.)  It’s a very easy to use and easy to control system with large colorful buttons on your vehicle’s touch screen display, and with voice commands featuring everybody’s favorite virtual assistant, Siri.


Android Auto – Android users will use the Android Auto system to “project” a simplified version of their phone to their vehicle’s infotainment system. The bottom row of buttons allow you to control your Maps/Navigation using Google Maps, Phone, and music. The Music icon will allow you to choose the source of music from your phone, such as Google Play Music, Pandora, Spotify, and various podcasting apps. Android Auto requires a little more setup, which includes downloading the Android Auto app from the Google Play Store and going through a few-minute long set up process.

A recent update to the Android Auto system allows users to access the voice command system without hitting a single button. Just say “Okay, Google…” and the built-in Google Assistant will perk up and be ready to take orders.


Now that you’ve been introduced to the two very similar systems, here are the pros and cons of using them in your daily driving life.


  • The maps from both Google and Apple are updated constantly (for free), whereas the built-in navigation will need an update every few years at a cost of around $150-$200 per update.
  • The voice recognition system is usually more intuitive with Siri and the Google Assistant than the system that comes with your vehicle.
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available on many different makes and models such as Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, Cadillac, Ford, Lincoln, Honda, Kia, Subaru,  Hyundai, Acura, Audi, Bentley, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Nissan, Infinity, Land Rover, Subaru, VW and more.
  • It takes very little data to power the navigation. (Streaming music from the internet takes quite a bit more)
  • It saves you the money of having to upgrade thousands of dollars just to get a vehicle with built-in navigation.


  • You have to have a smart phone.
  • You have to have your phone plugged in with a quality USB cable in order to use these systems.

All-in-all, these systems are powerful, easy to use, and are always evolving with new features due to software updates on the phones that power them. There’s almost no downside of using them if you already have a smartphone. I highly recommend both systems.

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The Curious Case of the TomTom Eclipse

The Curious Case of the TomTom Eclipse

I received a call from a customer, Mark, who had a very unusual, and very specific question for me regarding his radio. But before I can tell you about his question, I have to tell you about his radio.

At some point in the last 15 years or so, the GPS company TomTom and Toyota got together to build a radio for a select few vehicles. It was radio system that let you snap in a very specific version of the current TomTom GPS (called the TomTom Eclipse, or TomTom Toyota as I eventually found out), so you can have navigation and radio controls all running through an in-dash touch screen unit. I know this sounds very basic and “ho-hum” these days, but they released this system in the 2005 Toyota Prius. 2005. (By the looks of it, only a select few 2005 Prius’ and 2007 Yaris’ got this radio) This was high tech stuff for the time! It looked a little something like this.

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Mark, and other Prius owners love their cars, and want to keep them as long as possible. Mark called me with a simple problem: His unique TomTom unit no longer boots up, and he wanted to know if it could be fixed or replaced. He called TomTom first, and they said they no longer service or make this unit anymore, and that any requests to service or replace it should go through Toyota. At the Toyota dealership we found out it would cost upwards of $1,000 just to replace the snap in GPS, and even more to replace the entire head unit, if they even had one in available somewhere.

His options quickly became 1. live with the brokenness of it all, or 2. replace the entire head unit. Neither option seemed particularly appealing, and since we had only corresponded over calls and emails, I asked if we could get together so I could see this TomTom Eclipse device in person. I thought maybe some idea for fixing it would come to me once I had it in my hands.

Sure enough, this device had a mini-USB port on the bottom of it. Mark let me take the device home with me where I downloaded the computer program TomTom Home to my computer. After that, the solution to Mark’s problem was simple. Just plug the TomTom unit unto my computer with a USB to USB-mini cable, and follow the steps on the computer screen to update the software on the device. After about 10 minutes, the process was completed and the device booted back up like new, and Mark was back in business.

This radio was used on a very limited number of vehicles, and is kind of an anomaly to see out in the world anymore. I’ve said all of that about Mark’s radio to say this; If you have a technology question, it never hurts to ask. We don’t always have a fix as neat and tidy as I found for Mark, but if there is an answer, we’ll work hard to find it for you.

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