Buy all your VW California Accessories at the Club Shop Visit Shop

Apple Carplay (and VW CAR-Net AppConnect Mirrorlink) What's it all about?



Guest User
I recently posted a series of rambling threads regarding my upgrade of the venerable VW RNS510 head unit.
I've elected to go down the CarPlay route and thought it may be useful to post a review and overview of CarPlay.


I'm obviously basing this on the head unit I bought; an Alpine iLX-700, but those lucky folks with their mouse-fingers about to click on the order button for a new T6 can have this option; "CAR-Net AppConnect" activated on the mid-range "Composition Media System" without having to buy the more expensive discover nav systems (of course if you do buy the latter then you have the best of both worlds) This option has the added bonus working on Android devices as well as some other funky VW apps and is around £100 and I'm in the process of having it retro-fitted to my wifes Polo 6c

A recent JD power survey showed that over 20% of people simply don’t use certain tech items in their vehicles because they’re so complicated and cumbersome to use. Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto) are a way of leveraging great technology, without the steep learning curve.

I had been toying with getting CarPlay since the beginning of the year, but was put off by the closed set of apps available and only Apple Maps for Nav - Also I had the original RNS 510 and was reluctant to swap this out for something that seemed maybe a bit bleeding-edge.


I needn't have worried, so far I've found it really, REALLY good. The idea is that we’re all so embedded in the user experience (UX) of our phone systems and happy with how we use them, that an extension of this to our car infotainment system should be seamless. So far that seems to be the case with CarPlay.

The Alpine head unit has that bit more quality and also offers support for parking assist, using CAN bus integration and climate control/parking sensor radar display on the unit, which I wanted in a California. I had this previously in the factory VW Nav and this was the main reason I went for the Alpine over, say the Pioneer AppRadio4. I may hook a camera up later, but for now the radar sensor display is great.

The unit itself is mech-less, which means it doesn’t have any moving (mechanical) parts, i.e. no CD/DVD slot which may sound strange, but the fact that everything we have is now largely on our phones, what would be the point lugging around CDs? I think they’ve only lasted this long as car manufacturers persist with them in their new vehicles. So last century.


The idea is simply to leverage the power, storage and functionality of the smartphone (iPhone only on the iLX-700) and display this in a nice, car-friendly (and safe!) manner, on a 7”capacitive touch screen. This is the nice, soft touch type of screen that we’re used to in tablets and smartphones and whilst it’s not quite as crisp as the native devices, it’s streets ahead of the older "resistive" touch screens.


CarPlay features are a subset of Apple apps which have been deemed by Apple, to be suitable for in-car use. Whilst that may seem annoying (and I’m sure commercial reasons do exist), the last thing you want to be doing is playing Candy Crush on the M5, right?

Apple has allowed several third-party developers to create dedicated apps for CarPlay. Available apps are audio-focused and non-visual, in order to avoid introducing distractions into the car, with the content being played through the car's speakers.

Third-party apps will only show up on the CarPlay display if the app is installed on the iPhone. So, for example, if a user regularly listens to Spotify on the iPhone and has the Spotify app installed, Spotify will also be available via the CarPlay interface. Some audio apps will still play audio but don’t display on the head unit (e.g. iPlayer radio springs to mind) and these have to be controlled on the phone.

So you can’t get all of the apps, but you can get the standard Apple apps (see the main pic) and also many podcast/radio players are available. There's a list of them all over at CarPlayLife

Navigation: Apple Maps has been improved vastly and the CarPlay implementation of it looks great. Traffic information is automatic and it now caches the route into memory when you initially plan the route (on wifi at home or in the office) and doesn't require a data connection whilst you travel (unless you turn off etc and it needs to re-route you). Nice.

The good thing about this is that new features just arrive automatically, no waiting for “firmware updates”. All of the local businesses and locations are there so searching around the area becomes simple; say “find an Indian restaurant” and they all appear.

I like to just have the map screen on to give me a bit of visibility on traffic etc. Also if I start driving towards my home, Maps automatically displays the quickest route back ETA etc (but without the Turn-by-Turn voice prompts) which is a nice little feature.

If there is a meeting in your calendar which has a location set, then as soon as you jump in the car and start maps it suggests a route to that location. It can even set a reminder to leave based on current travel time.

It’s all very “connected” and saves faffing around in the carpark on on the drive entering locations into a cumbersome navigation unit.

Voice Control: Siri integration is very cool now. I've previously never had a voice control system that I've not had a massive argument with, but Siri gets it right almost always. It's actually quite a liberating experience to be able to keep your hands on the wheel and bark orders at Siri. Performance driven fitted the extension mic to the top of the A-pillar and it works really well there.


If you’re a bit timid and don’t like to shout “hey Siri!” when you’re driving, the iLX-700 has a nice hard, tactile Siri button which means you don’t have to look at the unit to engage Siri.

Messaging and phone calls are all controlled nicely with the voice integration. Also saying something like “drive to Johns” will start Apple Maps firing up (providing John has an address in contacts).

Opening an application can also be done hands free; “Launch audiobooks” etc will start the app. That said, apps do vary as to how well they support voice control; “play chillout playlist” will oblige and start the (iTunes) music playing where you want it without scrolling around, whereas “Launch Spotify play <whatever>” just opens Spotify.

The Apple apps seem to integrate very well with Siri, some of the 3rd party apps are a little less Siri-friendly (typically I can open them up ok but have to tap the screen afterwards). The HU is very responsive and I really like the improvement over my older (resistive) touch screen.

Music is displayed in nice, giganto-text with the album art kind of ghosted across the background. I like that, means you don't have to stare at the head unit for ages to try and make out what's playing.


Podcasts: There’s the Apple app or a number of others (deezer, stitcher, overcast) but I’ve stayed with the standard app for this (I use stitcher a little). This means I can have the news, sport, comedy or whatever ready to go if I feel the need, rather than listen to what happens to be on the radio at the moment.

Radio: Forget Apples’ terrible radio app, there’s a lot of good stuff to choose from; TuneIn and RadioPlayer are the two I use most. There are also the streaming music apps Spotify, Deezer, Dash and others to consider. Whilst you do need a reasonable data connection, it does compare favourably with DAB broadcasting and there is usually the option to listen to the show on demand, or pause it etc. All radio stations are covered and it’s easy to search through by station, show or presenter etc. There’s always the fallback of standard FM stations if you’re in the phone signal twilight zone.

Audiobooks: Something I hadn’t really considered before, but with the plethora of “free audiobooks” out there, it certainly makes a difference to hear a book as you drive. This can be useful to catch up on something work-related, if you’re driving to a meeting rather than hear the tales of Robinson Crusoe as you wind your way through the dark, wet streets on your daily commute. Again, Apples own app seems to be perfectly adequate but there are many others to choose from; Audible, Free Audiobooks and so on.

Really impressed so far and considering I replaced a very expensive factory nav system, I am very happy with what I've got. On long trips it’s really so much more than a Car Radio and the system itself updates as it goes or as apps get updated.

As a footnote I also added a mirroring device which can duplicate my iPhone completely. This is NOT CarPlay (needs to be controlled by the phone, just mirrors the display) and whilst it's quite cool to be able to watch the BBC iPlayer I'm not going to cover that in much detail here

MirrorLink_Screen.jpg MirrorLink_iPlayer.jpg
Edit: More info on smart phone mirroring can be found in this thread
Last edited by a moderator:
Andy thanks very much for this comprehensive feedback! So I needn't fret about accessing radio 6 music without dab, which was a real concern for me.

Have you by any chance been keeping a note of how much data you're using? I realise this will differ very much between different people, but I was wondering how I would get on with my 4g per month contract so any thoughts you have on data usage would be handy. I guess using apple maps abroad might be expensive.

Thanks again!

Sorry Andy - another question - do the steering wheel controls work? volume/track change etc? I have searched for an answer to this on the previous thread without success - though it may be in there somewhere!
@IanE good question re data usage - I'm not on any restrictions, so I have bad habits!

Bottom line is that it doesn't seem to be that much more to be honest, but it's difficult to quantify exactly

Typically I use less than 1gb per month, but some months peak at 2.5/3gb and one was 6.5 - all before I got CarPlay! Since then I've had a couple of 2.5+gb months and one at 800mb so I think your 4gb allowance would be fine.

It's dependant on how you use your apps (I switched on cellular downloads for podcasts) but if you refresh at home it's not gonna change much. Also I noted that apps like stitcher actually dont update unless you do that first

I don't think that Apple Maps is heavy on data usage and if you plan the route in your home or office on wifi and just hit "start" in your car, then the route is cached to the phone already so it uses little or no data whilst travelling (just for the traffic updates). Of course abroad it would be a bit different, which is why I spent the extra £70-odd on the mirroring device so that I can use a local nav app. I did leave data off for a recent trip and the route just worked fine.

For the Alpine the CAN bus adapter I have (for the radar parking/climate display etc) this also activates steering wheel controls too (except I don't have any) I was going to get these retro-fitted but with Siri voice control working so well, I don't think I'll bother.
I have a question on WHICH data is being used in this set-up.
I cannot tether with my contract, but I do have unlimited data.
Does Carplay use "native" data allowance or is the head unit connected in tether mode?

Secondary question - what about when the Mrs uses the car? Can you have multiple phones "paired"?
@johnyboy Nope, no tethering. CarPlay just extends the display and control of your phone onto the head unit receiver, so the receiver itself has no intelligence as such and it uses your phone's data in the same "native" way as when you use it normally.

When my wife plugs her iPhone in, she gets her (supported) apps plus the standard Apple CarPlay apps, her own contacts, messages, etc. It's seamless and no pairing is needed, just a confirmation pop up on your phone the first time you plug it in. This also means you can plug your phone into any CarPlay receiver and it'll appear the same as your own (leaves no phone footprints to clear down when you sell it, too!)

You do need to physically plug the phone in, but it doesn't need to be on display or touched afterwards. There are wireless CarPlay receivers appearing (VW rumoured to have some in the works). I can see that for short trips wireless CarPlay will be great, but for longer trips I'm happy it's getting juiced up.
Sorry Andy - another question - do the steering wheel controls work? volume/track change etc? I have searched for an answer to this on the previous thread without success - though it may be in there somewhere!
here is the info you're looking for @IanE
Hi Andy,

Where did you hide the mike?
@Bigted its at the top of the A-post pillar. Visible, but not really noticeable.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
Thanks for taking time to write such a comprehensive review, it really is helpful. I love the look of this device and I think it's only the lack of dab that puts me off because I use it so much. If they release a DAB version I will undoubtedly upgrade. It would solve the dislike of the old feel of my DNS 315 as well as the bluetooth being missing.

I do have unlimited data on my phone but I also work in an area with congested mobile internet so often apple music etc don't work on my commute home.

I would miss a non internet connected sat nav however for the same reasons. Do you know if Co-pilot works on this device? The reason I ask is that this satnav app works on a downloaded map rather than downloaded each trip.
Oh I just can't do it! I go round and round! I think I'm just going to get a brodit holder that will fit both my iPhone 6 and my wife's iPhone 5 for £50. My desire to have radio 6 music available is met through streaming the BBC radio iplayer - it doesn't look as though the alpine unit makes that much less of a faff.

We have VW Bluetooth which works beautifully (and cost £300!!) on voice recognition for phone calls and streaming audio from either phone. I had Hazzydays fit decent (Alpine) replacement speakers, sub under the drivers seat along with amp.

Both me and the wife like using the Tom Tom app on our phones - Andy I do appreciate that you have found a way round this through mirroring.

I guess the thing that really niggles with my current set up is to do with sound quality. We have the standard RCD310. My son who knows his stuff on car audio has managed to isolate the amp within the RCD310 so that I'm only using the better quality Alpine amp. But he tells me that the headunit does not have audio line out - and neither do any of the other VW headunits (except perhaps the new ones available for the T6? But I understand that they are not yet fittable in the T5 - and anyway they will be silly money). He advises that this could offer a significant improvement in sq - though not night and day. Existing sq with the work I've had done to date is pretty decent.

I'm thinking I'll just do the brodit thing for now and await developments. It is a frustration though, it's the only element of the van that I'm not completely happy with.
@IanE £50 for an iPhone mount...?? I used a vent mount "Kenu airframe" £11 it's tiny so you can leave it on there and it doesnt look so fugly - even stretches to hold my iphone 6 plus, just!

Sound is streets ahead of what it used to be (it's an Alpine, remember) and the crazy TuneIt app will keep your lad entertained (I'm just waiting for @fred to upload his Cali tuning profile :thumb )

You can of course mount your phone side-by-side with the head unit and continue to use iPlayer or tomtom when you need it, but I say jump in and embrace the plethora of alternatives (I used to love TomTom but its 2-star rating says enough to me about the way it's gone). My dash is nice and clean (I leave the phone in the dash tray, the guys fitted it nicely there).

For example I now use "radioplayer" (sometimes tunein) to get stuff like R6music; "hey Siri, launch radioplayer" no touching the unit needed. It's totally changed the way I listen to, or use stuff on the move. I've actually started using podcasts and on-demand stuff a lot more, even for items like the 6 o'clock news. Try RadioPlayer and search for 6 music and the on demand options. Using and setting it up at home, adding favourites and casting the music to a networked sound dock (oh god, don't get me started on all this, I feel a sermon coming on ;)) It's such a nice little app.


What I'm alluding to is the fact that the apps which aren't doing stuff like this aren't much fun anymore. The temptation is to stick with the devil you know, but having this unit installed made me look at some other stuff and it's been so refreshing.

Take camping for example (oh go on then, I hear you cry). I use the ACSI app on my phone (the one with the gazillion reviewed searchable campsites). It's not CarPlay aware, but it doesn't need to be. I shouldn't be searching for campsites on the receiver on the go, but my wife/navigator/campsitenazi can. She has a look for sites near us and researches them on the phone (whilst it's still plugged in) "this one looks lovely, four stars, lovely clean toilet block, five miles away and is close to the... blah blah blah" (at this point I do sometimes switch off) "ok sounds good, lets go there then" <tap> and it opens the selected campsite in Maps and off you go. It's all joining up nicely.
image1.PNG image2.PNG image3.PNG
Last edited by a moderator:
Andy you're a terror! Just realised I could actually use the tuneit app to tailor the headunits to my specific Alpine speakers! I wonder if that makes a difference. Oh Lord

(Thanks for the link to the phone holder - but does the phone not potentially over heat with being positioned in front of the vent?)
... does the phone not potentially over heat with being positioned in front of the vent?)

I'm not sure how hot your vents are Ian ;) but mine's worked fine for years in various cars. In the Cali I did sometimes turn the vent off if I had the a/c on, but never had any issues with it.
Andy, have you researched adding a reversing camera to the Alpine?

Yes (Alpine should be paying me for all this) I was going to go with one of several cameras. There's a wide-angle variant which is nice but for the moment I've stayed with the sensors until the current Gadget Acquirement Sanctions have been lifted (The dealer gave me a couple of other options too, I gather it's a standard camera input)

Almost forgot @MattBW there is a DAB module but I'd guess other receivers will surely be appearing with this built-in soon.
I would miss a non internet connected sat nav however for the same reasons. Do you know if Co-pilot works on this device? The reason I ask is that this satnav app works on a downloaded map rather than downloaded each trip.
Copilot don't support either the apple or android carplay systems yet, apparently support is in development but with no timescales for delivery, but the T6 app connect comes with mirroring to just mirror the mobile screen to the stereo so you could use it with that. I also use copilot for offline maps!
Sound is streets ahead of what it used to be (it's an Alpine, remember) and the crazy TuneIt app will keep your lad entertained (I'm just waiting for @fred to upload his Cali tuning profile :thumb )
Ive been tuning my set up over the last couple of days and just about to start playing with the tune it app to close one remaining deadspot at 350hz (caused by poor speaker choice). Everything else is tuned at crossovers and power-amp stage - head unit is set completely clean. I'm running a reasonably crazy setup though (700w RMS across 5 channels and a single 2ohm 10" sub) so I'm not sure if my profile is going to be much good to anyone else!
Sorry Andy - another question - do the steering wheel controls work? volume/track change etc? I have searched for an answer to this on the previous thread without success - though it may be in there somewhere!
Everything works including the mute button
I've fitted an AUTO-VOX HD camera. £25 + 8m of cable (Amazon)
Did you wire this up to your reversing light? Got any pictures of the installation?
To fix a camera to the rear number plate, I'm not sure how you would tidily get the wiring from the hatch opening into the vehicle and to the reversing light.
everything to do with rear camera fitting is here

Power from the rear reversing light is achieved by splicing the green cable feeding the left hand light cluster.
Thanks for sharing your Carplay experience Andy, I'm thinking to do the same, but like you ome of the conditions is the possibility to make a true mirror from my Iphone screen.
Can you give us some more clues how did you achieve that?


Enviado desde mi iPhone utilizando Tapatalk