Apple computer, the company whose innovations have changed the cultural landscape around the world what with inventions like the iPhone, iPod, Mac computer and iPad all proving to be runaway successes to the degree that it’s hard to imagine a world where they did not exist. Then came the Apple Watch which is definitely part fashion accessory and part functional.
Apple products have always become design icons but for Apple to create something so intentionally meant to be stylish was an abomination to those who get riled up far too easily. What? Did they want Apple to make their watch look like the old dorky 1980’’s Casio calculator watches to keep their cred? If you want to look like a dork go buy a Pebble. I have been testing a 38mm face Apple Watch and despite having a pretty bad hand tremor, with just one setting adjustment I never miss the app I am aiming for on the watch touch screen. And the 38mm is the small screen. Our full final report will be out just in time for the Christmas shopping season.
But any negative press for this Cupertino, California based company should prove short lived once the Apple CarPlay in-car infotainment system goes wide with availability predicted to eventually be in most models from most automakers. Currently the 2016 Honda Accord (which was the first car with the technology) and the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta both offer the system and have models available for sale at dealerships now. (Volkswagen is rolling out CarPlay as well as Android Auto across most of its lineup for the 2016 model year.)
So to get a preview of Apple CarPlay I went down to Volkswagen of Orange in Southern California to look at the sensibly priced 2016 Jetta Sport variant and to get a sneak peek at the system before I finally get my hands on a manufacturer fleet vehicle so equipped for a week. The dealer knew I was there interested in this particular model looking towards a possible future purchase but that I was an auto journalist who wanted to try out CarPlay as well.
Yet despite knowing I would be writing a story potentially about the experience, this dealer pulled out all of the worst high pressure sales tactics going so far as taking my car keys and hiding them from me while literally harassing me non-stop to sign a purchase contract over the course of 6 hellish hours. Yes, it took them 6 hours to return my keys to me but I will do anything for a story, I guess. However, I think VW should look into the sales practices of this particular dealer since I have never been treated this way at any VW establishment and I should know from having owned three from new. Frankly, I felt like I was being held hostage.
Enough with the negativity now because I have nothing but positive things to say about the Apple CarPlay integration in the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta. Many VW loyalists will rejoice for the 2016 model year as it sees the death of the MIDI hard wired cable which took up the majority of the Jetta’s center cubby and sees the introduction of a far more useful USB port and aux/input jack. The USB port is required to hard wire your iPhone into the VW’s system so that the totally redesigned, Golf sourced, state of the art infotainment head unit can access your phone’s information when you press the CarPlay button on the screen. VW Car Net is the default user interface for the new 2016 infotainment system which is what allows owners to use either Android Auto or Apple Carplay.
Once you do that, a series of very familiar looking touch screen buttons will appear (the exact same ones as on your iPhone for Music, Phone, Podcasts, Maps used for navigation and more—I only had ten minutes to play) and the system will also let Siri take over for any voice activation commands you want to use and for the most part despite Siri’s occasional mispronunciation the Apple CarPlay system voice commands worked flawlessly. Unlike when I was trying to get Siri to text my cousin and she decided to toss in a rude insult at the end of the text for no reason. So always make sure to double check what your texts say before hitting send and yes through CarPlay Siri can read back and send texts for you.
One part of why I really did love the CarPlay system so much in the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta was because of the brilliantly executed touch screen head unit with crystal clear, easy to maneuver touch screen menus and a handsome, upscale appearance. Apple CarPlay was so easy to use in the Jetta that I felt comfortable with all of the controls in less than ten minutes. It essentially is like a safe extension of your iPhone that reduces distraction while driving.
Now, if that one Volkswagen dealer would have behaved a little differently perhaps I would have wound up with a long term test vehicle of my own to test CarPlay’s long term reliability. Maybe one day just definitely not at that dealer.
For more information on the entire 2016 VW lineup, check out the official Volkswagen USA website.
Editor’s Note: While James prefers Apple CarPlay, VW hasn’t left out all of the Android users out there and supports Android Auto as well. As soon as we get an Android device we can pair with a 2016 VW head unit, you’ll hear about it! The default VW Car Net works for other brands of smartphones so other users are taken care of as well. (Rebuttal from the author: I only have an iPhone. And since I tend to destroy them with regularity I cannot afford to have an Android Phone and an iPhone at the same time. Unless, of course, someone from Apple or Android would like to allow us the use of sample phones for testing.)