Car entertainment systems have become smarter, but car makers in India have been slow to adopt the new technology. Maruti Suzuki became the first car maker on our shores to add the Apple CarPlay in-car platform to their SmartPlay infotainment system, available in the S-Cross crossover, Baleno hatchback, Ciaz sedan and Ertiga multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). Now, SmartPlay has been upgraded with support for Google’s Android Auto, in addition to Apple CarPlay for the iPhone.
At the very heart of the SmartPlay system is a proprietary software for radio, Bluetooth connectivity and basic navigation.
Android Auto and CarPlay recreate your phone’s interface on the display in the car. What you need to do is plug in your phone to the car’s USB port. At present, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay do not work wirelessly.
Android Auto gives you instant access to apps such as Google Play Music, Google Allo, Google Maps and the phone dialer. The interface is easy to use—the apps are listed at the bottom of the screen, just like the navigation bar at the bottom of your Android phone’s screen. Within each app, the menu for relevant options is available on the top left side. Android Auto also integrates messages and notifications from third-party apps, including Facebook Messenger, and you can reply or set select notifications on mute while you drive.
Unlike Apple CarPlay, where you don’t need to pair your phone’s Bluetooth separately, Android Auto requires Bluetooth pairing if you want to use the voice-calling feature. The 7-inch display has good brightness levels, and is adequately sharp. It is a fingerprint magnet though, and a bit reflective, something you’ll notice during daytime driving. The system can also be accessed with the controls on the steering wheel—these include media playback, voice command and call keys.
The new SmartPlay system is rolling out first in the Ignis hatchback, priced upwards of Rs4.59 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). This makes it the first car in its category to have the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto combination available as a default option.
There is no doubt, then, that Apple and Google’s smart car platforms are a genuine evolution over the infotainment set-ups most car makers have offered as a default all this while.