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Apple's CarPlay is smart but simple

Ferrari FF owners can now link their iPhones to the car's entertainment system.
Jennifer Clark is an Automotive News Europe correspondent in Italy.

Apple’s new CarPlay system is as simple to use as you would expect from a company that has perfected the art of easy-to-use technology.

Apple unveiled Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo as its first partners to use CarPlay in their vehicles at the Geneva auto show this week. I tried it out in a Ferrari FF at the Italian carmaker’s buzzing stand. The FF is Ferrari’s version of a “family car,” something Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo would use to drive the wife and kids to the mountains or the beach. The one I sat down in had a pair of Ferrari-branded skis stowed in back.

An Apple employee named Kurt showed me how to hook up an Apple phone by opening up the central armrest. Inside the compartment was a jack, and his iPhone.

With the press of a button, the familiar Apple icons appear on the car’s entertainment screen. The driver or passenger can active the phone, messaging, podcasts, music or map icons either my button, by touchscreen or by Siri voice command. On this Ferrari, the voice command is on the left side of steering wheel, just in front of the paddle.

Apple hasn’t opened up CarPlay to most third party apps, so there’s no Facebook or Twitter on the dash. For safety reasons, it’s sticking to its own audio apps and a few audio apps like Spotify.

So how is this an improvement on the FF’s own nav system? CarPlay lets you access the maps you’ve saved on your phone, will hunt out directions from messages and emails.

Apple's new CarPlay system allows easy access to the iPhone menu in cars including the FF.

And when Kurt said, “Siri, find me a museum,” it came up with 12 options scattered around Geneva.

Apple has been involved with cars for 10 years, going back to the iPod. But this is the first time it has brought its iconic interface directly into an automobile.

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