by: Mike Ginsca,
In car entertainment has never been more prominent than it is right now. Arguably the biggest change in the last few years has been the integration of smartphones to a vehicle’s infotainment system. In the not too distant past, all you could do was make a phone call and/or listen to music through your cell phone. Now you have the entire phone screen, essentially, on your vehicle’s infotainment screen.
Apple’s iOS devices use CarPlay while devices powered by the Android OS use Android Auto. Most auto manufacturers have or are planning to have compatibility with both types of operating systems across their model lineup with Mazda being the latest manufacturer to join the market. There is a caveat with Mazda however because this particular Mazda 6 Turbo did not have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatibility from the factory. It was a dealer installed extra. However the 2019 Mazda CX-9 and all future Mazda models will slowly become available with smartphone integration in the coming months.
Read the review of this 2018 Mazda 6 Turbo here: 2018 Mazda 6 Turbo Signature
Starting up Android Auto on the Mazda 6 does require having the parking brake enabled (and of course the car in Park). Otherwise the car will not allow Android Auto to connect once the car is moving and you try to connect the wire from the phone to the car.
Once Android Auto has started up, it can be used at all times via the rotary knob near the gear selector or via voice controls. Using the touchscreen however is not possible because Mazda has not enabled that feature for use with Android phones but other vehicles, such as the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, it can be controlled via the touchscreen. Navigating with the rotary knob is actually not that bad. Changing between menus is easy and takes at most 2 rotations but I found myself using the voice controls more.
With the voice controls, you cans end text messages, call people on your contacts list, or put directions into the Google Maps app and have them direct you while driving. Waze, TuneIn Radio, Spotify, and more apps all work well, but they use up data, with the Mazda infotainment and rotary controls.
Overall, Android Auto works well but hopefully Mazda’s engineers will be able to let us use the touchscreen when stationary rather than having to fiddle with the rotary knob.
Unlike Android Auto, CarPlay is a bit easier to get going as it does not require the parking brake to be activated. What’s more, the touchscreen is active with CarPlay up to 5 km/h after which the rotary knob or voice controls is the only to navigate through the system.
Arguably CarPlay is easier to navigate than Android Auto and the main menu can be customized to display the apps that you use most of all. Waze, TuneIn, Spotify, etc. all work just as well as on Android Auto but of course you have the added benefit of using the touchscreen when stopped for faster navigating through the apps.
One thing with voice controls that may annoy some is that it is linked to Apple Maps rather than Google Maps. Apple Maps has been known to not have the best location or navigation services as Google Maps does so every time you want to enter a direction using voice commands, it will default to Apple Maps rather than Google Maps. Also deleting Apple Maps off your phone and just leaving Google Maps will not solve the problem. Instead the system will not recognize Google Maps and say that “it cannot find the Maps app”.
So both operating systems have each their own faults in the 2018 Mazda 6 Turbo. Android Auto does not allow the use of the touchscreen and Apple CarPlay does not allow the use of voice controls on Google Maps. But overall both systems work flawlessly and there is not a hint of lag on Mazda’s infotainment system.
Thank you to Mazda Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mazda.ca
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.