Subaru Starlink system supports Apple CarPlay. That was one positive thing when comparing Forester to rivals. Not all cars have this. Specially usually not offered at all trim levels, as Subaru does. After a while using CarPlay I have found it to be a real feature – not just an marketing gimmick. Subaru’s headunit is responsive enough. It is not as smooth as you might have used to when using e.g. iPad. By all means, it is not pain to use. Not even close. So sliding and switching between screens and pressing buttons works fine. I kind of knew it already, that you are not bound to anymore to car maker’s offering and knowhow how to make interfaces to the infotainment systems. However installing apps to your phone and then seeing those enabled right away on car’s interface is eye opening experience. Only thing is that there is not that much offering at this time. In certain way it is understandable that safety must come first. You can’t play games while driving. Not even watch movies (or Adventure Forester Youtube channel 😉 ). But still it could be less strict what is accepted on CarPlay. E.g. I can’t see nothing wrong why weather apps are not offered with this great interface. So offering currently is somewhat limited. But I am more than happy to have this than nothing. Here is the top 3 list how it can be used.

#1 – Google Maps

By far this is the best application you can have on the Apple CarPlay. It is so convenient to plan trips at home computer. Maybe mark some favorites and then you don’t really need to remember even addresses. Just say “Take me to Mom” and Google will guide you there. Similarly it works with common places. As we drove to one local outdoor park and I just said name of that place without knowing actual address. After hiking I said to Google that I want pizza and it listed me offerings nearby. This is something that built-in TomTom can’t just do as easily. Speaking of the default navigation system. It has one advantage over Google Maps. Not really Google’s or Apple’s fault but TomTom can display turn-by-turn guidance on MultiFunction Dislay, while the map is displayed on bigger screen. Quite neat!

Google Maps CarPlay settings

There is few things you can tune in while using Google Maps on CarPlay. From top left corner there is following options:

  • Route selections – avoid highways, ferries, toll roads, etc
  • Color theme – auto, light, dark
  • Satellite map – change map style between traditional view and satellite view
  • Traffic – Shows traffic jams with colors on the mop
  • Map orientation – does the map orientate while driving
  • Sound level – click the button and adjust Google Maps sound level in relationship to other audio

#2 – Spotify

It was difficult to decide which one should be number one and which number two. With this interface Spotify subscription makes much more sense now! Sure I liked it before already. Now it is like 9 times more handy than ever before. In previous car (which did not have CarPlay) I usually started to drive and then after a while I wanted to figure out what music I want to listen. This was partly because system boot-up time was rather long. Selecting albums and playlists with a small smartphone screen is not that handy. Even dangerous I say! In Forester system is immediately ready to use. And usually the fist thing after starting the car is to connect cable to the iPhone. Which then enables CarPlay to be used. No questions asked do I allow my phone to be used. Permissions has been granted in the initial setup and that is enough. So no matter if I start to drive and then remember that I want to listen specific playlist. It is easy to find from the interface now.

#3 – Siri

Siri is my friend. If you are bored while driving alone. You can talk to Siri. She can arrange you some amusing moments. Siri can be actually used pretty well without CarPlay too. It requires at least Bluetooth connection. This was how it was setup in the previous car. Speaking of amusing moments. I was returning from one business trip one day. I was bit hurry already. Looking at the day schedule, it seemed that I need to skip lunch time to make in time to the next meeting. Then I figured out. I ask Siri to call nearest pizzeria. So I could order pizza beforehand and so speedup the process to get food. Siri answered “Sure, let’s play Popeda! (Finnish rock band). In Finnish it is the same word to make phone call and play a song. So Siri figured out that I need some music. After few trials it finally made that phone call.

Besides of asking things, Siri can read you text messages and you can reply back. Seems that the voice recognition is rather good nowadays – even with rare languages such as Finnish.

CarPlay Settings

At the moment there is four different settings you can tune. Screenshot is in Finnish but from top settings are:

  • Do not disturb while driving
  • Interface (dark / light)
  • Siri suggestions
  • Show album artwork

Don’t disturb while driving feature improves safety. E.g. it will automatically reply text messages that you are busy at the moment.

Issues with Apple CarPlay

I’ve had only once issues using CarPlay. Icon was enabled for few seconds and then it grayed out itself. I suspect there was some dirt on iPhone’s Lightning port on that time. Since it has been working wonderfully. One colleague from work mentioned that he had problems with CarPlay too. Car was different brand than Subaru. His problems was resolved by changing aftermarket cable to the Apple’s original cable. I am using certified Belkin cable. Because of the cable color. I wanted it to be black.

Subaru Starlink Apps

These apps I find less useful. Screen interface does not work as smoothly as CarPlay apps does. Some of these apps needs to be preconfigured first with your mobile phone, before these can be actually used on the car’s interface. So check the info screens on mobile device first whether another account is needed or how to make configurations beforehand.

  • Music – Music player, is able to access your phones music library and play offline music
  • News – Recent headlines. It is configurable to select which news feeds are as a source. Doesn’t work while driving.
  • Calendar – Shows your next appointments. This app is overlapping with the CarPlay offering
  • Deezer – Deezer music service client. You will need to create account first
  • Weather – the most useful app of the group. Shows current weather and next 3 days. Forecast based on your current location or predefined locations (managed through the mobile app). This app is also something you cannot find equivalent on CarPlay
  • News Radio – streams radio channels
  • Yelp – Find nearest services at your current location, e.g. parking areas, gas stations, restaurants, etc. Similar functions available through built-in TomTom navigation, Apple and Google Maps apps. I would prefer either of the latter options.