CarPlay Adam Bell 02

I’ve had the privilege of going hands-on with Adam Bell’s upcoming CarPlay Activator tweak for standalone iOS devices like the iPad and the iPhone. As we reported a few week’s ago, Bell, known for his work in the jailbreak community with tweaks like Stride, posted a video of an in-progress CarPlay port for the iPad. The thoughts of such a release immediately got my wheels turning, as I’m sure it has for many others. Watch our full 9 minute video walkthrough for a deeper look into what makes this upcoming CarPlay tweak so promising.

CarPlay is normally restricted to expensive third-party head units for motor vehicles. Its purpose is to make using iOS in the car more practical, safe, and at the same time lend a native feeling that iOS users are already comfortable with. Needless to say, CarPlay is infinitely superior to the head-unit technology and interfaces that most cars are restricted to.

CarPlay Activator looks and functions very much like the app that’s running on head-units like the Pioneer AVH-4000NEX. Upon installing the app, you’ll notice a dedicated CarPlay app icon on the Home screen.

Tapping the CarPlay app icon causes the iOS device to relaunch into CarPlay mode, it works much like a typical respring of the SpringBoard. Once it relaunches, you’ll be presented with a CarPlay splash screen, followed by the CarPlay interface.

The CarPlay interface runs in landscape mode, which makes sense since head units are typically displayed in that orientation. The screen features a black background with several large app icons that make them easy to interface with while behind the wheel of a vehicle.

The apps include Phone, Music, Maps, Messages, Now Playing, and Podcasts. There’s also a CarPlay app icon to relaunch back into the normal iOS Home screen. If you have the Overcast Podcast app installed, it too will appear in your list of apps; yes, the same goes for Spotify and Rdio!

CarPlay Activator Rdio Spotify

On the left-most side of the interface lies the current time, signal strength for radios, and a virtual Home button. The Home button can be used to get back to the main CarPlay screen, and it can also be held to invoke Siri.

The cool thing about CarPlay is that it limits the user’s ability to input text by hand. Much of the experience is coupled with Siri, meaning that you can’t actually read text from the Messages app or inset text via the keyboard. All of that is handled by voice dictation and Siri’s text-to-speech. The one exception to this rule is when inserting addresses into the Maps app. The CarPlay interface defaults to speech recognition, but you have the option of inserting a destination using a keyboard.

CarPlay Maps

After playing around with CarPlay Activator, I can firmly assure you that this is going to be a big deal for those of us who would like to interface with our iPhone’s while driving. It has the potential to provide you with many of the benefits of a third-party head unit featuring CarPlay, without necessitating the need to spend $700+ dollars on a head-unit install.

With CarPlay Activator, you could (in theory) mount your iPhone or iPad, connect to your existing head-unit via Bluetooth or via a hardwired solution, and have at it. Obviously, Bluetooth would be preferred for the cleanest look, but if you were overly worried about clean lines, you’re probably interested in just shelling out the dough for a third-party head unit anyway.

CarPlay Adam Bell 07

This CarPlay tweak isn’t perfect thus far, and still needs a little polish, but Adam assures me that he is working hard on getting that done. In fact, one of his primary motivating factors is that he wants to use such an interface himself in his own car. I’m not sure if there could be a greater motivating force than that, so the likelyhood that we will see a compelling release in the near future is pretty high if you ask me.

How it works

Bell’s implementation of CarPlay is not a standalone app that was built from scratch. Instead, it’s a tweak that takes Apple’s already existing CarPlay components built into iOS. In a traditional CarPlay setup, the car display is basically treated as an AirPlay device + touch screen. CarPlay Activator just makes the iOS device think that a secondary display is connected.

Benefits

This CarPlay interface brings lot of benefits to the table that I can see. First and foremost, you’d no longer have to drop $700+ on a third-party head unit that features CarPlay support. And of course, that doesn’t include the headache of setting up installation appointments, running this risk of installers messing up your car’s interior, etc.

All you would need is a car mount, and a Bluetooth connection or even a hardwired connection to your car’s existing head unit so that you can pump sound through your car’s speakers. Obviously, the look wouldn’t be as clean as a professionally installed or factory installed head unit, but if done properly, it won’t look too distracting.

Of course, depending on how you look at it, there are many other benefits involved. You could go all out, and do as Adam plans to do, and perma-install a full sized iPad in the car in landscape mode. You also have the benefit of not having to use one of those terrible resistive touch screens that the majority of head units come with today. Then there’s the possibility that the jailbreak community could expedite CarPlay support for our favorite apps, perhaps giving us a leg up on the traditional CarPlay setup.

What do you think about having the CarPlay interface by means of a jailbreak tweak? Are you excited about this? I surely am. Sound off down below with any questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them given my hands-on time with the tweak.

  • Antonio Hill

    When is the availability and what’s the price?

  • Enrrique510

    Repo? ETA?

    • No ETA, no repo, no price. We have to wait on Mr. Bell. But it’ll be worth the wait.

  • timoever

    I can not emphasize how thrilled I am about this tweak. I’ve taken a look at the other French one and it looks great. I’d pay considerably for this. Can’t wait!!!

  • Jose Gonzalez

    Looks very promising….Good Job Adam should get plenty of support on this one!

  • Chris Gilmore

    This is amazing! I’ll use it with my Ford Escape’s Sync. I can’t wait.

  • Fanboy 

    Can i browse Safari while driving and using this? lolz, jk

    • iFred

      No, that would be dangerous.

  • Kevin Osborne

    Sooo can’t wait for this! I’ll be using an iPad Air tethered with WiFi to my iPhone 5s hotspot, (unlimited data!), and that should send GPS data through the tether, correct? So Maps would still work? And Messages will work with people using iMessage at least. 🙂

    • mike

      The depressing yet true reality in this circumstance Is that Maps will not work on a tethered device, as the location needs to be sent/received from the device using maps. Sadly, I tried this the second day I got my iPad Air last Black Friday, and was very disappointed.

      • I’m pretty sure there’s a tweak(s) in Cydia to send GPS data over Bluetooth. You just pair the iPad with the iPhone over Bluetooth and make sure the tweak is on and working…

      • mike

        Any clue at all of it’s name? Tried searching keywords in Cydia with no accurate results.

      • TryLinkGPS or AirBlue GPS

      • Heath

        Has anyone tested TryLinkGPS and SndLinkGPS on ios8?

    • Rick Pruden

      If what was said about Adam using AirPlay, the iPhone needs GPS, not the iPad. Therefore tethering and GPS issues wouldn’t matter.

      • Kevin Osborne

        When did he say it will work with AirPlay from the iPhone? I know the article says that’s how a factory solution works is basically using the car’s radio as an AirPlay device + touch screen but my understanding was his solution would basically trick the iPad into thinking it was it’s own secondary display and showing it’s contents locally.

      • Rick Pruden

        He didn’t; after rereading it I think you have the gist of it.

        Thanks for the clarification.

      • Kevin Osborne

        Eh. Oh well…

        Listing For Trade: iPad Air 16GB White for iPad 3rd Gen 3G/4G model 32GB. 😛 Haha.

    • hypno7oad

      The iPad WiFi only models don’t have a dedicated GPS like the cellular models do. If you tether from your phone, I believe the iPad will use the location that your phone gives out via WiFi, but it doesn’t update quick enough to be reliable for navigation. You’re only option would be to find an app that can tunnel your phone’s GPS to the iPads, but this would require you to jail break.

      • Kevin Osborne

        I ended up trading my iPad Air for an iPad 4G so I now have GPS, but “Ignition” is horrible and hasn’t seen a single update since initial release.

  • Tristan

    Hey Ben. What’s that tweak you have installed that gives you the thumb print on the lock screen it looks cool.

  • El Matador

    My iPhone 6 plus just became even more valuable to me!

  • Johnny V

    Hoping Google Maps Has Car Play Integration Already Built In Cause It Would Be Awesome A Well As Other Apps (iHeartRadio, Audible, Pandora, NFL Mobile) . REALLY Wished That ‘Hey Siri’ Is Built In Or Is Compatible with The ‘UntetheredHeySiri’ Tweak

    • Seth Messer

      i was just thinking the same thing about google maps and untethered siri. also other music services (google music and deezer). i currently have built a 1st gen nexus 7 into the dash of my vw cc, but with this, i’d totally fiberglass a dock for an ipad mini (the n7 is pretty aged now anyway — so time for an upgrade!)

  • HeavyComponent

    This is going to be a must have and a reason for everyone to JB.

  • Kevin Shih

    Wonder what happens if I get a 3 party app message example Whatsapp? Don’t want to re spring everytime I want reply…

    • Rak S

      Good point. Perhaps Bell will work out a way to redesign or enable the use of popular apps. This will be important

  • James G

    Yes, please!

  • Superb; this can’t be released fast enough…

  • Victor Molina

    Now I want to buy a car just to have this

  • Garry

    please post in some iphone 6 and iphone 6 plus car holders which would work with this beauty

    • James G

      Checkout Satechi

  • Paul Edmund

    Can pandora work with this and if it does what about tweaks that are used with pandora?

  • Joey_Z

    I’m posting something a little bit irrelevant to this tweak but related to ios and car. All I wanted is to have an airplay enabled head unit out of the factory, and that will solve all the problems… But of course, automaker can’t do that because of safety…

  • It’s a wish come true

  • SBG

    Great. How long we must wait?

  • Humberto De La Rocha

    So today around 10:45 a.m. the 12th of December i decided to update to iOS 8.1.2 and after the download i was kinda upset due to the fact the school Wi-Fi’s iPrism had blocked the connection to TaiG jailbreak server. So i had looked into my settings and noticed that my Apple wallpapers were not accessible, and I remembered that when i had my iPhone 5S jailbroken i had used Upscale, the tweak to make the size of my iPhone screen the size of an iPhone 6. I then went and to make sure i was correct i went to settings> General> About> and scrolled down to resolution, it showed the resolution size of the iPhone 6. after that i also remembered that i also had Untethered “Hey Siri” and i looked to see if it was still there and it wasn’t in settings but i tried to call Siri and it Worked! i was ecstatic about and i thought, why didn’t the new firmware erase the tweaks within the iPhone’s Processor. It was weird for me but I’m happy for myself! if anyone can tell me why it happened i’d like to know.

  • Ryan Smith

    Looks cool, why would this be any better than existing car mode apps like icarmode?

    • Rak S

      Possible because it’s designed by Apple themselves. No guarantee, but the usually execute stuff really well, in comparison to the competition. Only one way to find out.

  • Rak S

    This looks really good, and the fact that’s using the Carplay interface already inside iOS, isted of trying to build a new one from scratch, means that the execution of stock apps should be perfect.
    One question though… In a traditional CarPlay setup, are additional/better microphones installed to you car? I worry that the speaker in your iPhone/iPad won’t be able to easily pick up voice commands and/or dictated text… Anyone know?

    • Jeremy

      Yes – my CarPlay stereo (AVIC-6000NEX) came with a microphone that works pretty well. I think you’re right that depending on the built-in mic on the iPad/iPhone would be less than ideal; it’d probably be worth splurging on an external mic of some sort (still less than the cost of a new head unit).

      • Rak S

        Oh, its certainly worth it… I’m just thinking that it’ll be difficult to build an iPad into the dash permanently, and certainly in London, if you leave a device like that clearly visible, it won’t be there for long. Therefore, you have the slight inconvenience of having to plug in the power, mic and set it up on a holder, each time you want to use it.
        Minor gripe 🙂

      • Jeremy

        Bluetooth?

      • Rak S

        Ha! Good point! Didn’t think of that 🙂

      • Cali George

        Hi Jeremy, question for you: my car stereo guy recommended the AVIC 6000NEX for my new head unit. I have a Jail broken iPad mini retina display. What I like to do are two things 1) install/operate front and rear cameras via the 6000 and 2) ideally use the 6000 screen to control all audio & video of my hard wired iPad mini. Do you think car play activator or another mod will help me to realize my 2) objective? I am game to spend $$ bc I have a MBZ but it has a 5 yrs old head unit. Thanks!

      • Jeremy

        There is obviously no problem with controlling your iPad’s synched music via CarPlay. In terms of streaming, I know CarPlay supports Spotify and iTunes Radio, and it may support Rdio but I’m not entirely sure. Presumably more apps will support it over time.

        I’m not sure if you would be able to control videos easily via CarPlay at this time. However, until this support exists, you could use Pioneer’s proprietary AppRadio mode instead of CarPlay to control video playback on the 6000NEX. If controlling video playback is not necessary, and you just want to be able to see the videos from your iPad, you can certainly hook it into the 6000NEX via HDMI, which will mirror the iPad screen; but it worth noting that any type of video playback will be disabled on the 6000NEX’s built-in screen while driving (unless you figure out an override, which I am sure exists somehow), even though it should play normally on any other displays connected to the 6000NEX (e.g.., seatback monitors).

        In terms of front and rear cameras, the 6000NEX can take dual camera inputs, although since I have never actually set mine up to do this I can’t tell you much more about how well this works.

        So, in short, I think the 6000NEX would fit your needs, but if controlling video and audio are your priorities (rather than, for example, having native Siri control over phone calls, texts, and maps), I would strongly consider setting it up using the AppRadio interface instead of CarPlay; it won’t look quite as nice, and you’ll have to download a few extra (free) apps, but you should be able to use this to control both video and audio playback from the head-unit (plus, AppRadio supports a few great 3rd party apps that CarPlay does not, e.g., Waze). Alternatively, if you can deal with manually selecting videos from the iPad itself when you want to watch them and you mainly want to have the cohesive CarPlay experience, I’d recommend setting up the iPad via CarPlay most of the time, but then plugging it into a separate thunderbolt-to-HDMI input when you want to watch a video.

        Hope that rather complicated answer helps.

      • Cali George

        Hi Jeremy, I ended up installing my jb iPad mini in my dash and using a Sony Mex-6000bh head unit as the Bluetooth slave. The dash kit was a metra 98-9000. Found an installer from a friend and the whole shebang with fosgate speakers/sony amp was +$1000. Not to shabby. I will wait for Ignition ie carplay activator to come out then load it….should be fun. Thanks again.

      • Guest

        Thanks Jeremy, I see your points. I think the AVIC 6000 is worth the investment especially believing pioneer or car play activator apps improve down the line.

  • Irsyad Gemilang

    Is this compatible with iOS 7 ??

    • Why would it be? CarPlay is for iOS 8

      • Jeremy

        Not true – CarPlay compatibility started with iOS 7.1

  • Eikast

    Hmm this may force me to keep my iPad Mini 2. I was probably going to end up selling it for $250-280 but with the right mount, this would be perfect (7.9″ screen).

  • Cameron Nottingham

    Anyone wanting to use this now, it is on @b3ll’s Github. It’s called Ignition now and all you have told do is build it with Theos and install.

  • Gerardo Castro

    wish I would’ve heard about this before I dropped 600 on an AppRadio 4 🙁