Apple launches ‘CarPlay,’ a smarter, safer way to use your iPhone in the car

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As expected, Apple has launched its iOS in the Car initiative today at the Geneva Motor Show. It’s officially calling the offering ‘CarPlay,’ and is advertising the feature as a smarter, safer and more fun way to use your iPhone while in the car.

But looking at the press release, CarPlay will function exactly as we’ve been led to believe it would. Users will be able to control it through their car’s native interface, or by activating Siri via the voice control button on their steering wheel…

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Once an iPhone is connected to a CarPlay-supported vehicle, its user will be able to easily access contacts, make and receive calls and listen to voicemails. They’ll also be able to have their messages read aloud, and dictate a response to them.

Additionally, CarPlay enables users to access a range of other apps including Maps, Podcasts and various iTunes elements like audiobooks and iTunes. It also supports third-party music (i.e. Spotify, Pandora, etc.) and sports broadcasting apps.

From Apple’s press release:

GENEVA―March 3, 2014―Apple® today announced that leading auto manufacturers are rolling out CarPlay, the smarter, safer and more fun way to use iPhone® in the car. CarPlay gives iPhone users an incredibly intuitive way to make calls, use Maps, listen to music and access messages with just a word or a touch. Users can easily control CarPlay from the car’s native interface or just push-and-hold the voice control button on the steering wheel to activate Siri® without distraction.

“CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPhone and iOS Product Marketing. “iPhone users always want their content at their fingertips and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction. We have an amazing lineup of auto partners rolling out CarPlay, and we’re thrilled it will make its debut this week in Geneva.”

As reported last week, CarPlay will debut in vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, and will be made available by several other manufacturers at a later time. Apple says BMW, Ford, GM, Jaguar Land Rover and many more are on board.

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Today’s announcement comes nearly a year after Apple unveiled ‘iOS in the Car’ during its developers conference last summer. Following rumors of an indefinite delay, a report in January claimed the project was plagued by ‘organizational issues.’

Apple says that CarPlay is available as an iOS 7 update, but doesn’t mention a firmware version or timeframe—at the time of this writing, there’s no update available. It’s believed that iOS 7.1—currently in its 5th beta—will launch in mid-March.