In Depth: Mazda’s Implementation Of Android Auto And Apple CarPlay

Mazda first pledged support for CarPlay back in 2014. And they have been listed as a CarPlay partner on Apple’s CarPlay website since shortly after CarPlay first debuted. But the company never actually released a CarPlay-compatible vehicle. You can mostly copy and paste that statement for Android Auto as well. And I have to imagine that this is a significant distraction for Mazda as customers were likely asking them about when support for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay would be coming. I certainly got my fair share of Tweets and emails every time I reviewed a Mazda product on this topic. Fortunately for both Mazda and yours truly, this changed a couple of months ago when Mazda started to roll out Apple CarPlay and Android Auto beginning with the 2019 Mazda CX-9 and to other Mazda vehicles.

Now Mazda is all about centering everything around the driver. Mazda Connect embodies this belief as I consider it to be one of the best infotainment systems out there. It allows you to interact the car with minimal distractions. As far as Mazda is concerned, there are three main types of driving distractions:

  • Cognitive: taking the mind off of driving.
  • Visual: taking the eyes off of the road.
  • Manual: taking the hands off of the wheel.

With that in mind, Mazda designed Mazda Connect to do the following:

Minimize Cognitive Distraction:

  • Mazda’s Solution: Information is presented to the driver in two separate zones with Driving Information presented in front of the driver.
  • Driver Benefit: If an safety alert occurs, the driver knows immediately where to look.

Minimize Visual Distraction:

  • Mazda’s Solution: Position frequently viewed displays to minimize glance angles and focus times.
  • Driver Benefit: With minimal glance angles and focus times, the driver reduces the amount of time their eyes are not focused on the road ahead.

Minimize Manual Distraction:

  • Mazda’s Solution: Commander Control
  • Driver Benefit: With the Commander easily within reach, the driver doesn’t need to alter their posture to make inputs, minimizing the amount of physical effort required by the driver.

Mazda has carried this same philosophy over to their implementation of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. This is different than other car companies who simply add either or both to their cars without thinking of the effects of doing so and call it job done. In Mazda’s case, they’ve done the following:

  • Voice Recognition button on the steering wheel activates Siri or Google Assistant. Now that isn’t that different from most car companies. But I also found that Google Assistant could be invoked simply by saying “OK Google” without pressing the voice Recognition button.
  • The Entertainment, Home, and NAV buttons activate the related CarPlay or Android Auto function.
    • Entertainment and NAV buttons are contextually aware.
    • Home: short press, CarPlay or Android Auto home screen. Long press, Mazda Connect UI.
  • Rotating/Tilting the Commander knob moves the on-screen selection highlight.
    • Depress the Commander to select.

Now there are additional things that I noted when I tried these systems out that I noted. And I shot a pair of videos to detail them. I’d like to start with Apple CarPlay:

The second video is about Android Auto:

Since I am normally on Team iPhone, I spent most of my time using Apple CarPlay. In my week with the 2019 CX-9 I found that using Apple CarPlay was far less distracting than normal as I was able to do what I wanted to do using CarPlay and the HMI Commander Switch rather than having to take my attention away from driving to touch something on the screen. The same was true for my day long test of Android Auto. I believe that you’ll find the same is true for you if you test drive a Mazda vehicle.

Now Mazda is doing a staggered rollout through the line-up:

  • 2019 CX-9 first model to receive from factory, and that is available now
  • 2018 Mazda6 and 2019 CX-3 will see mid-year rolling change starting from September production
  • Other models will receive update with 2019 model year (except the MX-5)

So if you’re interested in Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in a new Mazda vehicle, it’s either here or it’s coming real soon. But what if you already own a Mazda vehicle? Mazda has you covered assuming you have any of the following vehicles:

  • 2014 Mazda3
  • 2016 Mazda6
  • 2016 MX-5
  • 2017 MX-5 RF
  • 2016 CX-3
  • 2016 CX-5
  • 2016 CX-9

For owners of these vehicles, the retrofit kit will cost $445 CDN installed.

Now, some of you might have bought one of the above vehicles in 2018. Does that mean that you are out of luck? No. Mazda Canada has thought of you. You’ll be able to get this functionality for $250 CDN for a limited time. In both cases, your Mazda will get the following:

  • The software update that gives you Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • A USB port upgrade that gives you at 2.1A USB port. Why do you need an upgrade to your USB port? Your phone needs to be able to get power from the vehicle and run Android Auto or Apple CarPlay at the same time, and the ports that came with your Mazda won’t cut it when it comes to doing that. As a bonus, your phone will charge faster as well.

The upgrade takes about 90 minutes at your local Mazda dealer.

Finally, I am going to tackle one point that has come up a few times over the last few weeks thanks to people who reached out to me to complain that they have to pay for getting Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in their cars. You can see that there’s some physical hardware and work that goes into getting this into a Mazda vehicle. None of the work that they have to do is trivial. Thus I would argue that given what you get as part of this upgrade, and the fact that Mazda has put a lot of time and effort into making this as distraction free as possible. this is money well spent.

I would be reaching out to your Mazda dealer if you’re interested in getting this upgrade to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. As you can see, Mazda has spent a lot of time and effort to make this the best implementation of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that I have seen in a vehicle. I would recommend that if you’re interested in either of these, and you want to use them as safely as possible, Mazda has to be at the top of your list in terms of vehicles to test drive. And if you already own a Mazda vehicle, this upgrade is totally worth obtaining as it will add value to your Mazda.

2 Responses to “In Depth: Mazda’s Implementation Of Android Auto And Apple CarPlay”

  1. […] Auto I have seen. I wrote an in depth report on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in Mazda vehicles here. But I highly suggest that you include trying out Apple CarPlay and Android Auto when you test […]

  2. […] Auto I have seen. I wrote an in depth report on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in Mazda vehicles here. But I highly suggest that you include trying out Apple CarPlay and Android Auto when you test […]

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