Tips for Using Apple CarPlay/Android Auto While Riding

Tips for Using Apple CarPlay/Android Auto While Riding

by Chris Rutter February 25, 2021

Motorcyclists spend hours and hundreds of miles on the open road. You can now get more from your journey with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for your smartphone. To learn more about how to use these systems on your ride, keep reading.

About Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for motorcycles function similarly. Which program you use for your bike depends on your smartphone brand, model and operating system. 

If you own an Apple-powered device, like an iPhone 5 or higher, you should be able to access Apple CarPlay if your phone is up to date. Android users — like those with Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel phones — should have Android Auto built-in, as long as you're using at least Android 9. Each software is a free update for eligible phones and operating systems.

Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto utilize their virtual assistants — Siri and Google Assistant — to help you do hands-free tasks, including:

  • Communication: When paired with Bluetooth headphones or earbuds, your digital assistant can help you make and receive phone calls and text messages and may support some third-party messaging applications. 
  • Entertainment: Stay entertained on long road trips with your favorite riding playlist, the latest audiobook release or a new podcast episode. As long as the app is compatible with both your device and the program, you should be able to stream it in areas where you have a cellular signal.
  • Navigation: Let Google Maps or Apple Maps help you navigate your route with spoken turn-by-turn directions and real-time traffic alerts. You can also find different points of interest along the way, like restaurants, gas stations, rest areas or special interest locations. While you navigate, you can also listen to the news to check for important weather updates.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have recently made their way to motorcycles.

How It Works

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay technology have been a common fixture with cars for several years but have only recently made their way to motorcycles. As more manufacturers embrace this new technology, motorcycles will come with more features and tools to make them easier to use.

First, make sure you live in an area supported by these programs. That means somewhere with an adequate cellular signal. Without one, you cannot take advantage of these features. For hands-free usability, you also need a pair of Bluetooth-enabled headphones or earbuds that will fit securely under your helmet. You could also invest in a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet for easier use. Once you've enabled assistant support on your phone, use a USB or lightning cable to connect it to your motorcycle. Some bikes may support a wireless connection.

If your motorcycle has a display command screen, you should see an alert indicating the connection has been made. Your bike's software may or may not allow touch screen usability to encourage safer driving habits. The safest option is to use voice controls only, which you can access by saying, "Hey, Siri," or "Hey, Google." You might need to press the home button on your smartphone to activate your digital assistant. 

Not every motorcycle will function with these programs or your digital assistant because these features are not yet standard equipment on all models. In some cases, you might be able to upgrade your bike and have the necessary equipment factory installed. The 2018 Honda Gold Wing was the first motorcycle sold as compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. 

Since then, top motorcycle manufacturers have started integrating the technology into their new lineups, including:

  • The 2020 Honda Gold Wing, Gold Wing DCT and Gold Wing Tour DCT.
  • The 2020 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special, Street Glide Special, Road Glide Limited and Ultra Limited.
  • The CVO Limited, CVO Road Glide and CVO Street Glide.
  • The 2020 Indian Motorcycle Challenger, Chieftain and Roadmaster.

If you want Android Auto or Apple CarPlay for your Harley, you'll be pleased to know Harley-Davidson recently announced compatibility will be standard with all upcoming 2021-model Touring, CVO and Trike bikes. This is likely a trend that will continue, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility becoming standard with each new manufacturer release.

You should still be able to access your GPS instructions if you lose service along the way.

What Happens to My GPS Map If I Lose Signal?

If you're relying on Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for directions to your next stop, keep your signal in mind. If you begin your journey in an area with a strong signal and enter your GPS instructions, you should still be able to access them if you lose service along the way. Without an active signal, you will not get live traffic alerts, so keep an eye on road conditions and closures. You will not have access to GPS navigation if you start your trip in an area without a cellular signal.

It's always a good idea to print out a copy of your step-by-step route instructions and keep them in your wallet or on your person before heading out on a long trip. This way, no matter where you go or what happens to your device, you'll have a backup plan.

Can I Use Siri and Google Assistant While Riding?

Yes. Google Assistant and Siri are the digital assistants that will help you use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto features — like navigation, incoming and outgoing communication and music controls — without the need to touch or swipe through a command screen. Just make sure you've enabled digital assistant help on your device and have a voice-activated headset or helmet for total hands-free use.

Tips for Using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Follow these tips to get the most out of your motorcycle's Apple CarPlay or Android Auto program:

  • Manage your data: To keep a seamless connection, make sure your cell phone plan includes plenty of data. Consider an unlimited plan if you do a lot of traveling.
  • Mind the road: Even when using a hands-free device, never take your focus off the road. If entertainment becomes too distracting, wait until you're on a calmer roadway free of fellow travelers. Never have your music too loud that you cannot hear your surroundings.
  • Update your phone: Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto rely on your phone's technology to operate. Keep your device up to date by allowing automatic software updates.
  • Invest in protection: Since you'll be using your phone while riding your bike, invest in phone insurance and a durable protective case to protect it from road debris or possible impact.

Shop Audio Kits at Fat Head Cycles

Shop Audio Kits at Fat Head Cycles

At Fat Head Cycles, we have the plug-and-play audio kits you need to take full advantage of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for your Harley-Davidson. Shop our bundle options and get bike accessories like touch-screen radios, fairing speakers and satellite radio connectivity. Browse our Harley-Davidson audio bundles and accessories today or contact us to learn more.

Chris Rutter
Chris Rutter


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