Handy with Porsche’s new CarPlay app – the best big auto UX we’ve seen

Porsche has released an update to its My Porsche app that gives greater control over the vehicle’s functions from within CarPlay – including wireless CarPlay support.

We got a chance to test some of its features on a 2024 Cayenne, and it’s the first time we’ve felt an Apple-like experience from software made by a traditional automaker.

We’re still waiting for the next-generation CarPlay experience that Apple announced last year, which promises greater integration with vehicle functions than today’s version of CarPlay.

In the meantime, however, Porsche has taken it upon itself to build its own app, which offers the best of both worlds – a slick, CarPlay-like user interface, along with control over some vehicle functions previously unavailable through Apple’s software.

It did this by building a CarPlay module into its My Porsche app, which can access car features like climate control, seat massagers and ambient lighting, alongside the standard expectations of music, navigation and so on. This is called an “automaker app” and while this ability has been around for a while, no automakers really bothered to do it. SEAT gave it a try, but the effort did not progress very far.

The app update has been out for about a week now, but is currently only available on the new 2024 Porsche Cayenne. Porsche plans to roll it out to other models soon™, but we don’t yet know exactly when it will arrive (and it doesn’t sound like it will be backwards compatible with previous model years). We got to spend some time playing with it in a new Cayenne, and came away impressed.

Practical with the new My Porsche CarPlay app

The initial setup of the system could be a bit easier, requiring tapping several submenus on both the phone and the car and scanning a QR code, but the whole thing only took about a minute, and you only have to do it once anyway:

There are three main screens, with one focused on music and one focused on climate control as standard. But there are also customizable “maps” that you can configure with swipeable information widgets.

You can add maps that live update and show you weather conditions, let you access and see the status of your HomeKit devices, or give you directions to the nearest coffee shop, parking lot, or scenic overlook. You can also have the car show you the nearest petrol station if you’re into some kind of creepy fossil burner (hey, I’m typically one Electrek author here I had to take at least one slap on the gas).

The My Porsche app works with Siri, and Siri integration is also quite easy to set up – we set it up with a simple voice command, without having to open the shortcut app. Here we use it to change the ambient lighting:

You can also activate a “Relax” mode, which turns on the seat massagers (if equipped) and plays lovely ambient forest sounds through the speakers (and if you’re in an EV or PHEV model, the peace won’t be disturbed by a rumbling throttle engi… okay, sorry, Electrek seeping back in).

The app is still in its early stages and more features and tweaks will come over time. But don’t feel like it’s incomplete or a beta test. While we just had a short demo and encountered one or two behaviors that could be improved, it’s far superior to any traditional automotive UI. It just looks and feels great.

CarPlay has become so popular—Apple recently said it’s installed in 98% of new cars in the U.S. (the rest are basically Teslas)—because infotainment systems provided by major automakers are, frankly, usually bad. They are laggy, often disorganized and/or full of confusing submenus and usually have a rather dated interface design. And this seems to be true for pretty much all of them, except for the upstarts of the tech industry.

When we briefly jumped back into Porsche’s “standard” Porsche Communications Management (PCM) infotainment system, the difference is night and day. The buttons have dated click/pop sound effects attached, there’s a noticeable yet inconsistent delay in responding to touch input or picking up a keyboard (this took the better part of a second), and certain UI elements just look low-res or pixelated.

In short, the standard system feels like many other automotive infotainment systems: not very good. That’s why everyone uses CarPlay.

But Porsche’s new My Porsche app update looks nothing like that. It actually feels like an Apple product. The interface is clean, with large rounded buttons, nicely rendered text and quick response to touch and swipe gestures (you can see this in the first video above).

And it was all built by a relatively small team within Porsche. Impressive agility for a traditional car manufacturer.

Although we wish that was true for earlier model years, at least recent cars. Sure, that’s not how the automotive industry usually works, but this being a software update for a phone app, it would be nice to allow compatibility with the last few model years of cars. Maybe there’s a technical limitation in there, but it doesn’t seem like it should be impossible (and there’s at least one competing brand releasing software updates to add features to old cars…).

Porsche says it plans to add more features over time, with significant software updates every few months. Our Porsche representative reiterated many times that Porsche listens to customer feedback on this sort of thing, so if you have any ideas, please contact Porsche.

What about next-gen CarPlay?

But Porsche also said at WWDC last year that it will use Apple’s next-generation CarPlay, which sounds like it will overlap with many of the options in this My Porsche app. The next-gen update is supposed to roll out later this year, so there’s a period where its rollout will overlap with Porsche’s plans to update this app and roll it out to more vehicles.

Porsche said it probably won’t immediately adopt the next generation of CarPlay, and it will take some time to see what capabilities it has and what the reaction is from customers. For the next few years, the focus is on the My Porsche app.

But based on our short demo, we still think the coming years look good. This app is a great first effort from Porsche and we can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

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