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Pioneer introduces Apple CarPlay to Australia

So far, 29 carmakers have signed up to CarPlay, with Pioneer and Alpine committed to aftermarket units.

CarPlay may have a few issues but it has plenty of potential

Apple's CarPlay has finally motored into Australia, although it's early days. CarPlay is a system that bonds your iPhone 5 or later model to a compatible car head unit. You can then run certain phone apps on your car infotainment screen.

You select and control apps using the head unit touch screen, buttons on the steering wheel, and with voice commands using Apple's personal assistant, Siri.

We looked at CarPlay on a Pioneer AVIC-F60DAB head unit. To get CarPlay now, you have to upgrade firmware on one of three local Pioneer head unit models and then link your iPhone to the unit via a lightning cable when on the road.

Before year's end CarPlay will be installed on some Pioneer systems and next year, hopefully, it will be part of entertainment systems installed in a number of new cars here.

So far, 29 carmakers have signed up to CarPlay, with Pioneer and Alpine committed to aftermarket units.

RELATED: Police warn drivers about Apple Watch

The Pioneer AVIC-F60DAB display comprises two home screens. One links to in-built features such as Pioneer's satellite navigation, the other is the current collection of iPhone apps that work with CarPlay: Phone, Music, Maps, Messages, Podcasts and music service Spotify. While few in number, we can expect more apps to come on stream as developers tweak their code to make them CarPlay compatible.

Voice commands can initiate tasks such as reading back upcoming calendar appointments.

CarPlay is a hands-free system and operates basically the same way an iPhone would if you constantly used Siri.

You can ask Siri to play music tracks and audio podcasts stored on your phone

You can ask Siri the weather, get it to dial your iPhone contacts, dictate messages, read incoming messages, and ask where the nearest petrol stations are.

You can ask Siri to play music tracks and audio podcasts stored on your phone. There's some nice integration too: pressing the address in, say, the signature of an email on your connected iPhone will prompt CarPlay's Apple Maps app to show you how to get there.

Siri voice recognition has improved. On this implementation conversations are more natural, Siri's voice is strong, even warm, and she emphasises words naturally in sentences.

There were occasional stuff-ups when Siri would insist on reading an outgoing email when asked for incoming ones.

Trying to correct Siri blunders would be very distracting on the road. A bigger issue is that Siri is a network service. What you ask Siri is sent across the network and data then flows back to your phone.

That may be OK for phone use, but when driving in the outback and even around town in poor cellular network areas, Siri's operation would break down, leaving it and you speechless.

The same applies to maps. Apple Maps uses an internet connection to download those sections related to your whereabouts. So when you travel in the outback, your map screen would presumably be blank without that connection. Apple needs to address these areas.

Fortunately, two of these three Pioneer retrofit units have their own in-built navigation systems that deal with this problem.

Being a network service also means Siri is a bit slow in responding to requests. In releasing CarPlay, Apple is taking on in-built manufacturer voice-activated systems from companies such as Ford and Holden, which arguably are better integrated with car functions.

CarPlay will gain functionality as more apps become compatible. The Pioneer units can be configured to manage climate control and operate newer tetchy features such as Park Assist - depending on the car. CarPlay is a work in progress but it has good potential.