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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dear Apple, Please Allow Me To Rearrange App Icons In CarPlay!

Apple CarPlay has been a nice addition to a lot of people's existing cars via aftermarket head units. The technology allows users to have smartphone app functionality in their vehicles, in a safe manner.

When it was first announced back in March this year, CarPlay had support for only four third-party apps - Beats Music, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Stitcher. But that list has grown to nine as of today (including Apple's Podcasts app).

So what happens when you have more apps than what CarPlay can display on the screen? You end up with more than one page of apps which you need to swipe through. Just like on an iPhone or iPad. And because Apple has strict rules on how icons are arranged, there are some inconveniences that crop up.

These are the rules Apple uses to arrange app icons on the CarPlay homescreen...

- There are 8 icons per page on the CarPlay homescreen, arranged in a 4x2 configuration.
- The top row of icons is fixed to the following apps and in that order from left to right as you see it: Phone, Music, Maps, Messages.
- The second row of icons starts with the "Now Playing" icon.
- The "Now Playing" icon is followed by the AppRadio/NEX/Alpine icon depending on the head unit you use (Note: I think this icon is fixed too and its position is not affected by which third-party apps you have). If using CarPlay in a built-in system on a compatible vehicle, this icon is replaced by the respective car manufacturer entertainment icon if supported.
- All compatible third-party apps that you have installed on your iPhone will be arranged subsequently.
- Third-party apps are arranged in alphabetical order after the six mandatory icons listed above.
- Users are not allowed to rearrange the apps on the CarPlay homescreen. App icon positions are fixed.

If you have only two CarPlay-compatible apps installed on your iPhone you won't have to deal with more than one page of icons. In other words, one screen of apps and no need to swipe. More than two compatible apps? Tough luck!

I like to use the Podcasts app while driving. But with all the apps I have installed on my iPhone, the Podcasts app is now located on the second page of icons. Swiping between pages doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but it can get annoying after a while.

My second page of apps in CarPlay

Why Apple doesn't allow rearranging icons, is not known. Maybe it will be a feature they add in subsequent updates to iOS. As the CarPlay-compatible app list grows, more pages of icons will be needed which will surely make swiping to find the app you need cumbersome while driving. I can especially see how it could be a distraction.

Interestingly, Pioneer's AppRadio Mode allows app icons to be rearranged the way you want. All you have to do is long-press any icon and drag it around to reposition. This is similar to the way you would rearrange the icons on your iPhone or iPad.

Less CarPlay-compatible third-party apps installed = Less pages to swipe through

Hopefully CarPlay will allow rearranging icons sometime soon. I don't mind if the native apps have fixed positions and take up the first six spots but allowing users to have even two of their most frequently used third-party apps on the main homescreen would be ideal.

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