Before Apple CarPlay became commonplace, carefree drivers had an excuse to text and drive, a critical factor contributing to many road accidents. A CarPlay head is a dashboard mountable device that allows you to use your iPhone without distraction. Although most newer car models integrate the CarPlay into their head units, you can modify your car with an external CarPlay. This isn’t any different from the built-in ones. You’re in the right place if you’re looking for an Apple CarPlay head unit for your car.
1. Pioneer AppRadio 3 WVGA Display – Editor’s Choice
The Pioneer AppRadio 3 is an outstanding option if you’re looking to upgrade your car stereo with a feature-rich head unit. Featuring CarPlay and Android Auto, feel free to pair this with your Android smartphone or iPhone to make hands-free calls and stream audio on the go. It also supports voice control and uses dual connectivity: Bluetooth and USB. If you’re familiar with the reverse camera, you can integrate this with your car’s rear camera and conveniently avoid obstacles.
To avoid distraction, this CarPlay allows you to pair two smartphones simultaneously. Thus, while receiving calls with one, you can keep playing your favorite music or podcast on the other. The Pioneer AppRadio 3 has a 7-inch touchscreen, well near the same size as a 5th-generation 2019 iPad mini screen, conferring a clean user interface and experience.
The head unit is compatible with various apps, including maps, podcasts, and music streaming apps like Spotify. The excellently designed EQ helps fine-tune your playback experience. And it can be connected to your auxiliary amps and subs to boost your car stereo output.
- Switch between USB and Bluetooth connectivity
- Pair two iPhones simultaneously
- Smooth user interface
- Full rear camera support
- Support for Android Auto
- It can be a bit tardy when using the Android Auto feature
2. Westods Portable Wireless CarPlay Car Stereo – Split screen available
Boost your car’s interior with the Westods’ split screen. The Westod CarPlay head unit allows you to access your smartphone easily using Google or Siri Voice Assistant. With FM support, switch between your phone’s interface and FM radio programs. Although you can use this with the car’s stereo, you can use this CarPlay as an independent stereo – thanks to the built-in speaker. From experience, I can vouch that installing the head unit is straightforward.
The Westods 1600 x 600 resolution screen is also to touch control. The touch control can be better with a bit more sensitivity, though – pressure on the touch controls shifts the unit sometimes. It is one of the best CarPlay head units for adventurers, supporting front and rear video recording with night vision, made possible with the 2.5K high-definition camera input.
The Westods CarPlay head unit supports Bluetooth and Auxiliary connectivity for flexible output preference. While Bluetooth connectivity is always readily available, the 3mm jack plug option gives better output.
- Supports rear and front cameras with 2.5K high-definition camera input for night vision
- Support for digital video recording (DVR)
- Built-in speakers available
- Seamless installation
- The touch sensitivity could be improved
3. Kenwood 6.8-Inch Touch Screen CarPlay Head Unit – Support for FLAC
Enjoy a high contrast ratio and crystal clear display with the Kenwood Carplay head unit. Like the previously discussed ones, the Kenwood head unit features both CarPlay and Android Auto to use your Android and iPhone seamlessly without looking away from the windscreen. It has USB and Bluetooth support and fuses perfectly with your car’s stereo system.
Its Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) support is quite impressive, with a 13 Band Graphic EQ and time alignment. With three camera inputs, you get all the parking guidelines you need for a smooth landing. The only setback is that the Bluetooth connectivity only works with a dongle. I expected this to be built-in.
- Android Auto is also available
- Impressive FLAC support
- Control playback levels with the 13-band EQ
- Full camera support with parking guideline
- Requires a Bluetooth dongle to connect wirelessly
4. Sony XAVAX5500 Apple Car Play – Built-in subwoofers
Sony has been on a rampage with high-end electronics, and it does not go wrong with this Bezel-less capacitive touchscreen head unit. It supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with smooth touch control. Once installed, which is easy, connect Sony’s head unit seamlessly via Bluetooth or USB. With dual USB support, you can connect and separate your music library from your phone’s navigation functionality.
The 5V outputs with the front and rear gold-plated subwoofer system give a stronger and cleaner audio signal, plus better control over the car’s stereo. Like the other car head units, this one also features built-in rear camera input for better reverse control.
- Quality sound output
- Support for Android Auto in addition to Apple CarPlay
- The subwoofer system gives more control over the audio setup
- The touch can be a bit tardy
5. JVC KW-M56BT Apple CarPlay – Support for DVD player
The JVC KW-M55BT Apple CarPlay has two models: a VIN-only and a VIN with DVD model. While the former is cheaper, pumping your budget by a few bucks can get you the latter model if you’re a DVD fan. Like the other head units recommended earlier, the JVC head unit supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and features a rear camera input for reverse navigation.
The 13-band equalizer and 6.8-inch capacitive touch screen give you absolute control over your playbacks. Experience smooth calling and playback with its simultaneous Bluetooth connection. An extra addition is the 1.5A USB port for fast-charging your smartphone. However, a notable shortcoming is the occasional latency during phone calls.
- Control playback seamlessly with the 13-band equalizer
- Charging port available
- Pair with two iPhones simultaneously
- Back camera input available
- The phone call quality can be better
6. BOSS Car Stereo System – Four screen sizes available
If you want more features and functionalities at some of the cheapest prices, you can adorn your car’s dashboard with one of these Boss Audio Systems. It comes in four screen sizes, including 7, 8, 9, and 10.1 inches. While more expensive, you might want to go with the bigger screen for easy navigation. There is an AV input for video playback. And it syncs perfectly with your steering control for easy access.
In addition to Bluetooth connectivity, there is a USB option with output for charging and connecting your flash drive for direct music playback. With the feature to switch between Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, you can pair this with your iPhone or Android phone. In addition to supporting more apps and having a touch control, you can easily take calls and reply to messages hands-free with Siri and Google voice control.
- Operate more apps and make phone calls hands-free with voice control
- Play music or podcasts directly via a USB flash drive
- Control your head unit from your steering wheel
- AV input available for video playback
- The UI of the smaller screen model is a little dense, affecting operability
7. Alpine ILX-F511 Multimedia Receiver – High-end head unit
If you don’t mind the price, the Alpine ILX-F511 Multimedia Receiver delivers top-notch functionalities and is still the overall best head unit on this list. Featuring Android Auto and CarPlay, the screen is an 11-inch WXGA High-Resolution Display, conferring a super-sensitive touch control. And the Hi-Res Audio Playback speaks for itself. Take your gaming experience to your car with its HDMI input.
The Alpine head unit is compatible with the DVR-C320R Alpine Dash camera, delivering a clean front and rear distance guide. This one also has built-in amplifiers with four channels, including front and rear subwoofers. Each amplifier peaks at 50 watts per channel, enough to play audio independently of your car stereo.
With support for touch and voice control (Google and Siri), you’ll enjoy free hand calls with the external microphone. Overall, the Alpine ILX-F511 Multimedia Receiver delivers top-notch quality and is worth the price.
- Top-notch display with super-sensitive screen
- Built-in subwoofers and hi-res speakers make it output at car-stereo level
- HDMI and auxiliary support available
- Steering wheel control available
Apple CarPlay vs. Android Auto
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are dashboard-mounted devices that allow you to control your smartphones easily while driving. Invariably, they perform similar functions. Their ultimate goal is keeping your attention on the windscreen and preventing distractions from your phone.
The only difference between both is the platform they support. While Android Auto only supports Android phones, the CarPlay works with Apple’s iPhone and related devices.
Although there are dedicated head units for either, most platform-agnostic car head units feature both. However, like Android Auto, the CarPlay is not exclusive to Apple. CarPlay only describes head units compatible with the Apple ecosystem. These are available from various manufacturers.
Stay safe while driving!
Although the iPhone is agreeably addictive, you know the risks behind text-driving and call-driving. Investing in one of these Apple CarPlay head units is one of the best decisions you’ll make to safeguard your life and property.
- How to turn off app notifications in Apple CarPlay
- Best wireless CarPlay adapters
- Apple CarPlay not Working? How to fix it
Readers like you help support iGeeksBlog. When you make a purchase using links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read Disclaimer.