Ford breaks Wazers out of CarPlay’s jail

Ford Sync 3 Waze

Apple’s CarPlay definitely sounded like an awesome idea when it was first announced.

Instead of keeping your iPhone mounted precariously to your dash with a magnet, or jammed between the spring-loaded clamps of a vent clip, you could tuck it neatly away and use the much more convenient display built-in to your vehicle’s infotainment system.

Suddenly, it was easier to interact with your music, phone, and messages, and with a huge screen too. Better yet, you could interact with CarPlay via Siri, for a totally hands-free experience.

Then, as usual, the reality set in: As cool as CarPlay was, it was also severely limited as to which apps would run in the car-friendly interface. In fact, if it isn’t an audio-based app, like Spotify, or iHeartRadio, or NPR, there’s a good chance it isn’t a CarPlay-compatible app. And your favourite navigation app, like the hugely popular, Google-owned Waze? Fuggedaboudit.

The only navigation option in CarPlay is Apple’s own Maps app, and well, let’s just say it still has its critics.

But today, if you’re an iPhone user, who is also a Wazer (yep, Waze users are Wazers, just go with it), who is also the owner of a Ford vehicle equipped with the latest version of Ford’s Sync 3 in-car infotainment system, you’re in luck: Waze can now be projected onto your car’s screen.

Android Auto folks are probably having a hard time not snickering to themselves over this news, after all, they can already use Waze, and pretty much any other app they like as long as it follows Google’s UI rules for Android Auto.

Still, this is a pretty big deal for iPhone users. “We believe we are one of the first, if not the first, OEM to integrate Waze for iOS for in-vehicle use,” said Matt Drennan-Scace, manager of communications at Ford of Canada, in an interview with MobileSyrup.

And it’s a smart move on Ford’s part. Though it’s hard to pin down exactly how many Waze users there in total, a 2016 stat suggested that at the time it was 65 million globally. When MobileSyrup covered the data-sharing partnership announcement between Waze and the City of Toronto, it was revealed that the GTA alone has 560,000 Wazers. This piece suggests that the number of Canadian Wazers is growing very, very quickly.

Ford’s implementation of Waze may not thrill CarPlay purists. Waze can’t be accessed via Apple’s interface directly. Instead, users will have sync their Waze app on their iPhone with Ford’s AppLink system.

Here’s how it works according to Ford:

Customers simply connect their Waze-equipped iPhone to the USB port of their Ford vehicle and view the service as it is projected onto the vehicle touch screen. With Ford SYNC AppLink, users can now conveniently access the app’s features on a larger display and have voice guidance through their own vehicle speakers and microphone system.

So there’s an in-between step to get to Waze, but you can still get to it, which will be all that matters to fans of the crowd-sourced traffic app. And because AppLink supports voice commands, you’ll be able to speak to Waze just as you would if it were CarPlay enabled, no Siri required.

Could this type of workaround be the push Apple needs to finally open the doors to more CarPlay apps? Let’s hope so.