The unsung hero from Apple in the last few years has been CarPlay. It, with Android Auto, have taken over just about every new car’s dashboard touchscreen. It’s finally replaced the junky and ugly interfaces from the carmakers with a grown-up UI designed and made by professionals. 

Instead of trying to navigate using Honda’s hacky GPS, you get to use Google Maps. Instead of listening to music through Toyota Entune, you tune into Spotify.

But beyond the obvious use cases like navigation, messaging, and audio there are shockingly few CarPlay enabled apps.

The opportunities are obvious: order your favorite meal from McDonald’s, find the nearest 24 hour CVS, check on the status of your GrubHub pickup. Each is a very limited subset of the whole app’s functionality — but that’s a feature not a bug. At 60 MPH, you only need a small range of functions to prove useful (and stay safe). Even with just token functionality, creating CarPlay interfaces to apps accomplishes a major brand goal: securing real estate on a driver’s dashboard.

Dunkin’s entry into the space

The Dunkin’ app on the CarPlay home screen.

From what I can tell, the only major brand to realize there’s lots of unclaimed territory here is Dunkin’. They enabled CarPlay availability in September 2021. The functionality thus far is limited. It lets you order your favorite drink while you’re still on your way to the store. But that’s exactly the functionality I want! If I really need refill my balance, I can use the app from my phone.

Perhaps this Dunkin will mark the beginning of recognition of this audience and pathway. Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for CarPlay emphasize “brief interactions and never command the driver’s attention.” There are many ways to do this while providing value to users and reinforcing a brand’s values.