Cars took a backseat to smartphones in 2015. Many of the most prominent announcements made by automakers over the past 12 months had less to do with showcasing vehicles and more with the hailing the arrival of third-party phone-projection systems within them. This development, they hope, will help screen-addled motorists stay connected to their smartphones on the road.

Chief among these phone-projection systems are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and consumers are predisposed to prefer one versus the other based on the type of smartphone they're more comfortable using. Both offer similar functionality and features, and both are easier to use than the cumbersome and glitch-ridden infotainment systems developed by most automakers.

Once connected to the car, Apple-minded consumers will appreciate the straightforward approach with which CarPlay brings their iPhones to life on the vehicle's touchscreen. CarPlay functions almost exactly the same way the smartphone does, which makes a user's transition into the car seamless and simple. App buttons are easy to find and push, though only a limited number of third-party apps work on CarPlay. (Popular music services like Spotify and Pandora Radio are among them).

Siri can help make phone calls, listen to voicemail, and pen text messages while drivers keep their eyes on the road. Apple touts this as a "smarter, safer way" to for motorists to use phones while driving, but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention researchers at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety say these hands-free voice systems can be just as distracting to drivers as handheld ones.

One of the best advantages of using CarPlay is that consumers can bring Apple Maps into their vehicles. Depending on the make and model of their cars, this can potentially save car owners from having to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars to a dealership for an advanced navigation package. Saving money and better user experience? In its debut year, CarPlay is already on the right track.

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