Portrait Mode Employed: Subaru Updates Starlink for Apple CarPlay

Subaru Starlink with full-screen Apple CarPlay

One of our main gripes about the 2020 Subaru Outback was with the automaker’s new Starlink 11.6-inch touchscreen. Though it boasted crisp graphics, reasonably quick response and physical controls nearby, the system was dogged by smartphone pairing: Using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto meant navigating a display that only took up the equivalent of a 6.5-inch area, measured diagonally. For Apple users, at least, a fix is in: A welcome software update has arrived to Starlink that allows CarPlay to use the touchscreen nearly in full.

Related: 2020 Subaru Outback Test-Drive Video: More SUV Than Wagon (With a Base Engine That’s Laggin’)

The update affects the Outback’s six trim levels that use the system as well as trims of Subaru’s 2020 Legacy sedan that also come thus equipped. Company spokesman Dominick Infante confirmed to Cars.com that the update is currently available only via USB through retailers, but that the automaker is aiming for an over-the-air update by the end of July.

In addition to displaying in a new portrait orientation over the larger screen, Apple users will benefit from improved Siri response time and usability tweaks for opening CarPlay and using its turn-by-turn directions. More general updates include quality improvements to the backup camera, changes to the auto stop-start setting in the shortcut menu, shortened satellite radio startup times, improved equalizer settings and more.

What it doesn’t include is a similar update to screen size for Android Auto, so those stuck on the Google side of the smartphone divide will still need to grapple with the limitations of a landscape orientation. (We reached out to Google to see if the limitation stemmed from Android Auto’s operating parameters, but a spokesperson did not immediately respond.) Even so, Subaru hasn’t left Android Auto users completely bereft — the automaker says launching and responsiveness have been improved with the update.

What’s unclear is whether this update is Apple’s doing or Subaru’s. If it came via the tech giant, vertical touchscreens from automakers like Ford, Ram and Volvo might also benefit. When asked to comment, however, Trevor Dorchies, a spokesperson for Ram parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said the landscape-style orientation is “still the case with [Apple CarPlay and Android Auto],” but there are “no software updates or new ways to configure at the moment.” Apple, Ford and Volvo did not immediately respond.

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