First introduced at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference back in June 2012 as iOS in the Car, is CarPlay, as it's now called, primed to take over as the dominant vehicle infotainment system on the market?
Benz on board
Map it out
Messaging on the move
First introduced at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June 2012 as iOS in the Car, we now know Apple’s jumping into the car infotainment system battle with a version of iOS branded as CarPlay. Everything about CarPlay is designed to make it easier for drivers to take advantage of their iPhones while in the car, and all the apps, services, and features they’ve come to know and love. The Geneva Motor Show at the beginning of March unveiled several auto makers that will be integrating CarPlay into their new models, many of them rolling onto car dealership lots this year.
Seen here in the new Volvo XC90 SUV model, Apple’s CarPlay will be characterized by the familiar iOS icons we’ve become used to on iPhone and iPad. The styling here shows the user interface is keeping pace with the modern iOS 7 design, which makes use of bright colours and favours a simplistic approach that highlights content. The large centre-console touch screen offers one way to control apps integrated seamlessly into the car’s infotainment system, and Siri-style voice controls offer another.
Mercedes-Benz wasted no time promoting its integration of Apple’s CarPlay into its line of luxury vehicles, showing off the new system at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show with its C-Class line. Mercedes also proclaimed its strategy to make connectivity as easy as possible for each smartphone user. Its currently available Drive Kit Plus are already compatible with iPhone and support for Android is coming in the middle of this year. Mercedes also says it will make Google’s Android system for cars available as soon as it’s released.
Ferrari also took the opportunity to announce its partnership with Apple at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show with the four-wheel drive FF model integrating CarPlay. Initial impressions from the Geneva Motor Show had reporters describing the centre-console touch screen featuring CarPlay as sub-par quality and resolution. That’s surprising, considering both Ferrari and Apple are brands known for their attention to detail. But the car showcased wasn’t a production model, and with each Ferrari customized to the driver’s taste, there’s plenty of opportunity for the auto maker to work out this kink.
Apple Maps will be one of the features integrated into CarPlay, delivering drivers GPS, turn-by-turn directions, traffic conditions, and estimated travel time. Beyond telling you how to get where you’re going, CarPlay will also try to predict where you’re going based on information in your calendar, email, text messages, and contacts – so you may not even have to type in the address. Apple Maps infamously attracted the ire of many users when it first debuted with iOS 6 in September of 2012, with no shortage of glitches and faulty directions in some scenarios. The gaffe prompted Apple CEO Tim Cook to apologize at the time, and Apple committed to drastically improving the app in the updates released since its debut.
If you’re the type of person that’s been relying on an iPod connected via a stereo cable to provide all your in-car music for the past five years, CarPlay’s integration of your digital music library is a dream come true. Now you’ll be able to use your car’s centre-console touch screen to navigate your playlists and access iTunes Radio, or just tell Siri what you want. The audio pleasure doesn’t stop at your iPhone’s hard drive either, as Apple is partnering with some third-party apps to provide you streaming music while you drive, including Beats Music, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and Stitcher.
How many times have you been tempted to reach down and fiddle with your smartphone after you hear that new message sound? Perhaps you’ve even done so a few times, even though you know it’s not safe and you risk being ticketed as a result. But with CarPlay, Apple’s iMessages integration means you can keep your attention on the road and satisfy your curiosity about that new message. CarPlay will read your text messages to you, and then you can dictate a message in response using your voice.
Apple CarPlay will be compatible with only the three most-recent iPhones released – the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, and iPhone 5s. Of course, you would presume new iPhones models will also support CarPlay. Drivers will connect their iPhone to their car using Apple’s proprietary lightning cable.
While Volvo, Mercedes, and Ferrari are the first automakers to showcase CarPlay in cars hitting the road soon, they will soon be joined by many others. Honda and Hyundai will both have models with CarPlay integration out later this year, though we haven’t had a peek at them yet. And other brands that have announced plans for future CarPlay integration, include: BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Jaguar, Kia, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki, and Toyota. With that sort of commitment, CarPlay may soon become the dominant infotainment operating system on the market.