As part of Tim Cook’s “Spring Update” presentation in San Francisco on 9 March, he briefly talked about Apple’s CarPlay product. This will be rolled out in up to 40 different car manufacturer’s vehicles in late 2015 or early 2016. Volvo, Ferrari and the Mercedes-Benz C-class have versions of CarPlay on display this week at the Geneva Car show.
CarPlay is being positioned as a smarter and safer way to control your phone, providing it is an iPhone 5 or newer in your car. Apple promises that you will be able to take the things you want to do with your iPhone while driving, and display them right on the car’s built-in display. This includes getting directions, making phone calls, sending and receiving text messages, and listening to music. And they say you will be able to control all these features via voice, touch or the traditional buttons and knobs on your car’s entertainment system.
If this all works as suggested you will be able to access all the songs on your iPhone, as well as your playlists. You will even be able to tell Siri what you’d like to listen to. Apple has already done deals with some 3rd party providers such as Stitcher and Umano.
But Tim Cook did not ever mention the word Radio in his presentation, and there is no mention of radio on the Apple website. So we do not know if users will be able to access their favorite radio station app via Apple CarPlay. Apple is playing the safety card big time and saying that not all apps visible on your iPhone will be available to the CarPlay system so as not to cause a visual distraction. We suspect that the iTunes Radio will be the default radio option as it is made available.
The car is seen as the next great tech battleground, and some tech experts believe that the companies who can get control of the car dashboard could generate significant revenues. One reason is the lifespan of a car which is typically much longer than the lifespan of a a cell phone. While some car companies want to keep a tight control on the dashboard, others feel this this area of the car should be driven by the external devices because they get updated more frequently.
Apple does not have this space to themselves. Google is offering integration with the Android platform and is busy doing deals with car manufacturers. However, I could not find any vehicles at the recent Toronto Auto-show with the Google system on display. In fact, I could not find a single expert on the floor who knew anything about this product. But Google should not be written off just yet, as they are probably ahead of Apple in terms of the driverless car and Google Maps is still much better than the Apple product.