It's been two-and-a-half years since Google and Apple announced you'd soon be able to turn your car's dashboard screen into your phone. In the tech world, that's an eternity – Apple has introduced three new iPhones since then.
While some auto makers, including Volkswagen, Ford and GM have caught up for 2017, others, like Nissan, only offer them on one or two models. And some, like Toyota, aren't offering either. So, why don't more new cars come with Android Auto and CarPlay?
"It's going a little bit slower than we expected – when this was first announced in 2014, we expected it to happen faster based on our knowledge of the consumer electronic industry," said Colin Bird, senior auto tech analyst with IHS Markit, a data and business research company. "There were a lot of validation and engineering issues with implementing the software into cars' infotainment stacks – it was a learning curve."
Both programs work similarly – plug a phone into a car's USB port and CarPlay or Android Auto launch. The screens look much like what you see on a smartphone, only simpler. Only certain apps appear – mainly music, text messages and navigation. They're supposed to work with less touch input – and with voice commands.
Initially, Hyundai, Mercedes and Honda said they'd be first to offer the technology – also called smartphone mirroring, Bird said. "But lo and behold, they weren't.Ferrari and GM had a bigger, broader sweep."
Now, worldwide, Apple has more than 100 models with CarPlay and Google has 70.
"That puts Apple in the lead, even though Google announced it first and made it seem like they'd get there first," Bird said.
CarPlay was first to deploy in a lot of models, and advertising from manufacturers has focused more on CarPlay than Android Auto, Bird said.
Worldwide, the majority of people with smartphones – nearly 82 per cent – use Android. Just less than 15 per cent use Apple. But, in Canada and the United States, the split is closer to 50/50 among people buying new cars.
There are about 3.2 million vehicles on the road worldwide with CarPlay and 2.2 million with Android Auto. In 2016, about 2.7-million vehicles sold worldwide will have CarPlay, about half in the United States and Canada. For Android Auto, it's 1.9 million – about 57 per cent in the United States and Canada, Bird said.
By 2022, Bird expects 160 million vehicles worldwide will have CarPlay and 143 million will have Android Auto. That year, 44 million cars will be sold with Android. Apple will sell 48 million, Bird predicts. Why is Apple ahead?
While it's partially due to Apple's head start, people planning on buying new cars "tend to have a higher incomes, and a higher percentage of them own Apple mobile devices," Bird said.
But for 2017, Android Auto is catching up. For example, GM offered CarPlay on most 2016 models but not Android Auto on most 2016 models. Then, earlier this year, GM announced a software update adding Android Auto to 2016 models. Ford says all its 2017 cars will come with both CarPlay and Android Auto.
Starting with the 2016 Accord, Honda has put both systems into just four vehicles – and as new models come out, that number will grow. Consumers are asking for both – and want their infotainment system to work like their phones, Honda Canada said.
"Both platforms were launched simultaneously to allow as much device compatibility as possible," said Honda Canada spokeswoman Maki Inoue. "Allowing Google and Apple to bring their interfaces to our Display Audio system quickly brings familiarity to the customer."
Both Apple and Android list the vehicles available with the technologies on their websites, but those lists aren't always accurate for Canada. We asked both Google and Apple for a list of Canadian models – Apple didn't respond and Google sent us a link to a U.S. list.
For instance, in 2017, Hyundai rolled out three more Canadian models with Android Auto and three with both Auto and CarPlay – that's fewer models and a year later than in the United States.
"The U.S. is a model year or two ahead of us – Canadian consumers have said, 'Hey, when is this coming to Canada?'" said Chad Heard, senior manager of public relations with Hyundai Canada. "When you're engineering any kind of car, that takes a heck of a lot longer than it does for mobile phone industry – there's a lot of engineering and testing."
While Hyundai intends to eventually have both in all its cars, they've got to wait, Heard said.
"It's "not Hyundai that's programming these pieces of software," he said. "It's Google and Apple – they're responsible for that core package and adapting it to the various models."
Also, the systems only work on touchscreens that allow you to "pinch and swipe and all sorts of things," Heard said. Because it's not easy to put a brand new touchscreen and infotainment system into an existing model, the changes have to wait until a refresh, or more often, a total redesign.
And, There are still companies, like Toyota and Infiniti, which don't offer either."Toyota's approach is to focus on getting it right the first time – not just being the first to market with a product or service," Toyota Canada said in a statement.
Bird says there's been trepidation by certain auto makers.
"Some are afraid that this will affect sales of embedded navigation," Bird said. "Or affect deals they have with companies like Pandora."
In fact, consumers who have navigation systems that came with their cars say they are more likely to use maps on their phone, said Mark Boyadjis, principal analyst and manager, automotive user experience for IHS Markit.
"Smartphone-based navigation has been optimized for speaking the instructions – you press Siri or Google Voice and say where you want to go and it says okay and does it," Boyadjis said. "There are very few onboard navigation systems with the capability to do that as quickly and reliably."
And, with smartphones, there are no technical manuals or time spent setting up the system.
"The efficiency is the big difference – you don't want to sit in the car and figure this out for two minutes," Boyadjis said. "Personally, I want to get in and and go because, if I don't start moving, my kid starts yelling, 'Let's go!'"
However, if you don't have a cellphone signal, the car's built-in navigation system is necessary. Auto makers such as Hyundai say they'll keep offering traditional navigation systems.
CarPlay and Android Auto have other drawbacks. CarPlay doesn't support Google Maps. And, because of the amount of data involved, neither will work with Bluetooth alone – in most vehicles, your phone still needs to be connected with a cord to the car's USB port. There are plans to make them to work with WiFi instead.
And how well do they actually work? It depends on the car, Boyadjis said.
"There are some vehicles where it becomes a very natural extension of the system – if they already have a seven- or eight-inch touch screen, you'll see a lot of good integration," he said. "Whereas in an Audi Q7, they use touch pads and controllers – so that's the reason why you could have these variances in deployment rates."
Another drawback compared to built-in navigation? In addition to the main navigation screen, many built-in systems show simpler versions of directions – like just an arrow pointing left and "500m" to show an upcoming turn – in the small display next to the speedometer.
"Right now, that feature doesn't work when you're getting directions from your iPhone or Android," Boyadjis said. Consumers are interested in mirroring tech on their new cars, but "it's not a situation where everyone is beating down the door to get it," said Kristin Kolodge, executive director, driver interaction and HMI (human machine interface) with J.D. Power.
"We're seeing consistent [survey] results where half the population has an interest in this smartphone mirroring technology, and if the manufacturer is charging extra for it, the intention to purchase it drops pretty quickly," Kolodge said. Consumers might become more – or less – interested in the tech depending on their experiences with it, Kolodge said.
"There were initial quality studies where some of the technology was glitchy – screens froze and you had to stop and reboot it – no matter which manufacturer or which system," Kolodge said. "That's going to change people's first impressions."
Instead, consumers are more likely to buy cars with safety technology, like collision protection or driving assistance.
In fact, the survey showed that consumers of all ages said they'd be more likely to pay more for safety technology – like collision protection or accident avoidance – than for CarPlay or Android.
"The industry has been focused on infotainment and connectivity," Kolodge said, "And now we're hearing from consumers loud and clear that they're concerned about keeping safe."
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