Apple has long delayed its debut of what they now call CarPlay. Truth is people are already using phone, music and map capabilities inside the car, thanks to Bluetooth technology. So is there a market space? Are people going to buy, and much worse, wait to buy cars that are essentially locked to their phone brands?
For one, CarPlay is a very compelling strategy to build captive customers. Though the conversion numbers (people switching from Apple to competition and vice versa) doesn’t appear to be staggering, it is nevertheless an issue for Apple, which has not fundamentally transformed we use phones, since the original iPhone. Every feature that came after that, including my personal favorites, are incremental “nice to haves” as opposed to innovative. So in the fiercely competitive mobile space, every brand including Apple, Google and a distant Microsoft, have to do something not only to grow their market share, but also to sustain their install base.
The sad situation with car industry is that incremental features are uber-expensive and the quality of the dashboard has not improved in several years. The GPS ship has left shores long ago, and it seems the car industry did not get the memo. At any rate, addition of new features has led to a car’s dashboard looking like an airplane cockpit, when it doesn’t have to.
So will CarPlay succeed? Will the market have enough space for more than one company to keep it thriving and on the edge of innovation?
I guess the answer depends on following aspects:
- Car manufacturers cannot charge ridiculous amounts to have CarPlay added. With a very optimistic view, this should be included in base-model or the fee should be low enough.
- Usability – CarPlay should redefine how we use the phone features. It should actually make a difference to how quickly we access information, without taking our eyes (or mind) off driving. If it just replaces the current Bluetooth-supported functionality with a more expensive one, this would have failed.
- Performance – AirPlay is a mind-boggling innovation. But at least in my house, it cannot be relied (it uses WiFi). You could (and Apple most likely will) blame my signal strength for it. But for CarPlay to succeed, it should be responsive and fast. Even if takes 0.5 seconds for a button push and the resulting functionality on the phone, it is a failure.
- Car manufacturers should allow the phone/ apps on the phone to perform car functionalities. For example, if two people use the car (lets say you and your spouse), depending on the phone plugged in, it could be configured to set different temperatures, different radio stations, different playlists, different seating memory positions etc.. At the very least, I have to be able to change any of this, getting rid of all those archaic knobs, dials and buttons on the dashboard.
- Competition must exist – All Apple (or all Android) makes for a dull market. Cars should have the ability to switch the native phone integration between Apple and Android – as an after-market (but a manufacturer supported) swap-out.
After redefining how we use a phone, a camera, a GPS system, a gaming device and now, how we use cars, hopefully, the phone industry is focusing on the next big area – smart homes – something I am personally looking forward to and will a separate post later on.