iOS and Android could co-exist in car head unit

Apple and Google have been the two big names in smartphones for a long time now, with Android proving to be the only real competitor to Apple’s iPhone dominance in the latter half of the 00’s. The two have gone after each other in the courts as much as with products, but it looks like a new battleground is just opening up for the pair, as they’re both set to release their high-end, inter-connected, in-car infotainment units in the next 12 months. Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto will both offer in-car applications, navigation and personal assistance, so who will consumers choose? According to Audi, it won’t matter, as they’ll be able to pick whichever they want on any particular day.

Audi released a statement yesterday (via CarAdvice) that made it clear that both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be built into the new MMI entertainment and navigation systems being put in all new Audi cars. The important part though, is that they don’t just choose when they buy the car new, but can choose to change to the alternative any time they want.

“Customers will be able to choose at any time which of these platforms they wish to use in their cars,” said an Audi spokesperson.


This is the kind of sentiment being echoed by other car manufacturers too. Honda has also confirmed that its upcoming vehicles will be compatible with both Android Auto and CarPlay. While Honda has yet to announce which of its cars will use the new infotainment technology, its first vehicles are thought likely to arrive sometime in 2015.

The real question at this point now, is how easy is it to switch between the two? It might be conceivably possible to go from Android Auto to CarPlay on the same system, but will it require much user interaction? If there’s a simple switch to flip or an app to launch, that’s fine, but if it requires technical know how, then most users are likely to stick with whatever the car comes pre-loaded with. In that case, it will be interesting to see if legislators make sure that manufacturers offer an option at the point of purchase, otherwise Apple or Google, which ever comes preloaded the most, could face anti-competitiveness charges in European courts.

Either way though, consumers should be far more connected in their vehicles as of the launch of these new systems. While it’s common place today to see people driving with Satnavs or advanced audio features thanks to smartphone connectivity, it’s never been bundled together before and in-car apps are rarer still. As 4G internet gains traction, we could see in-car applications offering functionality in-vehicle that we’ve never seen before.

There’s a lot of potential for entertainment too, though it will be interesting to see if smart detection technology means that the driver won’t be able to operate features like that while the car is in motion.

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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