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CarPlay, Apple, General Motors and you – only EVER 1 winner

Apple’s CarPlay while not perfect, is possibly the best of the bunch when it comes to car infotainment systems – well, enjoy it while you can

CarPlay - is this the end?

Happy Birthday

It’s very nearly one year ago since Apple announced the future of Apple CarPlay.

I use CarPlay every time I drive, so when Apple announced what they saw coming downstream for the app (is it a service or app – not sure), my ears pricked up.

At WWDC 2022 the preview promised further integration with your car – supposedly you’d soon be able to control the climate or air-con, use multi-displays, and even access some smart home settings too. It sounded as if things were looking good.

By now, the first motor manufacturers were meant to be shipping out vehicles with support for the newest version of CarPlay. Those ‘committed’ to the CarPlay future included Audi, Ford, Honda, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Porsche, and Volvo. And yet…

Promises, promises

Apple told us to expect instrument cluster options, widgets, an all-new radio app, and even calendar integration – yet so far, not only hasn’t any of this materialised, it actually seems to have taken a backwards step.

Apparently, CarPlay is one of the options high on the tick-list when potential buyers are busy ticking the options boxes. According to Apple at least, seventy-nine per cent of American car buyers say that CarPlay is a must-have feature.

If that CarPlay number is to be believed, then someone clearly didn’t tell General Motors about it. In short, GM wants to be in the driving seat when it comes to your car infotainment system. As to why, I’ll get to in a bit, but what I fear most is that where GM lead, the others will soon follow.

This could be the start of a slippery slope.

Bye-bye CarPlay

Reuters were the first that I saw to pick up on the story.

General Motors has decided that moving forwards, all their EVs will drop support for not only CarPlay but Android Auto also. They have decided to back their horse instead – an infotainment system based loosely on a low-level Android OS. And that decision means that any hopes of connecting your phone, other than via Bluetooth, has gone too.

It won’t surprise you to learn, that at the heart of this decision, is money – isn’t it always? The auto industry is about to pivot on how they make their money, and lots of it too. GM are the first to almost publicly shout that they see the future of car buying, and ownership, as an opportunity to gain data, and then charge subscriptions. The motor manufacturer has set their sights on growing their subs revenue by more than tenfold by the end of the decade. Putting a figure on it, they hope, and fully expect, to be earning $25 billion by 2030 from our subs. In fairness to GM, with that sort of money at stake, why would you want to cut in Apple or Google?

In a recent interview with The Verge, the director of insights at Edmunds, Ivan Dury said;

“From a business perspective, having more control over what happens within your vehicles is extremely valuable for both vehicle development as well as the opportunities presented by capturing and repackaging data for analysis and marketing,”

GM has taken the choice to make their needs greater than yours – the owner & driver of the car. Your phone is probably the most personalised, and central device to your daily life, and General Motors’ decision here, has basically ripped it from you. It’s suddenly to become pretty redundant the moment you sit down in your car.

Taking what was once yours

Just think about your phone for a moment. Outside of your contacts list, you probably have Spotify playlists carefully curated over years & years, albums ripped to Apple Music, and a podcast library you love to check out too.

If others follow GMs lead, and I’m pretty certain they will, all of that has just been ripped away from under your eyes. Yeah, you could hope to rely on the flaky Bluetooth connection in the car, but other than that, you’ll be forced to use the apps that your car’s manufacturer forces you into using. And who’s to say, apart from there not being much choice, say of a podcast app, that you won’t also be asked to pay a sub to use it too? After all, don’t forget, it was all about more dollars in the first place, so surely they’d try to take as much from you, as often as possible!

And carrying through the process a stage further, assuming that your phone in the future would be more or less useless in your car, you’d be at the mercy of a car manufacturer to now be relied upon to back up and sync your contacts, calendars, and music libraries. Even Apple took time to get that right when iCloud became a thing – but at least they were a tech company.

This begs the question, will car companies of the future become tech giants then? Will we now be trusting our data with someone else? Will we eventually see GM or Ford data centres?

Long in the tooth

I’ve been around long enough, to have seen that car builders often don’t get it right when it comes to the car’s infotainment systems.

Very often they appear to have been an afterthought, badly thought out and poorly integrated. Surely, there comes boundaries when you have to respect what your knowledge sets are. As I said earlier, CarPlay is not without fault, but at least it lets me listen to what I have chosen I want to listen to. CarPlay, and Android Automotive both make your car journeys personal. Let tech people do tech and car people do cars I say…

The navigation system has just come to mind as well – why didn’t I think of that earlier? I happen to use and like Apple Maps (I know, what a surprise), but equally, there are times, for certain journeys, I’ll switch to Google’s option instead. Again my choice!

The last time I used a car’s built-in nav system it was not the most wonderful of experiences. Often times the maps aren’t ‘live’, and don’t include up-to-date speed camera warnings etc. With GM, if I have got it right, that will be the only option open to you – other than dash mounting your phone I guess (again a backwards step).

Is that the future you want? Is the future about to set us back?

I can also renew my phone as often as I want – monthly if I choose. I can decide to switch from Apple to Android, and back again as I choose – the hardware is as up-to-date as I choose it to be. With a car though, you’ll be stuck with the hardware you bought. If you keep a car for four or five years, that tech will be pretty outdated, but my shiny new phone will still be bang up to date. Again, it comes back to choices – it should all come back to choices.

Wrapping up

I am not suggesting an uprising over a car’s infotainment system for a moment, but this is the time we need to step up and be heard.

The other big boys in the car world must have let out a huge sigh of relief when GM issued their statement. They can let them take the early heat, and then meekly follow in their footsteps. Mark my words, no way will GM be the only one wanting to turn our cars into a data collection point, and a subscription-based purchase/experience.

If that figure of seventy-nine per cent of American car buyers figure is accurate, that is a very loud collective voice.

Conglomerates are not keen on being forced to turn tail, particularly when there are billions of dollars at stake. But billions are also at stake if we don’t buy their motors!

How ridiculous is it that the phone in your pocket could turn out to be what influences the next generation of car buyers?

Daft as it sounds, this one matters – get out the soap boxes folks. The subscription-based future is about to get even more serious.

Speak up now – vote with your feet and dollars! CarPlay – suddenly I love you a bit more!

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