Apple just released a preview page for its forthcoming iOS vehicle integration. Called CarPlay, the system brings the iPhone’s core functionally to cars. Connect an iPhone 5 or later device through a Lightning cable, and the car’s infotainment system will let the driver use Siri, make phone calls, play music and use select apps including Maps. But not Google Maps. Only Apple Maps.
CarPlay only grants access to select applications installed on the connected phone. At launch, CarPlay only works with Spotify, Beats Radio, iHeartRadio, and Stitcher. Sorry, Rdio fans.
But things aren’t as bad as they seem.
Apple Maps has thankfully improved dramatically since its disastrous launch. In my experience it’s nearly on par with Google Maps. It just lacks the web integration and extra data available on Google Maps like the destination’s StreetView along with some pertinent review data.
Apple previewed iOS in the car last June. At that time Apple Maps was one of the tentpole features. CarPlay was likely in development for so long that it could have been one of the driving reasons behind Apple’s move to launch its own mapping service. The last thing Apple would want is to lean on a Google service for its iOS vehicle integration.
Google is also working on a vehicle platform similar to CarPlay. Following rumors, in early January Google confirmed it had formed the Open Automotive Alliance with Audi, General Motors, Hyundai, Honda and chip-maker NVIDIA — all CarPlay partners besides Audi and Nvidia. Specific details are still nonexistent but a recent Daimler job posting states that it aims to “seamlessly integrate” Android with a car’s head unit.
Apple and Google are likely approaching vehicle integration with a bit of trepidation. Safety is paramount. According to the released details, CarPlay natively works with the in-vehicle controls and also offers voice commands through Siri.
More CarPlay details and demos will be released in the coming days as the Geneva Auto Show begins. The car show schedule likely forced Apple’s hand in announcing the system hence the lack of pertinent developer details. Apple still has a lot of questions to answer, specifically around developer support. Those answers could come as late as WWDC 2014 in June, a prospect that isn’t as problematic as it seems.
Apple states CarPlay-equipped vehicles will be available this year. New vehicles do not hit dealers until early Fall, leaving plenty of time for developers to churn out CarPlay apps if the details are released at WWDC — that is, of course, if Apple will even open up CarPlay to outside developers.
We’ve reached out to Apple for clarification.