27 February 2020

How Apple is amping up in-car entertainment

Imagine transplanting the whole iPhone experience to your car — on your dashboard no less — and enjoying it on other Apple devices at the same time without skipping a beat.

Apple envisions CarPLay to set the trend in in-car entertainment and functionality in what could be the next frontier for technology companies trying to deal with a maturing handset market.

That means the intelligent car is about to become even smarter.    

Apple is bringing its leading-edge mobile operating system to the car industry, transforming it beyond its core communication function to something motorists can use to enhance the joy, safety and convenience of driving.

By using CarPlay’s dashboard interface, motorists can make calls, use maps, listen to music and access messages through Siri, Apple’s proprietary voice recognition system, with the touch of the screen.   

The world’s biggest company by market value is teaming up with major carmakers to introduce CarPlay. Among these are Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, BMW Group, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai Motor, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan Motor, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor.    

The next time you’re in one of these, you might find yourself biting into Apple’s newest product.

But it’s not as though you have no choice.

Google is offering a similar smart-car operating system on its highly successful Android platform. Earlier this year, it joined forces with several heavyweight car brands and technology companies to form the Open Automotive Alliance. At last count, it had GM, Honda, Audi, Hyundai and chipmaker Nvidia.

Their aim is to propagate Android, already the world’s most widely used mobile operating system, to motorists of all stripes.

Smart-car technology is not new, neither is plugging into a car’s smartphone jack.

But it’s only now that handset makers are trying to integrate smartphone technology into the car’s on-board computer system.

The biggest selling point is safety. With minimal human intervention, most of the thinking and doing in operating the device are performed by the system itself. The result is improved overall driving experience. 

And the one market the companies are targeting with their first-in-the-world pitch deserves all the focus they can muster — China.

The mainland’s smart car market is forecast to hit 150 billion yuan (US$24.32 billion) by 2015. This opens up a whole range of related opportunities not only for smartphone companies and chipmakers but also for developers of global positioning and navigation systems as well as digital map makers.

In the future, smart-car operating systems could dictate which smartphone a customer is likely to buy. Handset makers such as Lenovo Group (00992.HK), CoolPad Group (02369.HK) and Xiaomi will need to develop their own customized in-car operating systems for their mobile devices to stay competitive.

Ultimately, major internet players will partner with smartphone makers for a bigger share of the mobile mapping market and online-to-offline services.

Expect the likes of Tencent Holdings (00700.HK), Baidu Inc (BIDU.US) and Alibaba Group Holding to be in the mix.

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EJ Insight writer