Does Your Smartphone Decide Your Car?


Let’s be honest your car’s dashboard is old and dumb.

Just imagine being back in the pre-smartphone revolution, the days when you dropped your phone and it didn’t crack and still worked. You have  just heard about the iPhone and you are amazed but don’t see why you would ever possibly need all those features. When you finally purchase a smartphone you don’t understand how anyone has EVER lived without one. That is exactly the point in time where we are now.

[Tweet “We are staring down the barrel of a technological revolution in the centre console of every car.”]

We have already seen a shift in how cars are made and even what technology goes into cars from car maker, Tesla. The new Tesla cars’ are fully electric but the dashboard is the revolution that you will recognise the most. The centre console is a touch screen display that combines internet access as well as the standard car buttons (such as air conditioning).

Technological Limitations

The usual phone contract in Australia is about 24 months, in this time the phone you bought would have been superseded by at least 2 models and you are way behind the times. The day you buy your brand new car with all its technology it is already of date, due to the fact is that it takes about 5 years to get from concept to production.

There are really two options:

Option 1 is that you trade in your car every single year so that you can get the latest model and technology (will still be out of date)

Option 2 is where the software runs off the power of your phone. At the end of the day I am sure that nearly everyone in the world would choose to just upgrade their phone and that is why the operating systems are run simply by plugging in your phone.

Option 2 is probably the option you will be going with, unless you are planning to spend your life’s savings on cars.

The dashboard revolution is happening because of the number of deaths on the roads due to texting and drivers being distracted.

TRIVIAL text messages sent or read by drivers at the wheel have claimed the lives of at least 20 people on the nation’s roads and left many more injured.”- News Limited investigation in 2013

The technology aims to solve the problem of people texting while driving, by having minimal-on screen text and maximum voice control to ensure that you are not tempted to focus on the screen.

At this point in time there are three operating systems (apart from tesla and a few others) that are coming to fruition in the near future.

Google's Android Auto
Android Auto

Google’s new Android Auto was introduced on the 25th of June at their annual I/O Conference. The software brings the voice-activated commands and simple design of Android phones to your car.

Android Auto in the simplest form is a bigger smartphone that is stuck in the middle of your car.

Simply plug your phone into the car via USB then the in-dash screen takes control over your smartphone. A voice-activation button on your car steering wheel (on new cars) will allow you to ask Google for directions or to select a song or radio station.

Apple CarPlay
Apple CarPlay

Android Auto is extremely similar to Apple’s CarPlay.

It is similar in the way that both have steering wheel voice activation buttons (Apple with Siri and Android with Google Now) and apps as the home screen interface. Again, the software is very similar to its iPhone, and requires a user to plug their phone into the car.

At the moment it seems that the Android Auto system has a leg up on the CarPlay system as the Android system has contextual awareness. The Android system can, for instance, offer a less-congested route when you are driving to work, where Apple’s CarPlay does not have this functionality yet.

It is important to note that Apple announced it’s in car system back in March and just recently Google and Microsoft have announced their in-car systems.

One limitation of Apple’s CarPlay is that it requires a iPhone 5 or newer to be compatible with. In other words, if you are thinking about getting the CarPlay you may also have to upgrade to a new phone.

To see Apple CarPlay in action click here.


Microsoft’s in-car system is exactly the same as Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay just with a Microsoft looking interface. There is one difference that may actually see Microsoft win the in-car dashboard market. It doesn’t make any difference what OS you are running on your phone it will work with your in-car system.

This means that if down the track you decide to switch from Apple to Android then you won’t have to get your car changed as well; this could be a driving factor in your phone choice (which is probably what these companies want).

Smartphone = Car Choice?

The big question is does your smartphone mean you have to pick a certain car?

The answer is yes and no.

At the time of writing this article there are a few automakers who have only signed with one tech company but, it is not going to stay that way.

The idea of eliminating a percentage of the market because of your smartphone choice would go against the basic principles of selling. For example, Apple have a “15.3% market share” and Samsung with a “31.2% market share”, if a company didn’t allow consumers to choose dashboard operating systems then they would be missing out on 15.3% and 31.2% respectively of the market.

We have already seen the announcement from a number of automakers that they will be compatible with CarPlay and Android Auto. Pioneer is also selling aftermarket systems running on the Apple CarPlay operating system, at the end of this year.

Would you buy a specific car because of your smartphone? Which operating system would you want to use in your car?

General News