I use my iPhone 5s in the car each and every day. It’s mounted on an iOttie to the right of my steering wheel. Like many of you, my app usage in the car is typical. I use Google Maps for navigation, Music (Beats Music) for tunes, Phone for calling and Messages for reading or sending text messages. My iPhone is within arms length, but I only use Maps when driving and that’s only within navigation. If I need to enter an address, I use Siri. For the other apps, I wait until I’m not moving, either at a stop sign, red light or parked on the side of the road. I consider myself to be a safe driver. I keep to the speed limit and try to keep driving distractions to a minimum. Navigating the iPhone is easy, but less so when mounted and in the car. The little icons in the phone app aren’t what I would call tap friendly while on four wheels. With Apple CarPlay, the iOS in the car experience is going to change radically and in a way that makes it easier and safer. Why do I need to buy a new car to use Apple CarPlay?
If I were to guess, I’d say that most users would love to replace their in-dash infotainment system with Apple’s CarPlay. Heck, I used to get excited when Bluetooth would play nice with my car’s audio system, so this level of integration between iPhone and car is exciting. While Mercedes-Benz has mentioned plans to offer aftermarket upgrades to existing vehicles, other car manufacturers are showcasing car players on new 2014/15 cars that will roll off assembly lines later this year. I’m a good sport about dropping $200 on a new iPhone every year or so, but my budget does allow for a $30,000 CarPlay upgrade this year. I’d ask my accountant about writing off a new BMW X5 with CarPlay, but I’m guessing that’s a no go. Car-makers have also been mum on exactly how much CarPlay will add to the sticker price. When have car companies not looked to increase revenues? Having what could be a killer feature, for those who own an iPhone, isn’t going to be a cheap option. CarPlay, as it stands now, is expensive.
CarPlay on iPhone
I mentioned how the current 4-inch display can be tough to navigate. That should get better if Apple releases either 4.7-inch or 5.5-inch iPhones later this year. Phones of this size aren’t much smaller than some in-dash systems. iOS is designed to be used in your hand, but why not offer a car mode. You could make it accessible by menu options available when swiping up from any screen on your iPhone. Once in car mode, app usage is locked to the same apps offered in CarPlay. In fact, your iPhone becomes CarPlay, using Bluetooth to communicate through your in-dash for audio.
Google has had a Car Mode for a few years. By optimizing an interface for use in the car, it would make it easy to interface with your iPhone. Whether someone drops $30k on a new car with CarPlay or uses a mounted iPhone, safety is still dependant upon individuals making the right choices. Just because CarPlay is mounted into your dashboard does not mean navigating your iTunes library while doing 65 is a good idea. Before you roll out of your driveway, a simple, finger-friendly car interface would offer appreciable advantages.
CarPlay is a distraction, no different your radio, GPS or even a friendly discussion with passengers. People use their phones while in the car and that won’t change. What we can change is how they interact. Siri, voice commands and big, touch friendly interfaces like we’ve seen with CarPlay should help. Apple can and should do more to bring CarPlay to every iPhone owner. Here’s hoping that’s on the list of features coming in iOS 8.