updated 07:30 pm EDT, Thu July 10, 2014
Number could be higher, as Apple broadens compatibility with makers
A new report from ABI Research suggests that as many as a third of all new vehicles sold by 2019 could be compatible with Apple's CarPlay techology, right alongside competitors such as Android Auto and potentially other systems. Just now hitting the market, Apple's CarPlay system works with automakers' built-in infotainment systems, cooperatively overriding the vehicle's native interface when users plug in a Lightning-compatible iPhone or other iOS device (Android Auto works in the same manner, but for selected premium Android phones).
"Many believe Apple is creating further fragmentations and a ripple effect in the industry by not being open," said ABI analyst Filomena Berardi. "However, love it or hate it, with Apple on the scene it certainly draws greater attention to in-car apps -- and now with Android Auto on the scene, both will certainly drive adoption of in-car apps."
CarPlay is in the process of becoming available now, with the arrival of 2015 model cars such as the Hyundai Sonata, and makes from Volvo, Ferrari, Honda and Mercedes-Benz. The system is integrated into a vehicle's native technology, and becomes active once an iPhone or other iOS device is plugged in. From there, CarPlay uses a modified version of the familiar iOS design language to make Apple's version of Maps, Messages, Phone, Music control and Siri available in a format that encourages hands-free and in some cases "eyes-free" use of the infotainment system. Android Auto again works in a similar fashion, but using Google controls, Music and tracking rather than Apple technology.
Apple has signed agreements with some 29 automakers thus far, representing nearly every major brand, though the technology may not be available on all models (Google has thus far announced agreements with 20 makers). ABI says that the ability of both CarPlay and Android Auto to fit in with existing systems will help make both available in a wide selection of vehicles, rather than making customers choose a particular brand to match their preferred smartphone system (or vice versa).
In addition to the system functions already covered by CarPlay, app developers will be able to adapt their programs (in some cases) to work within the confines of the system -- for example allowing audio updates on baseball games or live play-by-play through the MLB At Bat app, or voice recommendations for nearby businesses through Yelp, or subscribed music through Pandora or Sirius XM apps already on the users' iPhone.
Older models of automobile may be able to retrofit CarPlay technology through after-market support from stereo makers such as Pioneer and Alpine.