Ford, Apple, Google and the Race to Phone and Car Connectivity

Embedded versus tethered apps: Who wins the battle?

Your phone knows a lot about you – and is getting smarter every day. Why not share some of that data with your vehicle (especially if you drive for work)? The notion of connectivity, however, introduces a whole new set of privacy issues. The million-dollar question remains: What types of data are you unknowingly sharing with automakers?

Companies typically take one of two approaches to car and phone connectivity: embedded apps or tethered apps. With embedded apps, the manufacturer controls a proprietary system in which connectivity is built into the vehicle. Tethered apps, on the other hand, mandate that a driver manually connects his or her smartphone to the vehicle.

The tethered approach: Ford’s SYNC AppLink

Ford’s SYNC AppLink, for example, places the burden of computing on the phone, essentially allowing for the vehicle’s head unit or infotainment system to serve as a graphical interface. In the short-term, this approach is easiest for app developers (like Motus), but the jury’s out for the long-term. Focusing on core competencies might make the tethered approach the slight winner – let the car’s intelligence focus on the vehicle and become open to the personalization of the mobile device.

As mentioned in my 2016 blog post, the tethered app will also let drivers move from car to car, taking their “portable profile” with them – something that will almost become a necessity in the sharing economy.

Apple’s Carplay and Google’s Android Auto

Other major tethered solutions (or more precisely tethered operating systems) include Apple Carplay and Google’s Android Auto. Recently, at Apple’s WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference), it was announced that starting with iOS 12, Carplay will let drivers choose their mapping provider. What does this mean? In short, Apple will no longer force users to rely solely on Apple Maps for directions (something it’s been doing in phones and laptops for several versions now). As it turns out, Google Maps and Waze are the top two contenders for mapping supremacy. This shows that Apple is acknowledging the fact that users want personalization – something that Apple has failed to address in the past. Apple continues to be concerned about a consistent UI (as outlined in their Human Interface Guidelines) and still won’t let developers stray too far from a traditional Apple experience.

Not to be outdone, Google recently announced that they’ve brought Satellite View to Maps on Android Auto, which is not yet available on Apple Carplay. Currently, however, it’s not known if Google Maps and WAZE will have voice support, similar to how Carplay works with Apple Maps (i.e. “Hey Siri, get directions to the nearest gas station.”).

What’s Next?

While Carplay and Android Auto are novel attempts to reproduce an in-dash (but very limited) mobile phone experience, they are still just that – a visual extension of a driver’s phone. What Apple and Google should focus on is a true value add – head up technology. Working with automakers, they could not only increase personalization but also (and perhaps more importantly) driver safety.

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The Author

John Petrucelli

John’s trademark style is executing disruptive ideas without disrupting the organization. He leverages his teams curiosity and mobile expertise to bring innovative solutions to the mobile workforce management marketplace.

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