Google vs Apple CarPlay: why maps hold the key for in-car supremacy

BMW Connected Drive

BMW's Connected Drive is the factory-fit gold standard iOS and Android must beat

Google's mapping advantage

"Apple Maps remains substandard. In fact, I reckon mapping is probably something Apple shouldn't be doing in-house."

That said, I think both Google and Apple are up to the basic task of an in-car interface and will in-time offer something as good as or superior to what the car makers have come up with so far.

In any case, it's happening so the question is which of the two will work better in-car? Initially, I reckon it will be Android and I make that prediction on the basis of Google's far superior mapping.

Apple Maps remains substandard. In fact, I reckon mapping is probably something Apple shouldn't be doing in-house. I don't get the impression the company has its heart and indeed wallet fully committed to the task.

By contrast, Google has been investing heavily for years. And it shows.

Moreover, mapping and nav is one area where Google can immediately give existing in-car systems a kicking. When I had a go in the Tesla Model S last year, possibly the best thing about it was the huge display combined with Google maps.

It's just so much better than the craptastic mapping offered by factory fit navigation systems. OK, the latest systems have finally begun to catch up with features like 7-digit postcode support (at last!) and IP-based traffic services and indeed Google search support.

But none that I have tried are as good as Google's own mapping product for functionality beyond basic turn-by-turn navigation.

BMW Maps

Some car manufacturers already offer Google search

Mapping might turn out to be moot...

The rest of the potential feature set largely involves comms including social media and entertainment.

I don't think there will be a huge amount in it between the two platforms and in those areas your preferences will be guided by your existing views of Android vs iOS.

But not mapping. Mapping and nav really matters in cars and there Google will have a clear advantage. Could it be enough to actually push people from one platform to another? On that subject, it's not yet clear.

It may turn out to be possible, for instance, to run the Google maps app in-car on an iOS device. At which point the mapping contest becomes moot (though it's symptomatic of Google's advantage that nobody will be clamoring to run Apple maps on an Android device...).

But I can think of reasons why neither Apple nor Google would want to enable that, so we'll have to wait and see.

Google Glass and driverless cars

"I think there's at least a chance Google Glass could turn out to be the sort of in-car feature people will one day wonder how they lived without."

As for Google Glass, that's a bit more speculative. Changes in legislation may be required to allow people to even drive while using Google Glass.

But at least one car maker, Hyundai, has already announced Google Glass support. And I think there's at least a chance it could turn out to be the sort of in-car feature people will one day wonder how they lived without.

At the same time, it's worth noting that Google is just generally much more active in the automotive space than Apple. What with its driverless car project, I reckon the company probably has a more developed understanding of car tech in general.

By contrast, I see no reason to think Apple will succeed specifically with car tech than any other tech. It has very deep pockets, but no track record in car technology.

Google's record may be patchy when it steps outside its comfort zone. But Apple, when you get right down to it, has really only added a couple of mobile devices and a single mobile OS to its repertoire.

As things stand, then, I reckon Google is far, far better placed to do well in cars. It'll be fun finding out if I'm right.

Apple CarPlay Explained


Apple's solution:
Because the lifespan of a car is so long compared to the lifecycle of digital technologies like phones and the software they run, the challenge is to create a smart in-car infotainment system that can stay up to date even as your car ages. CarPlay: Everything you need to know


Technology and cars. Increasingly the twain shall meet. Which is handy, because Jeremy (Twitter) is addicted to both. Long-time tech journalist, former editor of iCar magazine and incumbent car guru for T3 magazine, Jeremy reckons in-car technology is about to go thermonuclear. No, not exploding cars. That would be silly. And dangerous. But rather an explosive period of unprecedented innovation. Enjoy the ride.