Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality is now commonplace in most modern infotainment systems, with users able to either plug in or connect via Bluetooth to cast a version of their smartphone’s screen to an in-car digital display.
But until now, very few OEMs have opted to develop their own CarPlay tools using the Automaker toolkit provided by Apple. Development is clearly either too tricky or expensive, or OEMs are keen to push owners to use their own software instead.
In an interview with Ars Technica, Porsche Digital's principal product manager, Cyril Dorsaz, explained that customer research revealed an overwhelming number of Porsche’s customers use iPhones and they were less than impressed with the current need to exit Apple CarPlay to interact with vehicle functionality. Aren't we all?
With this in mind, Porsche set to work expanding the functionality of the My Porsche App to increase the amount of features offered to users embedded in the Apple CarPlay ecosystem. According to Porsche, it is the first "automotive manufacturer to allow for easier access of vehicle functions within CarPlay".
This might sound like a no-brainer, but the German manufacturer has essentially created a digital hub that harnesses the typical Apple CarPlay menu screens (including the same fonts and icons) to show things like the state of charge in electric vehicles, or allow users to adjust the air conditioning, switch between favored digital radio stations and change the interior lighting – all without leaving the app.
It negates the need to exit Apple CarPlay to do things like change the radio station, something that has annoyed us for years, while the integration of Apple Maps makes it possible to make quick and easy local searches for gas stations or rest stops. You can even adjust sound profiles with a few simple clicks, rather than exiting CarPlay to root through menus. Plus, Siri can be used to control some vehicle functions with certain voice commands.
Another member of the VW Group, Seat, has also experimented with further Apple CarPlay functionality with its Seat DriveApp, but it doesn’t allow control of the vehicle’s system within CarPlay’s walls as Porsche has introduced here.
Other manufacturers, such as Volvo, have experimented with larger, tablet-style screens that can be split to show Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, as well as vehicle controls, but it still doesn't feel as seamless as this solution.
"We are excited to further improve the My Porsche App and using the capabilities of Apple CarPlay to deliver a truly enhanced customer experience," says Mattias Ulbrich, CEO of Porsche Digital and CIO Porsche AG. "Technology and digitization are crucial factors for the enduring fascination of our brand – now and in the next 75 years."
The improved My Porsche App debuts on the 2024 Porsche Cayenne, which is available to order now, but the company says it will roll it out to other model lines in the near future.
What does the future hold for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?
Hopefully this move by Porsche will be positively received by customers and similar apps will roll out across the VW Group. After all, it’s so simple and easy to plug in a smartphone (something nearly all of us now own) and be able to use much of its functionality in the car.
Unfortunately, some of the big OEMs want to reclaim the in-car tech space from giants like Apple and Google, with GM (owner of Vauxhall, Chevrolet, Cadillac and more) stating earlier this year that it wanted to phase out Apple Car Play and Android Auto in its upcoming EVs.
"As we scale our EVs and launch our Ultifi software platform, we can do more than ever before with in-vehicle technologies and over-the-air updates," Edward Kummer, GM's chief digital officer told Detroit News.
"All of this is allowing us to constantly improve the customer experience we can offer across our brands."
The statement was met by a swathe of criticism from all corners of the internet, with commentators suggested GM wanted to increase revenue streams by selling subscription packages, rather than considering what is most convenient for the customer.
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