Apple Car Play and Android Auto are both fantastic – But plugging the phone in is a hassle. That may soon end.
The one big downside to Apple Car Play and Android Auto is that up until now, the system required that the phone be connected to the vehicle via a USB cord. We all charge on the go, but wireless in-vehicle charging is now commonplace. Also, for short trips, or long trips with a fully charged phone, there is no reason to plug in a phone and then have the cord in our way. Alpine has just announced the beginning of the end of having to plug-in to get the benefits of Apple Car Play and Android Auto. “Apple fans have been eagerly anticipating a wireless Apple CarPlay solution, so we are excited to deliver the iLX-107 as the first aftermarket system with this technology,” said Steve Crawford, vice president and general manager, Alpine Electronics of America, Inc.
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Apple Car Play and Android Auto allow smartphone users (and who isn’t one?) to connect their phones directly to a compatible car’s in-dash infotainment system using a simple App. Vehicles equipped with Apple Car Play and Android Auto have many advantages. In vehicles without built-in navigation, the user can use Maps or Google Maps to navigate. The audio plays directly through the car’s sound system and the map and other visual information are displayed directly on the screen. There are even benefits in vehicles with built-in navigation. Google Maps and Maps both keep track of where you go and have your expected destinations already loaded. Tapping in directions or speaking them is simpler and more effective with the smart phone’s software than with the car’s. In our testing, we frequently switch to Android Auto or Apple Car Play even in navigation-equipped vehicles simply because the real-time traffic and route options are better on the phone than in the car’s navigation system. Even in ultra-modern cars like Kia’s new Niro, we often prefer the phone to the car’s Nav.
Apple Car Play and Android Auto offer many other benefits as well. Most of what you want while on the go can be easily and efficiently accessed using the systems. Most importantly, both Apple and Android constantly update and improve the apps we find so helpful. Automakers almost never update systems after a vehicle leaves the showroom, and most charge hundreds for navigation map updates.
The new system from Alpine is aftermarket only, meaning it replaces what is in the car you already own. However, Alpine is a major original equipment manufacturer and we expect that the technology will quickly migrate to in-dash systems offered directly from automakers. Now, if automakers could start offering this technology on base models without any Nav option, and stop charging us for Nav in higher trims, we will all be able to save a bundle on our next new vehicle. Changing that culture may be a higher hurdle than the technical challenges Alpine has now overcome.