Apple introduced CarPlay at the Geneva International Motor Show March 3, giving the iPhone maker a major win in the fast-growing and highly competitive connected car market.
CarPlay will be integrated into the native interface of vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo "this week," Apple said, and vehicles from BMW Group, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai Motor Company, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan Motor Company, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp "down the road."
CarPlay is designed to offer drivers distraction-minimizing ways of making calls, using Maps, listening to music and accessing their messages—with a word or a touch.
From a button on the steering wheel, drivers will be able to activate Siri.
"CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car," Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of iPhone and iOS product marketing, said in a statement.
CarPlay is available as an iOS 7 update for the iPhone 5, 5C and 5S.
Once an iPhone is connected to a CarPlay-equipped vehicle, Siri will help a driver access contacts, make calls or listen to voicemails, as well as to respond—drivers can dictate messages to Siri or instruct Siri to place a call.
Drivers can also ask Siri to pull up their music, podcasts, audiobooks or iTunes radio, or access all of the above through the car's built-in controls. Plus, CarPlay will support third-party apps including Spotify and iHeartRadio.
Apple's Maps has been a rare failing for the company—updates have been made since its disastrous launch, but it's still far from perfect. Paired with CarPlay, Apple insists the app will work even harder (and possibly also raise a privacy-concerning red flag).
"CarPlay makes driving directions more intuitive by working with Maps to anticipate destinations based on recent trips via contacts, email or texts, and provides routing instructions, traffic conditions and ETA," said Apple. "You can also simply ask Siri and receive spoken turn-by-turn directions, along with maps, which will appear on your car's built-in display."
Forrester analyst Frank Gillett says Apple’s approach marks the beginning of two complementary approaches to the connected car.
“Apple’s strategy is focused on enabling infotainment and telematics capabilities, the two ripe forms of in-vehicle computing,” Gillett said in a March 3 statement. “This strategy is notable for not attempting to be or replace an embedded operating system in the car, as BlackBerry’s QNX technology, the recently announced Google sponsored Open Automotive Alliance or Microsoft’s embedded technology.”
Apple’s approach, he added, “will get it into many cars faster than competitors, who will likely end up supporting Apple’s CarPlay while they aim for deeper built-in technology.”
The Connected Car Future
For a mobile device industry facing smartphone saturation and slowing sales, the connected car market offers a vast, new opportunity—for hardware makers, software maker, network players, app designers, wireless carriers and others.
"We think this market is going to explode," Chris Penrose, senior vice president of AT&T's Emerging Devices Organization, has told eWEEK. "There's truly an opportunity here to bring forth new services that haven't been thought of yet."
In January, AT&T introduced the Drive Studio, a space in Atlanta that's part garage and part developer lair—the go-to destination, AT&T hopes, for working out connected car innovations. Last week, AT&T announced that Qualcomm, Red Bend Software and QuickPlay have signed on to participate in the studio.
Research firm visiongain, in a Feb. 17 report, said it expects the value of the connected car market to reach $25.2 billion this year.