Apple's CarPlay will be available to more drivers this summer, thanks to two deals with aftermarket companies Pioneer and Alpine.
Apple introduced CarPlay March 3, and Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo have committed to including the in-dash software in new vehicles arriving this summer.
BMW Group, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia Motors, Mitsubishi, Nissan, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota have expressed support, and agreed to include the software in vehicles eventually.
For those not content to wait that long, or who would like to add CarPlay to older vehicles, the upcoming in-dash multimedia systems from Pioneer and Alpine will enable iPhone owners to add CarPlay themselves.
"For more than a decade, we have worked with Apple to produce products that integrate their technology into our car entertainment and information products," Hirofumi Morioka, Alpine senior director and CTO, said in a statement. "Our new CarPlay-enabled products represent the next step in providing users a seamless iPhone experience in the vehicle."
While Alpine plans to announce model numbers and pricing at the time of launch, Pioneer says "CarPlay compatibility will be available in early summer 2014 via a firmware update" to five of its NEX in-dash multimedia receivers.
Pricing starts at $700 (for an AVH-4000NEX) and tops out at $1,400 (for an AVID-8000NEX). The receivers are available at Best Buy, Crutchfield, Car Toys and other retailers.
CarPlay duplicates much of what automakers are already putting into vehicles—navigation, music, voice activation—but does it in a way that most will agree (iPhone users, certainly) is more appealing to interact with and easier to use.
Importantly, it doesn't duplicate the iPhone experience but offers a simpler, less distracting version for drivers.
To use CarPlay, a driver just needs to plug in her iPhone when she gets in the car, though the overall experience will vary by car maker. Mercedes, for example, treats CarPlay like any other app offered by its vehicles and ties CarPlay's use to its knob-based controls. Volvo has instead more naturally integrated the software and allows users to interact with it via the car's touch screen—a natural approach for drivers already comfortable with the iPhone interface—in addition to voice.
It's the voice element, tied to an improved version of Siri, specially designed to work with driving scenarios, that should do the most to improve the driving experience.
With eyes up and hands at 2 and 10 (as driver's education instructs), drivers can tell Siri what they'd like to listen to—CarPlay can pull up the music on a phone, and it also supports podcasts, Beats Music, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Stitcher, with more apps to come. Drivers can also ask Siri to place calls; play voicemails; send, read or reply to text messages; and ask for directions.
Automakers, along with their wireless carrier partners, intend to keep cars agnostic—they have no desire to alienate drivers who favor one mobile operating system or carrier over another. But as smartphone makers work to grow their ecosystems (smartwatches, smartglasses, smart lightbulbs) in order to solidify loyalty, to whatever degree possible, expect to see more of them vying for attention from the driver's seat.