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iOS in the Car: Apple Maps, Siri and more in your center console

By Evan Wade / July 9, 2013



In a world where you can take a call, read the paper and turn off your sprinklers with the same device, an interactive digital assistant for your car no longer seems that far-fetched. With Apple’s iOS in the Car, a planned feature for iOS 7 that puts Siri and Apple Maps in your vehicle, you may never have to pull over to send a text or reprogram your GPS again.

Built for integration

Like Apple TV, iOS in the Car piggybacks off existing hardware (in this case, a car’s center console) to get the job done. Common tasks like calling, listening to messages and searching for directions are as easy as pressing a button on the steering wheel and giving a command, while relevant visual information like Apple Maps appears on the car’s dashboard display. Select cars would even have built-in connectors made for Apple devices — and possibly AirPlay compatibility — meaning no more tangled auxiliary cords or confusing Bluetooth sync instructions.

A consistent experience

Apple stuff works well with other Apple stuff, something automakers can capitalize on. By interacting with many of them from the get-go, Tim Cook and company will give iOS users a first-party experience on third-party hardware. Just imagine having a dedicated, all-knowing co-pilot anywhere you have data service. A Siri-enabled car could, for instance, direct you to a stored contact’s address or help you navigate your music library with a single spoken prompt. From a safety and convenience standpoint — not to mention the whole not-getting-a-ticket thing — it’s much safer than fiddling with your phone while you drive.

Competing for screens

A successful launch would give Apple an undeniable advantage over Google when it comes to the smartphone/car interface. While some Android devices feature Car Home, a Google app that optimizes home screens for driving, it’s far from the universal solution iOS in the Car represents. Compatible Android devices require an extra car mount to use safely, whereas Apple’s solution features the above-mentioned dock and screen mirroring on the center console. Until Google comes out with a similar product (perhaps in one of its self-driving cars), there’s no comparison.

Two programs, same focus

Eyes Free, another Apple solution for cars, offers a trimmed-down driving experience for those in need of quick information or hands-free phone manipulation. Instead of your dashboard monitor, Siri is the star of the show here. Pressing the voice command button on a compatible car’s steering wheel will bring Apple’s famed digital assistant front-and-center, helping users with tasks and directions alike with nary a finger touching a screen. While iOS in the Car will offer deeper integration with the cars that carry it — it’s the only service to show Apple Maps and downloaded movies on a car’s dashboard display — most anyone who’s used a Bluetooth puck knows how helpful hands-free support can be.

An unfinished product

It’ll be a while before the public can take iOS in the Car for a test drive. It was recently reported the technology will need some tweaking and could potentially be delayed until changes are made, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: early versions of Apple Maps, for instance, were bad enough to cause a huge uproar online.

Adopters and avoiders

Not everyone is so keen on iOS in the Car. A recent article notes that, although 14 manufacturers have agreed to implement the service, others may think their existing interfaces are best suited for the cars they make. BMW has gone on record to say integrating any Apple would potentially result in significant changes to a car’s existing architecture.

In these instances, the above-mentioned Eyes Free may work well for those manufacturers unwilling or unable to bring iOS in the Car onboard. Though adding a Siri button would still require some modification, the changes would be minimal in comparison, giving users a genuine Apple experience with countless practical applications on the road.

Whatever happens, Apple wants its customers fully invested in their ecosystem and the automobile is a perfect next step for device integration. Rest assured, when iOS in the Car arrives, that universal mount suctioned to your dashboard will look like a stone-age tool.