Apple’s CarPlay is born, but what about Google, the OAA and Samsung?

Media attention for the launch of Apple’s in-car smartphone integration standard CarPlay on Volvo, Ferrari, and Mercedes vehicles at the Geneva auto show is huge.  Announced as iOS in the Car in 2013, it emerged under the CarPlay name allowing calling, messaging, navigating, and listening to music on iPhones controlled via voice (Siri) or the car’s head unit touch screen. No word on third party automotive applications yet, except for audio apps such as Spotify and iHeartRadio. Nonetheless Apple enjoys huge support from the automotive industry (BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, JLR, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, PSA, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota next to the ones mentioned above).  

Despite Apple getting in the limelight with CarPlay, more relevant is what the Open Automotive Alliance will do. The OAA was announced at CES 2014 to develop an Android smartphone vehicle integration standard as well as facilitating the adoption of Android as an embedded automotive operating system.

At the same time the CCC’s MirrorLink made a big splash at MWC 2014 with MirrorLink 1.1 Developer Fast Track application certification in place, the first apps such as Glympse, Parkopedia , and Coyote having been made available and Honda, Toyota and VW showing implementations . PSA also announced MirrorLink support on the new 108 and C1. While support from the car industry is overwhelming, handset support is still limited to mainly Android phones from vendors such as Sony and recently HTC.

And what will Samsung do? Adopt whatever the OAA comes up with or – in their typical style – add some differentiating features on top? Samsung also supports MirrorLink on phones such as the Galaxy S3, so that might be another route.

Are we seeing a real in-vehicle smartphone integration war being unleashed? And why do we need that many standards? What the connected car industry needs most is less fragmentation, not more. Having a separate standard for each handset brand is missing the point entirely. Third party developers are looking for a common platform such as MirrorLink spanning the entire connected car industry. For the car OEMs it’s about having little choice other than supporting all possible standards, clearly showing where the power has shifted to. Once more, all eyes are on Google (and the OAA) to unlock the full potential of the connected car and automotive application ecosystem.