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Mobility innovation and the automobile

Are you sick of expiring GPS maps on slightly aged cars? If you’re a Dubai resident you definitely are, considering that roads change on a daily basis.  Also, how difficult is it for you as a driver to not chat on WhatsApp or check your social feed while driving? It’s a terrible and extremely dangerous habit yet most people still do it.

By definition, there is very little that is more mobile than a car. Yet when we speak about mobile, not everyone recognizes the added value a car would have if it were fully connected. Mobility is a conscious shift from thinking about mobile as a device, to thinking about a behavior and a lifestyle that is facilitated by a smartphone device instead. As the iOS-Android battle has officially begun in the automotive sector, all I can say is, “it’s about time!”

Apple CarPlay vs. Android Auto

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are expected to roll out in the US towards the end of 2014, and will likely take longer to hit the Middle East.

Before we start comparing the two, it is important to note that they are both purely designed to make the roads safer. When plugged in, the capabilities of the smartphone are reduced and optimized for the medium. From a user experience, they both are very focused on meeting what they call the ‘driver distraction guidelines’.  There are standards and regulations used by auto manufacturers internationally that have been developed over years of rigorous testing.  In essence, the dashboard task has to be simple enough to complete within two seconds.

What they both essentially do at the moment is phone control, access your contacts, music control, text message composition and playback. This is underwhelming when you think of all the functionalities of your smartphone. However, it is still a step in the right direction towards safer driving.  As more apps get auto certified, this evolution will become more applicable to the masses.

As typical of the DNA of each operating system, Apple CarPlay has locked down its platform, only allowing certain handpicked developers to extend it, while Google is actively encouraging any developer to extend their apps to work on Android Auto.  Android has released templates with limited customization for app developers, making comparable products look similar i.e. Spotify and Pandora. On a more positive note, this allows for applications to be released into the market more quickly. It also allows developers to be more efficient as they won’t have to work to adapt the app to the different screen sizes on all car models. On the other hand, Apple’s solution is far more flexible from a user interface perspective, but forces you to go through a more rigorous development and approval process. Sound familiar? Android is all about simplicity and getting it into the market quickly, while Apple is focused on bespoke quality products.

Apps available as of now for each platform are as follows:

Apple CarPlay: Siri Eyes Free, Beats Music, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, and Podcasts. (Notice the lack of Pandora and Google Maps.)

Google Auto: Google Maps, Google Play Music, MLB at Bat, Pandora Radio, Spotify, Songza, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Joyride and TuneIn

Could we be moving towards a world where Android and iOS are major deciding factors for which car you choose to buy? The good news is that there are a good number of auto manufacturers that are developing interfaces for both. I believe it’s just a matter of time until all cars will offer at least one option. App developers will no longer only have to worry about phone interfaces as the scale for mobility, as it continues to expand.

I personally look forward to this innovation, especially once it develops to its optimal potential. It might actually convince Dubai drivers to put down their phone while driving.