Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are about to explode

mark ramsey author logoGuest columnist Mark Ramsey is a media strategist, research analyst, author, and producer of the annual Hivio audio future festival. This article was originally published on his Mark Ramsey Media website.

I have written a lot about the coming transformation of the auto dashboard and my belief that, in the long run, it will be the domain of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – that these platforms will squeeze out most alternatives.

Why? Because consumers will exert their will on automakers and demand that their dashboards are not only as powerful as their smartphones but that they are identical to them (at least within the constraints of driver safety, a sacrifice any driver understands even if he doesn’t respect it).

This will become even more true when cars self-drive and the passengers are left to self-entertain, using their eyes as well as their ears.

Now USA Today reports that Android Auto is coming to more than 100 car models in 2017:

The auto industry is racing to keep up with the growing demand. Less than a year ago, fewer than 50 vehicles were offering one or both, or were scheduled to. For the 2017 model year, the list has grown to more than 100, and more announcements are expected in the coming months. General Motors now offers both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on 30 models. Ford wasn’t even on the list a year ago, but for the 2017 model year it becomes the first full-line vehicle manufacturer to offer Android Auto and CarPlay on every vehicle line it sells, including its luxury Lincoln brand.

Toyota is one of the lone holdouts, and as a user of their latest and greatest proprietary system, I can tell you if they don’t wake up and smell the coffee I, for one, will never buy another Toyota again.

This transformation, I believe, is inevitable. And the consequences for folks in the radio space are unchanged from what I have argued previously:

Folks who want to use the radio in their mobile devices (a.k.a. “cars”) will continue to have access to radio. Nobody seems to be talking about stripping good, old-fashioned radios from new cars (except in a few cases for AM radio only). And why would they? It’s still the easiest, safest, most desirable and familiar entertainment platform for the vast majority of consumers on the road.

But change is in the wind.

And as the dashboard UX becomes as easy, familiar, and powerful as the mobile phone UX (which is precisely the intent of Carplay and Android Auto), behavior will gradually and inexorably transition to those platforms and the device which drives them: The smartphone in your pocket.

So that means the future will not belong to mobile phones jerry-rigged to receive radio on FM chips (sorry, NextRadio), nor will it simply belong to radio brands which exist on all platforms (streaming, on-demand, apps, FM, etc.), and it will certainly not belong to brands which assume that old “radio dial” habits will never die, because old habits die all the time (Fax me if you want proof).

No, the future will belong to brands which are unique and compelling and demand to be listened to, watched, or otherwise experienced.

Brands which are “pull” rather than “push.”

Brands which motivate habits rather than depend on them.

Be that kind of brand. And the auto passengers of tomorrow will go out of their way to find you.

Brad Hill


  1. The article doesn’t mention cost. We learned a lot with satellite radio. While lots of cars have the ability to receive satellite, less than 10% actually activate the service. It’s very likely that the Apple and Android dashboards will have a monthly fee, in addition to installation, and that will limit the amount of participation beyond the geeks.

    • Not sure what you mean by a monthly fee. I haven’t heard of that. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are in many dozens of car models right now. It’s not remotely like Sirius XM, which is a completely different business. These Android and Apple dashboard systems simply translate the phone app to the dashboard, using the phone’s internet connection.

      • Both Apple and Google are moving away from free streaming to subscription. So if the car system is an extension of the phone apps, there will likely be a monthly fee involved. Maybe not at first, but that’s where all music distribution is evolving. And the pricing may have to adjust upward as usage increases, since that’s the way the royalty payment is based.

        • A friend of mine has Android Auto on her car. The aim of Android Auto is to extend the functionality of an Android mobile device in an automobile to the dashboard’s head unit. In order to use the system, users must be running Lollipop on their mobile device and must own a vehicle supporting Android Auto. The driver’s Android device connects to the vehicle via USB cable. Rather than running its own operating system, the head unit will serve as an external display for the Android device, which runs all of the software, by presenting a car-specific user interface built into Lollipop.

          Several functions are supported:
          GPS mapping/navigation
          Music control
          SMS composition and playback
          Web search

          In other words, it’s not just about streaming.

        • I get your point, but your comment is about music services generally, not particularly about in-car listening. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are just alternate interfaces for the phone. There are many streaming services besides Apple Music and Google Play.

  2. If I ever get a new car any time soon and it includes Android Auto, it looks like I would have to get a new phone. My phone’s Android is less than the required 5.0.

  3. I just bought a car to replace a Toyota and didn’t even look at Toyota again due to no Android Auto. It is a must have as far as I am concerned. By the way, I love using Android Auto.

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