“iOS in the Car” Looks to Be Just That And Not Much More

Apple will be creating a version of iOS for cars. There are few details, but Apple did show a few screenshots.

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I worry that this continues a trend of merely cramming a mobile or embedded operating system into cars. Cars are mobile, yes, but they are so much more.  Your dashboard and the overall driving experience deserves  thoughtful design considerations. Just as traditional desktop or web experience doesn’t translate to phones, so driving requires different and innovative design.

As you would expect, one thing that iOS does well is to reduce the number of features that are crammed into car information displays.  There’s no way to know the full list of features, but here’s what’s been announced and reported so far:

  • Hands-free navigation, SMS, and Music (Siri)
  • Turn-by-turn GPS navigation and maps
  • Integration between iPhone and in-car system
  • Email and SMS (iMessage)
  • iTunes Radio

Presumably, the system will use the same navigation and maps software as the iPhone. And yeah, this software still sucks, even while driving on the freeway near Cupertino.

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Apple did hint that the system will know when the driver is coming or going from home. Is Apple designing an experience similar to Google Now, which provides information based upon locational context? That might be a step in the right direction.

The preview of iOS in the Car looks far from complete, so I’ll look forward to seeing the final product when it rolls out in 2014. Apple reportedly has deals in place with Honda, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Ferrari, Chevy, Infiniti, Kia, Hyundai, Volvo, Acura, Opel, and Jaguar.

Unlike the unveiling of the iPhone and iPad which made people exclaim “The Future is Here and it is Real”, last week’s demo just looked like a set of Photoshop mockups (that didn’t match the iOS 7 look and feel). Maybe I’ll just velcro and  iPad Mini over the FM radio of my car.

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As Wired’s Autopia blog has pointed out, the timing of Siri Eyes Free is quite unfortunate. Automakers are reluctant to Siri and  recent Texas A&M studies found that voice-activated SMS is no safer than texting by hand.

To be fair, a considerable part of the design problem for Apple is that they don’t have control of the full car experience and hardware. Any software company must deal with vehicle manufacturers and their philistine approach to digital users.  OK, many auto makers are starting to reform, but this just means that they will be creating connected car and infotainment system to rival Apple’s product.

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6 thoughts on ““iOS in the Car” Looks to Be Just That And Not Much More

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