Apple on Monday officially introduced its CarPlay option, which will allow drivers to seamlessly integrate iOS devices into the dashboards of new cars in a more robust way than ever before. Typically, you might think of Apple, Google and BlackBerry as competitors in the mobile space, but the war is about to move to automobiles, too. Apple's CarPlay option joins QNX, the offering from BlackBerry that's already available, Microsoft's Windows Embedded Automotive platform, and Google's Open Automotive Alliance (OAA), which will outfit cars with Android support later this year.
I spent some time thinking about who will win the war earlier this morning, and while it's obviously too early to tell, I figured I'd put some of my thoughts down in writing. According to The Register, QNX already has upwards of a 70 percent share of the connected dashboard space – that's a respectable figure, but one that will likely drop off as Android and iOS users move to systems that offer features which are more familiar to what they already use on their phones.
Apple and Google already have a lot of automakers on board to support their systems. Apple's partners include Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundia, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, PSA Peugeot, Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota. Meanwhile, Google's Open Automotive Alliance is supported by Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai in addition to companies in the tech space such as NVIDIA. As you can see from the list above, you'll likely have your choice of system from each auto-maker, which means we should probably take a look at the U.S. mobile market share to see which ones will garner the most attention among consumers.
Android still has the largest market share in the United States, with a 51.5 percent grip on the market according to recent figures from comScore that provided a glimpse at the market during the three-month period ended in December. iOS has a 41.8 percent market share, which increased slightly from the three-month period ended in September. All things considered, the two operating systems are pretty even, which seems to suggest that there's going to be a relatively equal number of people interested in CarPlay as there will be for consumers who are interested in Google's option. In other words, existing Android users may follow to connected cars offered through the Open Automotive Alliance, while iOS users will flock to the other options.
What we don't yet know – and will be another important factor – is cost, and who is more likely to upgrade their cars to these systems. After all, iOS and Android devices already offer great navigation options. You don't need to have either connected to your car for directions, music playback, and more – but the option will provide a more driver-friendly experience. But, it might be safe to say that folks with deeper pockets will be more likely to splurge – and we can look at Android vs. iOS income levels to find out which OS may win in that regard.
According to a report published by Pew Research Center in June, 40 percent of smartphone owners with household income above $75,000 per year own an iOS device, while 31 percent of consumers in that bracket own an Android smartphone. Meanwhile, 13 percent with income below $30,000 per year own an iOS device while 28 percent own an Android smartphone. That data suggests that more affluent people use iOS.
Since these in-car systems aren't going to come free and will likely require paid in-car upgrades, our best guess is that more affluent buyers are going to opt for the upgrades, which points to a larger figure of iOS users doing so. One also has to consider the full cost of the car, though. If more affluent buyers are buying more luxurious cars they may not want to spend any more on an upgrade, while there may be more wiggle room if a user were to buy a more affordable car and choose for an add-on. In other words, the total cost of a Honda with CarPlay could come in at a lower price than a Mercedez-Benz without CarPlay.
I think that, due to the larger selection of automakers who support CarPlay, the competitive share of iOS users vs. Android users in the United States, and data that suggests iOS users are more affluent in general than Android users, one can draw conclusions that suggest CarPlay may be more successful than competitors from the get-go.
As I warned earlier, however, it's going to come down to cost. If automakers, Google or Apple offer incentives to upgrade the in-car experience, then the game changes, and I think that's one way any of these companies can steer the war in their favor. We'll have a better idea later this year as automakers finally start to launch cars with both systems in place.
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