Your Car and the App Store

Nearly all new vehicles are arriving with a built-in operating system, they are either there in all their glory or ready to be turned on as specified by the manufacturer.

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And just as we have different options for computers, phones and TV’s you have similar options for your new vehicle. Those seemingly ever-growing screens need software to run and them and the car. With the arrival of electric cars, different onboard smarts are required.

Just as with phones there are two major camps, Apple and Android, each aligning with different car manufacturers. There are some other players in the game, and some of the major brands are trying their hand at making a go of automotive software.

Software and hardware companies have always struggled to make new technology easy to use, often missing what seems bleedingly apparent. Sony Bravia TVs and Android TV make a great combination. But why can’t I get the Chrome browser on it quickly, why are there so few apps and why in gods name didn’t it come with a purpose-built keyboard.

Along with the car operating system will come a range of mobile apps. Some will be approved while others will be provided by app developers looking to find a gap in the market and make just the right app. And as with the computer/mobile app market some will be great, and some will be awful.

One would expect some greater control over what 3rd party apps will be able to do when interacting with the onboard operating system. Having a vehicles operating system crashing no matter how benign would be off-putting.

Will your preferred operating system influence your new car choice?  If you’ve had Apple devices, got to know them, how they work, comfortable with the interface, you’re probably less likely to go with a car which required you to learn the quirks of the new operating system. And then on top of all that there’s the added nightmare that’s bound to surface as you try to mix and match apps and operating systems on different devices.

If you’ve got a not very smart car there are a range of devices and apps to make your car a little bit smarter. Navigation hardware and apps are now mature as are the new to NZ, dash cams. Apps that turn your phone into a more car-friendly device, which typically boils down to making the buttons more prominent, and if you’re feeling adventurous app/hardware combos that offer unlimited fun. Have a look at www.automatic.com and how it uses www.ifttt.com. If your vehicle is used for work, then there are all manner apps to track mileage, petrol usage etc. Then there’s onboard engine management.

So, where is all this heading? The last thing anyone wants is to struggle using tech in the home, tech while you're walking about, tech while you're in the car. Simplistically, I want to have a music move with me. I don’t want to set up my music depending on where I am. That’s the challenge automotive manufacturers, and more importantly, software developers need to think about. Hint. It’s about the phone.