June 10, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Apple Gets Smarter, Safer About Music in the Car

ios for the carAt Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, senior vice president of internet software and services Eddy Cue revealed another item of interest for music fans: “iOS in the Car.”

This will allow you to see compatible apps on your car’s screen, as well as using integrated controls in the steering wheel. Obviously, this makes a lot of sense for mapping apps, but the implications for music apps are pretty significant too. Yay, no more fumbling with the iPhone while flying down the highway at 70 miles per hour!

Apple's icon for iOS in the Car (via Apple's webcast)

Actually, not so fast.

We’ll have to wait even longer for “iOS in the Car” one than for iTunes Radio, which will appear in iOS 7 this fall. Car manufacturers whose logos are included in the screengrab above (via Apple’s webcast) are slated to include iOS in the Car in 2014 in their new models, so this will take quite a while to roll out to most people.

Still, we have at least one reason to believe Eddy Cue when he says iOS in the Car will set a kind of standard, even if it takes a while: As of right now, he claims, 95 percent of new cars being sold can integrate with iOS already, even without iOS for the Car. Those typically use cables or Bluetooth combined with the iPhone’s screen and sometimes the car’s controls, and they don’t offer full control in all cars (including my 2011 hybrid).

Eventually, this much tighter integration between iOS and cars could help music apps present a bigger challenge to AM, FM, and satellite radio, which already have that level of integration with the screen and in-car controls (notably those steering wheel ones, which let you switch songs or playlists without even taking your hands off of the wheel).

IOS in the Car should also save lives without requiring people to use a ridiculously oversized interface. You’ll even be able to ask Siri to play certain albums or iTunes Radio stations, which means the whole ordeal should take just a single tap of a button and a few spoken words.

So, why hasn’t Google done this with Android? And will it be able to?

This slide from Apple CEO Tim Cook’s presentation earlier today, depicting the percentage of Android users that stick with their old operating system rather than upgrading to the latest version, demonstrates one potential roadblock:

ios android install base

In other words, even if Google figured out how to standardize “Android in the Car” across all of its vendors to the point that car manufacturers could reliably build for it, a third of all Android users would stick with the three-years-old version (assuming this trend continues), and wouldn’t be able to use it anyway.