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Survival of the fittest: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto vs. all other in-car apps

Will stereo manufacturers give up putting their stamp on your stereo's interface?

Android & Airplay

The Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™ platforms for in-dash app integration have both been enthusiastically received since their rollouts a couple of years ago. And since the smartphone market continues to be dominated by iPhone and Android handsets, some aftermarket stereo manufacturers are including compatibility with both platforms. However, the rapid rise of these two major platforms makes us wonder about the future of app and platform development from major aftermarket players like Sony, Pioneer, and others.

Across the past decade or so, nearly every stereo manufacturer has spent considerable time, money, and effort developing their own unique way of integrating smartphone apps through their touchscreen stereos. Some of these platforms have cool features or partnerships with content providers like Aha Radio and iHeartRadio In most cases, using the platforms also requires buying additional adapters or cables to get full functionality, not to mention a smartphone app (or several apps) download (typically free, but with some in-app purchases for features like navigation).

Apple and Android make stiff competition

So the big question is this: With Android Auto and Apple CarPlay surging in both factory and aftermarket adoption, is there still an audience for services like Clarion Smart Access, Alpine Connect, Kenwood Route Collector, Pioneer AppRadio, or JVC AppLink? Can these manufacturers afford to continue to invest in proprietary tech even as they license from Apple and Google? Or will they eventually fade into memory as the two main platforms go mainstream and eventually wireless?

Meanwhile, some aftermarket apps seem to be thriving. Alpine’s TuneIt app lets Alpine stereo owners go deep with audio settings through their device. And Sony’s SongPal app provides a streamlined way to move between audio sources through the phone, and it works in the home as well as the car. They've certainly found niche use, but are they strong enough to justify the investment in development and maintenance?

What do you think? Does it matter what the unique app integration feature or interface of your stereo does? Or is Apple CarPlay or Android Auto all you need?

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