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What: Pioneer CarPlay
Price: Not announced yet, think $1500.

Tech Talk verdict: Do you trust Apple?

Earlier this year Apple unveiled CarPlay, a system for integrating an iPhone into cars. And if you own an iPhone 5 it sounds great – you get all the functionality of your phone through your car’s entertainment system.

It consists of a car-specific control using the phone’s Siri voice control, and adds an interface to the car’s touch screen. When it’s up people with an iPhone 5 can use Siri to make and receive calls, compose and respond to text messages, use Apple Maps for navigation and listen to their music, podcasts and iTunes Radio. They won’t get games or other features thought to be distracting.

Hyundai, Honda, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Volvo are signed up for CarPlay and Apple is confident that BMW, Subaru, Toyota and Ford are on the way. Cars with CarPlay will start turning up towards the end of the year.

But Pioneer has announced three after-market in-car entertainment units coming that will bring CarPlay to any car earlier than this. Just get the Pioneer in the dash and there it is.

Neat? Let me tell you why I’m worried about CarPlay. Apple has a track record of changing everything, sometimes quite frequently. This is something that will be painfully obvious to you if you own an iPhone 4 which, surprise, is not compatible with CarPlay. It’s not just about a lightning connector versus the old 30-pin plug, it’s also about the operating system.

Maybe you’ve noticed that Apple does not seem to encourage its clients to hang onto their phones for terribly long. The thing is people keep their cars a lot longer than they keep their phones.

Pioneer has a long history and an excellent reputation in car audio. It makes good stuff. The weak link is Apple. What guarantee do purchasers have that the CarPlay hardware they’ve bought will be compatible with future iPhones?

Carplay bI asked the guy at Pioneer if his company had any undertakings from Apple regarding this. He replied that both Apple and Pioneer have a shared interest in delivering a seamless iPhone experience in the car. Ho hum.

So I asked again. Did Pioneer have an undertaking from Apple that the current version of CarPlay would be compatible with future iPhones? This time he replied that: “We can’t confirm anything on Apple’s behalf.”

So will CarPlay be compatible with the iPhone 6 coming out in a few months? “We cannot speak to future Apple implementation plans,” The Pioneer guy replied.

It’s fair to surmise, then, that if you buy a car fitted with CarPlay, or if you buy an after-market stereo fitted with it, you have no guarantee that it’s going to work either fully or even partially when you go through your next iPhone upgrade.

If it isn’t, you either keep your old phone or buy a new car. Or a new after-market stereo anyway.

Published May 2014


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