Remember the days when an 8-track player in your car, or multi-disc changer (for the millennials), was the best thing since sliced bread? Today, if your car doesn't have an auxiliary port or Bluetooth capability it would be considered prehistoric. As smartphones have become more of a standard, a simple connecting cable doesn't quite cut it anymore. Infotainment systems (information and entertainment) are the new auto industry standard.
The bottom line is that cars supporting music entertainment needs, as well as readily available information through smartphone integration is essential for many vehicle shoppers. Unfortunately, choosing a vehicle with the perfect infotainment system is more complicated than it was with previous entertainment systems.
In a growing industry of advanced technology, shoppers must thoroughly research each vehicle with the criteria that's important to them. For those in-market to purchase a new vehicle, who consider an infotainment system a high priority, here are descriptions of a few different infotainment systems on the market that will help make your decisions slightly easier.
Apple CarPlay for the Apple Fanatics
If you're an Apple fanatic that couldn't imagine owning any other smartphone than the iPhone, then this is the infotainment system for you. Like many other infotainment or entertainment systems, you simply plug in your iPhone using the Apple charger to sync key iPhone functions with your car's entertainment/infotainment system.
Apple CarPlay uses iOS software, a familiar operating system to Apple users, that supports a number of your applications. Users have the ability to access many iPhone functions such as phone calls, messaging, Apple Maps, music, and a selection of apps that all can be navigated with Siri voice control or knobs, buttons and a touchscreen. CarPlay also takes safety measures by blocking access to the more distracting apps.
Apple Carplay is finally starting to see the light of day, besides its first release in the Ferrari FF. It is now available on a few 2016 models such as the Honda Accord EX and up, VW Golf R, and the Chevy Corvette Z06. There are many other manufacturers who have committed to supporting CarPlay in their 2016 models when released. There are also some companies, including Alpine, Kenwood, and Pioneer that offer Apple CarPlay as an aftermarket system.
Check out Apple's CarPlay product page for their current list of OEM partners, among many other details about CarPlay.
Android Auto for the Android/Google Lovers
The Apple vs. Android battle carries over to the auto industry with Google's infotainment system "Android Auto" also joining the infotainment competition. For those of you who have chosen to take the Android path, perhaps this is the best infotainment system for you. Android offers many similar functions as Apple CarPlay, such as voice, Google Maps, music, messaging and various other applications.
Like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto also uses the same operating system as their phones and tablets (version 5.0 "Lollipop" and later) for a simple user experience. Applications and phone functions can be accessed through voice, touchscreen and steering wheel controls.
There is quite a bit of overlap in vehicle manufacturers that will offer both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in the near future. The 2015 Hyundai Sonta is the first vehicle model to hit dealer lots with Android Auto installed. And now the 2016 Honda Accord is available with Android Auto in addition to CarPlay. Pioneer also offers Android Auto as an aftermarket system, as well as Apple CarPlay.
See the full list of supporting OEM partners that will be joining Hyundai hopefully sooner than later on the Android Auto page.
Other Infotainment Systems for the Impartial Smartphone Users
If you wouldn't consider yourself loyal to either brand and could see yourself switching back and forth between smartphone makes, it wouldn't be the best idea to purchase your next vehicle with a brand exclusive infotainment system like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Many manufacturers have their own infotainment systems that are compatible with multiple smartphone operating systems. Here's a list of OEM infotainment systems worth checking out:
Infotainment systems are just a piece of the vehicle shopping puzzle
Vehicle technology has expanded far beyond infotainment systems and choosing that perfect vehicle can take some time. Fortunately, there are many resources on the internet to conduct the bulk of your research. Believe it or not, many consumers are able to complete the full shopping process online from research to purchase.
DataOne has built out a vehicle shopping software and web service called "PerfectFit" that allows shoppers to sort vehicle listings based on specific criteria, significantly more advanced than year, make, model, and price range filtering. Vehicles are recommended for comparing and contrasting based on a number of sort options, including body style and price range as well as your preferences for fuel economy, performance, safety, luxury, and technology.
Please share with us in the comments section below which criteria is most important to you when shopping for your next vehicle. We are always looking to improve our products based on potential users!