Here we go again… GM killing CarPlay and Android Auto

I wrote this post in April of 2023, but didn’t publish it until now.

My advice to readers: invest in companies that make cell phone mounts for cars.

Does anyone still remember CUE, other than those still suffering with it?

79% of U.S. car buyers today, from polls, say they will not buy a new car that does not have CarPlay.

There are some fundamental disconnects here in GM’s universe. It’s one thing to want to turn us all into a revenue stream. Or follow Tesla and Rivian. However… all of these companies have largely missed the whole reason we want CarPlay and Android Auto. It doesn’t matter how good the infotainment interface is in the car. I’ll ignore the fact that most of them are downright awful. Let’s assume GM somehow comes up with a fantastic HMI.

The fundamental problem: what we, as consumers, want…

Your typical U.S. car owner carries most of their life in their pocket. It’s called a smartphone. It’s with them 16 or more hours per day. It stores piles of entertainment (music, movies, etc.). It stores all of their contact information. Their email. Their text messages. Their huge photo collection. Their digital wallet (credit cards, driver’s license in some states). It has great navigation software from multiple vendors. It has voice assistance that actually works. Oh, it can also be used to place phone calls. If it’s an Apple device, it gets updated very regularly (without a subscription fee). And most of us buy a new smartphone more frequently than we buy a new car. Meaning we don’t just get new software, we get new hardware. Way more frequently than we expect an automobile to be recycled. And… my coworker gets in my car, or I get in a rental car, or my mom borrows my truck… pair a phone (once), go. This universality has been one of the key reasons consumers have loved CarPlay and Android Auto.

It makes absolutely no business sense to cut off Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We spend how much time in our cars? Maybe an hour a day on average? Versus how much time with our smartphones? 16 hours? More?

I’m all for GM and others improving their HMI, especially for infotainment since it’s been pretty much atrocious forever. But you’re NEVER going to compete with a smartphone I carry with me all day every day. Unless you decide to build a smartphone. It’s not at all about, “I like this interface more.”. It’s “My whole life is on this one device, please let it connect to the infotainment system in my car in an easy-to-use meaningful way. I don’t want a disparate collection of devices for phone calls, meetings, navigation and voice assistants. I want other things to work with this one device that is always with me.”

I’m old. So I can’t speak for the current generation. But what little I know, and from what I see in surveys… today’s 16 year old has WAY less interest in cars or driving than those of my generation. Whether that’s good or bad doesn’t matter. It’s just a business reality. And blocking our far-and-away primary computing devices is a bad business decision. GM, read the surveys instead of putting your head in the sand. This isn’t an either/or thing. For most of us, it will never be the case that we spend enough time in our cars to come even close to the amount of time we spend with the devices we carry 7×24. I’m all for better systems in our cars. But we live in a networked world and if you’re deciding to eliminate what has been a desired connection by 80% of buyers (and in fact a required checkbox when shopping), that’s what I call Ostrich Syndrome. Otherwise known as willful ignorance.

If GM follows through with this, for me it means I’ll be shopping elsewhere. And I’ve had a GM vehicle as my daily commuter for a long time. And I get a discount. None of these things will make me buy a vehicle without CarPlay. And I’m FAR from alone.

Funny conspiracy theory: since GM says it’s going to keep shipping ICE automobiles with CarPlay, is GM trying to kill their EV business and just ride ICE ’til it’s dead?

The other funny part… most of us use our vehicles to get from point A to point B. They lost their cultural significance about 40 years ago. Many of us begrudgingly spend time in them. Sure, luxury vehicles are nice. But nearly none of us ever sit in our car if we can sit outdoors or in our homes. Remember drive-in movie theaters? Gone a long time ago. Sitting in your car to eat at an old school A&W? Pretty much gone a long time ago. Driving up and down Woodward Avenue as the nightly entertainment? Gone. Going out for a drive just for a drive? Mostly gone. And of course the elephant in the room: the person spending the most time in a given vehicle is the driver. Guess what? They’re supposed to be driving. Preferably not distracted. When we get to Level 5 autonomous vehicles… hell yeah, give me a giant 21:9 screen (or 4!) and a recliner! But I honestly don’t see that happening in my lifetime in the U.S.

So until that day arrives, if I’m in my vehicle, I’m driving it. A vehicle has essentially zero chance of entertaining me beyond audio and navigation. I’ll place my phone calls via the device in my pocket, for which I’m already paying monthly communication fees. And most of the time I won’t be using it for calls while driving.

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