Apple has had its eyes on your car for a while, and on Monday it announced its latest plan: CarPlay. The system is basically a way to do things you’d normally do with your phone but through the dashboard of your car. Unless what you do on your phone is listen to Pandora and use Google Maps.
Apple’s insistence on keeping tight control of how people use its devices is well-known. And given that it is competing with Google’s Open Automotive Alliance, it’s not surprising that Apple wants people to use its own mapping service.
Apple Maps has improved since 2012, when the company installed it as the default mapping app on iOS devices (replacing Google Maps). At the time, the product’s flaws led to widespread mockery and an awkward apology from Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, in which he suggested using other mapping services. Google left Apple to suffer for months before rewriting its own iOS mapping app.
Apple Maps is no longer mockable, and given the data that drivers will produce as they move around town, the more drivers use it, the better it will get. Widespread use could also help Apple erase the advantage that Google gained when it bought crowdsourced traffic app Waze last year. “The obvious thing I’ll get is a lot more traffic information, which is one of the thing that Waze produced,” says Marc Prioleau, a consultant for mapping companies. Google, of course, is also well-positioned to gather more information to feed to its mapping system with its Android for the car system.
Pandora’s absence is harder to understand. Yes, it competes directly with Apple’s own Internet radio service, but CarPlay allows people to use Beats Music and Spotify, so it isn’t completely closed to collaboration. Pandora is the most popular music app in the iOS store, according to App Annie, which gathers information about app downloads. It also works directly with 25 automotive brands on dashboard services. Including it would have seemed like the price of entry for a service such as CarPlay.
Apple hasn’t responded to a request for comment. “At this time, Pandora is not integrated with Apple CarPlay,” says Ashley Hennings, a spokeswoman for Pandora, in an e-mail. “As a first mover in the auto space, we continue to broaden our relationships with OEMs while also exploring other opportunities to expand our presence in the car. Apple has been and continues to be a valued partner.”
When Apple rolled out AirPlay, which allowed people to watch mobile video on their televisions, a number of companies chose not to make their service compatible, largely because of concerns about digital rights. This wouldn’t seem to be a problem in this case, though. Pandora has said it sees cars as a major opportunity. Analysts seemed baffled. “I have to think that both parties have a huge interest in making it happen,” says Frank Gillet, an analyst at Forrester Research.