Google Maps Navigation app for Android 2.0 phones
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
From where we sit, the findings from these two studies seem pretty clear.
For starters, the smartphone isn't going away. Yes, it may change its shape -- in time, it may take the form of a wristwatch or a pair of contacts. But the preference for carrying some kind of computer, some kind of interface where personal information can be accessed on the fly, isn't likely to change.
It's equally clear that automakers have done a poor job in making their products easy to use. Admittedly, they have a big burden to bear: unlike smartphones, which rely heavily on apps and other software, in-dash systems have to control a range of things, including mechanical functions like air-conditioning. Of necessity, they're going to be somewhat bigger and bulkier.
Also in the defense of automakers: the way that people interact with their phones is different from the way they interact with their dashboards. More often than not, when we use our phones, we're able to pause what we're doing and give the phone interface our full attention. Interacting with an in-dash navigation system, when you're barreling down the highway at 70 mph, is a very, very different thing.
Still, automakers aren't doing themselves any favors by cranking out complicated in-dash systems when many drivers would simply prefer a screen that can mirror the smartphone screen they already know and love (with a few extra buttons for A/C and such).
Today's tech trends were summed up by Henry David Thoreau well over 100 years ago: "Simplify, simplify, simplify". Think of the switch from Flash to HTML 5, the jump from gangly browsers like Internet Explorer to those like Chrome, or the move from locally based programs and media to data that lives in the cloud and is accessible anywhere. If automakers aren't willing to follow that path, they may be forced off the road.