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Volkswagen Gets Serious About Smartphone Integration With The iBeetle

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Many of us have experienced bugs in our iPhones, but the new iBeetle from Volkswagen aims to turn the tables by putting the iPhone in a Bug. 

At this month's Shanghai Auto Show, Volkswagen will unveil the iBeetle, a special edition of the popular VW Beetle. The car's design will echo the monochromatic look of the iPhone with five color options: "Candy White", "Oryx White Mother of Pearl Effect", "Black Monochrome”, "Deep Black Pearl Effect", "Platinum Grey", and "Reflex Silver".

The minimalism continues with the iBeetle's "Galvano Gray" 18" allow wheels; black sill plates along the doors emblazoned with the iBeetle logo; and more iBeetle logos just below the A-pillar. The iBeetle will come in coupe and cabriolet variants. 

But of course, the iBeetle's raison d'etre is the iPhone, which sits at the center of the driving experience. (That's something we've advocated for a while.)

The iPhone integration is facilitated by a new docking station positioned above the center stack. Snap in your handset, crack open Volkswagen's new app (clumsily dubbed "Volkswagen Car Net The Beetle"), and you'll not only be able to use your phone for calls, music, navigation and other conventional functions, but you can also take advantage of new features, including:

  • "Trainer", which acts as an onboard driving coach, offering data on fuel economy and possible travel routes. If you like some of the tips offered by Trainer, you can even post them to Facebook and Twitter.
  • "Reader", which will recite text messages and even recent posts from your Facebook friends.
  • "Postcard", which snaps photos of your surroundings, then emails them to your pals.
  • "Photo", which takes a pic of your car's interior (and presumably your wacky friends in the backseat), then forwards it to your social networks.
  • "Spotify", which, as you might guess, streams your own playlists or helps you discover new tunes using the popular music service.

We haven't seen the iBeetle up close yet, but based on the information that Volkswagen has provided, it appears that the iBeetle dock will only be compatible with the iPhone 5's "Lightning" connector, not the 30-pin connector found on previous versions of the device. The dock might be able to accommodate an adapter, though there's no mention of that yet.

Like the functionality of the iBeetle but hanker for a few more color options? No problem: the iPhone docking station will also come as an option on garden-variety Beetles beginning this fall -- and oddly, it appears that the non-iBeetle dock will accommodate older iPhone models like the 4 and 4s. The "Volkswagen Car Net The Beetle" app will debut around the same time and work on the full range of iOS handsets.

There's no word yet on pricing for the docking station option on the Beetle -- much less for the complete iBeetle and iBeetle Cabriolet. Expect to hear more about that later this summer.

Is this the greatest mashup since a certain Luke Skywalker wannabe got his chocolate in a pseudo-C3PO's peanut butter? Or does it leave you saying "Meh"? Apple, Android, Blackberry, Windows, and feature-phone fans, sound off in the comments below.

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