Apple fans have waited more than two years for the CarPlay infotainment system to arrive. Now that the roll-out has finally begun, we can ask: has it been worth the wait?
According to some dealers, the answer is a resounding "yes". In fact, reports from the field suggest that CarPlay may be a big advantage for the brands that offer it.
CarPlay was introduced in June of 2013. Then called "iOS in the Car", consumers were told that very soon, their cars would do more than just pair with their iPhones, the touchscreens on their dashboards would actually mimic the look of Apple's mobile operating system.
The months came and went. iOS in the Car was given a snappier new portmanteau, "CarPlay", but that was all we knew. By April of this year, the software was only available on two very expensive models from Ferrari, despite promises that it would appear on a range of vehicles in early 2014.
More worrisome -- at least for automakers -- was J.D. Power's latest Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience Report. The 2015 study was issued in August and suggested that new-car buyers weren't interested in CarPlay or its Android equivalent, Android Auto. (Though to be fair, it's debatable how many of those Power surveyed actually knew what they were dissing, since the system still wasn't widely known.)
But despite delays from Apple and Power's daunting data, General Motors said "Damn the torpedoes!" and charged full steam ahead into the CarPlay arena. The system is now available on over two dozen Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC models, including the Buick Regal; the Cadillac ATS; the Chevrolet Camaro, Corvette, Silverado, and Suburban; and the GMC Sierra and Yukon.
And GM's gamble may be paying off. According to the Wall Street Journal, some dealers insist that CarPlay is a huge selling point. In fact, they believe it's making the difference between winning and losing sales.
Some say that it's because iPhone users like the idea of having a familiar interface on the center screen. Others point out that CarPlay combines a range of benefits in one package, making them more affordable than purchasing navigation, voice-to-text, and other upgrades individually.
Because auto sales are surging at the moment, it won't be possible to confirm claims about CarPlay's impact on GM for several months. After all, if cars from every automaker are selling, it'll be hard to give CarPlay credit. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that, at the very least, it's not hurting.
Which makes us wonder: if CarPlay becomes the must-have accessory on new cars, how long until Toyota gives up on its own, proprietary infotainment system and joins the Apple party?