Open Road

How smartphone technology is improving your ownership experience

It is a good possibility that your life could get much easier if you have a Smart Phone and a vehicle that's less than 3 years old. What do you mean, you ask? An explanation is necessary.

For the past few years auto manufacturers have been adding more and more functionality to their vehicles' information systems. More specifically, they have been rushing to add smart phone compatibility through either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, or both (there are others, but these are the big players right now). The purpose of this is to give the consumer the ability to access automotive and entertainment functions through the use of an interface that he or she is already familiar with, their phone.

Five years ago manufacturers were still wading into this interface pond, even developing their own proprietary systems. Now the manufacturers seem to be coalescing around the idea that they can outsource the interfaces to Apple and Android, allowing for the consumer to have easy access to their own entertainment files and contacts, as long as the other vehicle driven functions can be controlled as well, such as climate control, remote start, tire pressure or oil change alerts, etc.

The result so far seems to be working. The systems have improved greatly in a short amount of time. Consumer Reports has been grading these systems for ease of usability as part of their overall checklist to determine a vehicle's rating. At one point Ford was given a less than stellar review for earlier versions of their own MyFord Touch, Sync, and mobile integration software. Ford quickly responded by updating the systems to be more user friendly, as well adding other capabilities.

The reality is that the improvements have been rolling out by most manufacturers quickly. In fact, the odds are great that the screen in the dash that has radio and climate control capability, also may have a lot of usability through the consumer's smart phone connection today. That's right! Today, not a few years down the road.

It is more than just your playlists that we are talking about. Accessibility in your car through your Apple or Android smart phone means your phone contacts can be instantly accessible when you plug in to your car. Also, depending on your infotainment system, you can even have the system read your text messages back to you. Furthermore, remember those days where a navigation system in your car meant that you had a box with CDs in the trunk. How about those days where you had to purchase an in-dash GPS system? Those days are getting closer to being gone because of smart phones! Just plug in the phone and use its navigation functions through your car.

As long as the user doesn't allow these functions to be distracting, the smart phone connection can make your life more efficient too. You don't have to pull over and type in a new location to drive to. Instead you can speak the address to your phone and it will look it up to display it for you on the vehicle's screen. That's a definite time saver. Also, you no longer need to wait for your car to heat up or cool down. It's a functionality more than likely available in the app on your phone! In the end, our addiction to our smart phones really is making life more efficient, at least when it comes to getting things accomplished in our vehicles.

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