SAN FRANCISCO — Apple steered its focus at this week's Worldwide Developers Conference on the newly minted operating systems it is planning to bring out in the fall, OS X Yosemite for the Mac and iOS 8 for iPads and iPhones. But the three vehicles parked on the second floor of the Moscone Center here—a stunning Ferrari, Chevy Spark, and a jazzed up 1965 Ford Mustang—served as very visible reminders that Apple also has designs on the highway.
The cars included demonstration units of CarPlay, the communications, entertainment and navigational in-car system Apple plans to make available to on select 2014 vehicles starting this summer, with after-market head-unit options from Pioneer and Alpine also in the works.
With your iPhone docked via USB to the CarPlay system, you'll see an in-dash display with iOS-style apps for your Phone, Maps (Apple's not Google's of course), Music, Messages and more, including such third-party solutions as MLB Radio. For now there are no potentially distracting games, not even quiz-type games in which you could presumably get away without touching the screen.
The icons and the way they're presented are like a larger representation of the phone display. The actual in-vehicle displays and how you control them will vary by car—touch-screen, buttons, knobs or some combination. You can also summon Siri to dial by voice, or to send, read, or reply to messages. Out of the gate, however, a user won't be able to rearrange how the icons are presented on the screen.
The music you play (songs, artists, playlists, etc.) comes from your own collection, stored locally on your iPhone or in the cloud. And of course Apple would want you to listen to iTunes Radio.
And while the CarPlay system communicates with your phone for all sorts of data points, it is relying on the car's own GPS to keep you on course, and not solely on the location-based smarts inside the phone.
Alas, during the demonstrations I was treated to at WWDC, the cars parked at Moscone never moved. But I plan to do a full review once I can take a car with CarPlay out on the road.
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