In 2016, Apple Pay arrived in Spain. Only a single bank, Santander, which scored the goal of a year of exclusivity for a market as greedy as Apple’s early adopters. Other entities slipped that the conditions imposed by Apple were “unacceptable”, and some, like ING, insisted on their own platform, Twyp.
Not long after, all Spanish banks ended up integrating Apple Pay; and alternative proposals like Twyp passed away. The script of something that had happened in a similar way with Spanish telecoms in the early years of the iPhone was repeated: they were used to having control that Apple denied them completely. Take it or leave it. You sell my phone under my conditions or I offer it to Vodafone.
The car industry, with its singularities, is going to be the next to consider to what extent it is in their interest to accept that Apple and Google take control of what happens in their vehicles. And there will be a new dilemma: jump through hoops, or risk not doing it.
integrate or risk
Apple and Google, leaders of the mobile industry, have so far had mild forays into our cars. CarPlay and Android Auto are little more than a layer linked to our phone on the infotainment screen. Well-designed shortcuts to call, play music, listen to podcasts, or use Google Maps or Waze navigation.
However, the next stage will involve much deeper integration. The new CarPlay that Apple announced in 2022 was a perfect example: a platform designed to cover any screen that the car has, not just the infotainment one, and replace any native controls offered by the vehicle. Speedometer, rev counter, fuel gauge or remaining range, air conditioning… And customizable.
Something similar to what Android Automotive offers as an evolution of Android Auto: much more than entertainment. Announced in 2017, it didn’t start trickling in until 2021. In practice, these platforms are supposed to completely eclipse any visible vehicle software. Leave zero for the owner of the car. Bad business for that manufacturer.
Apple excitedly announced that this new CarPlay, which will begin to be available on select models from the end of 2023, already had 14 car manufacturers among its partners.
The inverse reading is the one that turns on the alarms: That is equivalent to saying that there are 50 manufacturers that support the current CarPlay that have not wanted, for the moment, to ensure its compatibility with the future version.
A few weeks ago General Motors, the motor giant that groups Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC among others, announced that it was going to stop offering support for CarPlay and Android Auto in its cars. Specifically, in the electric models planned to launch from 2024 onwards. In them they will focus on the Ultifi system, with which they promise constant wireless updates and a continuous improvement of the user experience.
The underlying strategic idea be able to differentiate yourself from your competitors in a context in which visible technology is gaining ground and attractiveness for the buyer, who no longer only looks at design, engine and qualities.
If instead of looking to the future we look to the past, we find a manufacturer that has been following this same strategy since its origins, without ever succumbing to compatibility with CarPlay or Android Auto, let alone the much more ambitious recent versions. That manufacturer is Tesla.
It is as true that nothing has gone wrong for him as that not everyone can be Tesla, but perhaps many embrace the idea that The last thing they want is to build a car body and leave the software in the hands of big tech.. The history of telecommunications and banking taught us that the established power does not always have the upper hand. Will the same thing happen with the car?
Denying the possibility of integrating into mobile is a risk of losing customers. Just what ended up making the banking sector reluctantly accept Apple’s conditions. And not only the conditions, but to remain in the background. Necessary, vital to the transaction, but secondary after all.
This is exactly what Telefónica also ended up doing in 2008, when it agreed to sell the iPhone exclusively for two years, assuming unimaginable conditions for someone used to being in control. Movistar sold the iPhone without printing its logo on the casing, without putting it in a animation when turning it on, without direct access to your WAP portal, without controlling your marketing… The fear of being left out of the options of his potential clients forced him to accept what was not wanted to be accepted.
We go back to the car. The manufacturers’ two options: integrate Apple and Google, and lose control and relevance; or compete with their own platforms and assume that there will be customers who will not want to know anything about cars without compatibility with these platforms.
And a frightening background scenario: that this arrival is the equivalent of a modern Trojan horse and feeds technology servers with data to reach the car market with its own brands… and with extremely valuable added information.
A complicated dilemma.
Featured Image | Prasad Panchakshari on Unsplash.
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