Articles, Car-Electronics, Connected Car

Has Smartphone Connectivity Missed the Mark?

Technology is expected to make our lives easier, but that isn’t always the case. If deployed too quickly, a new idea – even the best idea – can become a thorn in the user’s side.

This is particularly apparent when examining smartphone integration in today’s automobiles. It all sounds pretty great on paper: connect your phone (Android or iOS) to a properly equipped vehicle and enjoy the benefits of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Apps that were once exclusive to phones and tablets can now be used inside the car.

The problem is that their inclusion, while useful in some areas, is nowhere near the quality consumers have come to expect from modern-day devices.

Hands Off

The first thing you’ll notice when stepping into a modern vehicle is that the touch screens are absolutely horrendous. Poor color saturation can be forgiven and low resolutions can be ignored, but when touching the screen you’ll expect it to respond flawlessly, just like a smartphone. It doesn’t. In fact, there will likely be times when you will simply use the vehicle’s buttons (when possible) to avoid the clunky and unreliable touch screen.

It’s a good thing CarPlay and Android Auto offer voice recognition options; without them, some consumers may be too annoyed to use either solution.

The touch screen is only part of the problem, however. Both connectivity options are layered in menus, forcing consumers to jump through hoops to select the simplest of things. And while CarPlay comes pre-loaded onto all of Apple’s current phones, Google Pixel owners will have to download the Android Auto app separately.

Benefits Among the Chaos

Despite the imperfections, in-car connectivity may provide a significant benefit to society, even if the features don’t work very well.

“The nature of human beings is that they have to have their device and they have to be able to look at it,” said Dillon Blake, senior director of business at Runzheimer, a mobile workforce and software solutions provider. “It’s hard to find people who will put their phone down. They have to see their texts and emails.”

Blake said that CarPlay and Android Auto “take away the distraction of looking at the device, trying to type on the device, all those pieces.”

“The issue is, some of the technology is not there yet,” he added, noting the difference between generations of SYNC, a connectivity solution in Ford vehicles. “SYNC 3 is intuitive, absolutely nothing like SYNC itself. They’re two very different experiences.”

Blake would like to see additional solutions that help consumers keep their eyes on the road. He mentioned the concept to read texts that pop up in front of the driver’s view, along with those that are read aloud so the driver does not have to look at anything. These features could help improve road safety, but they may also widen the divide between vehicles, as not all features will be applied to all makes and models simultaneously.

Unavoidable Distractions?

Connectivity may prove to be beneficial to those who use it properly. But what about consumers who are just as distracted by the car’s bells and whistles as they are the smartphones in their hands?

Phil Moser, VP of Advanced Driver Training Services, said this poses another danger but emphasized the difficulty in determining how many accidents can be attributed to distracted driving.

“People will not readily admit, ‘Oh yeah, I was trying to program my radio,’ or, ‘I was playing with my GPS,’” said Moser. “If you reconstruct a crash and you realize a person could have stopped but they kept accelerating, then you know they were distracted.”

About the author:

Louis Bedigian is an experienced journalist and contributor to various automotive trade publications. He is a dynamic writer, editor and communications specialist with expertise in the areas of journalism, promotional copy, PR, research and social networking.

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