Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL ) CarPlay, or a version of iOS built to access the iPhone through Siri- and touch-enabled controls for functions like navigation, music, and messages, was first teased last summer at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. While Apple has showed off full-version demos of CarPlay since then, it has remained a question as to whether Apple would make CarPlay available to older vehicles through an after-market solution. But the wondering is over: Alpine is officially bringing to market a stand-alone console that supports CarPlay this fall, reports Japanese newspaper Nikkei.
An after-market option for CarPlay is important to Apple's success in this new, fast-growing market of vehicle smartphone software amid attempts from competitors to successfully enter the same space.
Alpine's after-market CarPlay solution
In early March, investors got a first look at the manufacturers Apple planned to rollout CarPlay to. Fortunately, the list was long. But now, with Alpine's after-market solution, Apple is making it possible for almost anyone to get access to CarPlay -- new vehicle or not.
While a slew of carmakers will soon start offering vehicles that come standard with a CarPlay interface built in, the Japanese company's device is to be the first aftermarket product compatible with the system. It will first be available in the U.S. and Europe and likely cost around $500 to $700.
Alpine's after-market CarPlay solution will connect to the iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s. The display will likely be seven inches and also use voice commands. The Alpine device will initially be available in the U.S. and Europe, according to Nikkei.
Why Apple needed an after-market solution
Though the battle for the car among software giants is fairly new, it's already heated. Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG ) (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) Android for vehicles, in particular, is bound to be a formidable competitor to CarPlay.
At the 2014 International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, Google announced its Open Automobile Alliance with a plan to bring Android to vehicles. Unlike Apple, Google doesn't plan for the onboard Android operating system to always require a phone to work. Not piggy-backing off of a phone, iPhone and Android users alike could get full access to Google's software in vehicles with it built in; this could be a good selling point for both manufacturers and consumers, while also making CarPlay less enticing.
With such a notable disadvantage to Google's customized version of Android for Vehicles in gaining mass adoption, Apple's willingness to let manufacturers build after-market solutions is welcoming news for Apple investors. Though I'd still like to see Apple eventually hand over enough control to vehicle manufacturers to let the cars themselves power CarPlay without requiring an iPhone, Apple's move to allow other brands to debut after-market solutions provides me with a little more confidence the tech giant will be willing to fight with some vigor in this important market.
Putting the icing on the cake, estimates from Yano Research Institute suggest that the after-market smartphone vehicle entertainment system market is growing fast. "Shipments of in-car entertainment systems that link to smartphones ... will leap roughly fivefold [between 2013 and 2018] to reach 14.75 million," Nikkei asserted, citing Yano Research Institute's projections. Given this expected growth, Apple's presence in the space is basically a necessity for the company to become a formidable player in vehicles.
Automotive peripheral company Clarion has also said that it plans to support CarPlay in after-market devices at some point in the future, according to MacRumors.
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