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Toyota, Ford Get High Marks for Vehicle App Integration with Smartphones

27 October 2011

Toyota and Ford lead the worldwide automotive business when it comes to successfully integrating their car infotainment systems with mobile devices like smartphones, according to an IHS iSuppli Automotive Research report from information and analysis provider IHS.

A study of ?ve production-ready applications for vehicles in the model years 2011 and 2012 showed that both the Toyota Entune and Ford Sync AppLink apps achieved industry-leading performance on at least four criteria, including content variety, level of integration, daily relevance and implementation. Also doing well on some performance metrics in the evaluation were the BMW/Mini Connected, GM My Link/IntelliLink and Hyundai Blue Link. The Table below shows how the various applications ranked across the ?ve categories, as well as their ?nal standing overall.

The next generation in automotive infotainment systems will derive their functionality from motor­ists’ mobile devices, such as iPhones, iPads and other smartphone and tablet devices. Such a development represents a signi? cant departure from the last generation of systems, which used their vehicle’s built-in capabilities to provide entertainment and information systems. The automakers that can provide the most elegant integration of vehicle and mobile apps will lead the next revolution of providing social media and other capabilities in cars. Smartphone app integration is a rapidly growing market in the automotive space, with sales of vehicle headunits featuring smartphone app integration climbing in the United States from a few thousand units in 2011 to nearly 5 million units in 2018.

Among the ?ve car apps, Toyota’s Entune ranked as the top overall, placing ?rst in three of the four categories under evaluation and landing in second next to Ford in terms of implementation. Entune offered a slew of content from the cloud, including Pandora and iheartradio as its two Internet radio sources; and as its mobile concierge apps; and a voice-controlled Bing Local Search function. The only thing missing was a social networking feature, but it will be offered in the Enform solution from Toyota luxury brand Lexus, taking the form of a Facebook check-in implementa­tion. But despite its many allures, Entune at nearly $150 a year is expensive compared to the offerings from other automakers.

In the case of Ford, its Sync was ?rst in implementation and second in the overall rankings. Just the same, AppLink’s content was not very diverse and limited to the popular Pandora Radio, as well as an application similar to Pandora named Stitcher, together with a ?awed Twitter client solution called Open-Beak restricted to BlackBerry phones alone. Just the same, the AppLink system is implemented well, IHS believes, and the automotive industry has Ford to thank for being the ?rst vehicle manufacturer to invite programmers that resulted in apps like Pandora being developed for use in the car.

For third-ranked BMW/Mini, a vast array of content is available—but only via Apple Inc.’s iPhone. BMW/Mini is the ?rst car maker to deploy a Facebook implementation in the car, and also offers world­wide Web radio—allowing any station on the planet to offer a Web stream of its content via the TuneIn Radio app. BMW/Mini was second after Toyota in the relevance category, as its Connected app enabled a near-seamless integration with the user’s digital lifestyle, IHS has determined. Its sole reliance on the iPhone, however, means that the Connected app cannot work with Android, BlackBerry or Windows Mobile phones, leaving out a huge market. There also is no voice activation at this point.

For the GM MyLink/IntelliLink app, insuf?cient content was available aside from the integration of Pandora and Stitcher Radio, although integration with the vehicle was done well. Despite being a wireless system, IntelliLink nonetheless offers no voice application connectivity other than app activation. As a result, command and control of the app are relegated to the touch screen and center stack, requiring more attention than voice recognition. IntelliLink ranked fourth overall among the ?ve evaluated vehicle apps.

Hyundai’s BlueLink app also had limited content availability, featuring Pandora Radio alone. And while all other BlueLink features—such as local search, weather, traf?c and other telematics and tracking services—can be accessed via the vehicle’s embedded transmission control unit, no choices are offered to the user. Using Google to search for local content, for instance, is not possible given that BlueLink uses Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

And like BMW, BlueLink works only with the iPhone, ignoring a large chunk of the driving populace using other smartphone systems. By starting with Pandora, however, Hyundai made the right move in coming up with the one offering that could be considered relevant in application.

Overall, the rankings re?ect the results of the study made by IHS iSuppli at the time the apps were ready for evaluation. With progress continuing to be made on apps development, the rankings can change as the automakers pursue more third-party app developers, create additional content and provide im­proved integration to achieve greater levels of usability within the vehicle.

Learn More > IHS iSuppli Automotive Infotainment & Telematics

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