The march towards convergence between the car and the smartphone has begun. Four years ago Ford and Microsoft introduced SYNC. Although initially an entirely closed system, SYNC has been evolving and will soon be integrating Android smartphone app support with their AppLink upgrade. A strange but not unexpected move from Microsoft considering the popularity of Google’s Android platform. Other manufacturers have taken notice and have introduced their own systems which offer various Android integration capabilities in their 2011 and upcoming 2012 models.
Ford Sync with AppLink
Ford has introduced AppLink, a downloadable upgrade to the SYNC infotainment system that allows drivers to control their smartphone apps through voice commands. AppLink will be exclusive to the 2011 Ford Fiesta and it will only work with Blackberry and Android-powered devices running SYNC software. The first three supported apps are Stitcher, Pandora, and OpenBeak Twitter program. More apps should be available in the following months as Ford has setup a developer channel on SYNCMyRide. If you currently have a SYNC equipped Ford or Lincoln, AppLink will be available as a download sometime later this year.
Toyota has announced Entune, a new integrated multimedia system that uses the driver’s Net-enabled and Bluetooth-equipped smartphone. Entune comes equipped with search functionality provided by Bing (argh… Microsoft), along with streaming audio from Pandora and iheartradio. The level of integration has yet to be determined but most features seem to be specific to their internal Entune system. Toyota has promised that Entune will work with Android smartphones and will be coming to select vehicles later this year.
General Motors MyLink and IntelliLink
General Motors is introducing MyLink for Chevrolet and IntelliLink for Buick and GMC models. The systems should feature the same features and only differ in branding. MyLink and IntelliLink with connect your Android or Blackberry device over Bluetooth and USB, allowing you to wirelessly access and control apps through either the steering wheel controls or the console-mounted touchscreen. The systems are only compatible with Stitcher and Pandora radio at the moment but other apps are due to be released later this year.
General Motors will begin rolling out MyLink later this year to the Chevrolet Volt and Equinox. IntelliLink will initially be featured on the 2012 Buick Verano, Regal and LaCrosse, along with the 2012 GMC Terrain.
Android app integration is nice and is undoubtedly a huge step forward from the standard calling and audio Bluetooth integration. However those of you who are hoping for a total solution where your car transforms into a display for your Android smartphone will have to wait a bit longer. Unfortunately it will still be a while until we see a car that pulls Google Navigation functionality from your phone, or lets you seamlessly access your Google email or calendar. Nevertheless it is great to see auto companies step up and provide these features. It will be interesting to see if more apps become available and where it pushes the evolution of these systems.