Results from a recent Canalys survey of drivers showed that smartphone mirroring (extending the use of apps and content from a smartphone to the vehicle) is a regular occurrence, with 65 percent of respondents in the US and 58 percent in Europe relying on the solution for most of their drives . The goal of both car manufacturers and technology vendors is to control UX. Automakers must differentiate themselves and strive to create new revenue streams; technology vendors want to increase loyalty to their ecosystems.
Vendors launched smartphone mirroring solutions back in 2015, including Android Auto from Google, Apple CarPlay and CarLife from Baidu in China. Canalys estimates that there are now more than 170 million smartphone-capable cars on the road worldwide, and more than 85 percent of new cars sold in 2022 will offer the capability. Canalys also estimates that more than 60 percent of cars on the road with smartphone mirroring capabilities were purchased in 2019 or later. This means that with cars having an average lifespan of 12 years, most smartphone mirroring cars, assuming they are still supported, will be in service for the next decade. This also means that millions of drivers have used the solutions for more than five years.
Canalys’ survey of 2,000 people asked drivers in France, Germany, the UK and the US how they connect their smartphones and use apps and voice assistants in their vehicles today. Highlights from the survey results show how important it is for users to be able to connect and access apps and content from their smartphones while driving.
65 percent of US drivers and 58 percent of European drivers surveyed use smartphone mirroring solutions frequently or on every trip. 50 percent of drivers surveyed in the US and 30 percent of those in Europe play music, podcasts or audiobooks from their smartphones through their car speakers.
Navigation is one of the best uses of a digital cockpit. But only 18 percent of American drivers use a built-in navigation system, while in Europe that number rises to 26 percent. 26 percent of US drivers and 28 percent of those in Europe mirror a navigation app from their smartphone to their car screen. 42 percent of American drivers and 33 percent of Europeans simply stick to the app on their smartphone and use the phone screen. More iPhone users drive a car with smartphone mirroring compared to Android users who drive a car with Android Auto.
Vendors have improved smartphone mirroring solutions over the years in a battle for better usability, increased platform loyalty, and a hold on the user experience. Google has also built Android Automotive OS into several car models, with Google built-in services available, and Apple recently announced the next generation of CarPlay, which is customizable, with deep IVI integration across multiple displays.
The digital cockpit is typically part of a larger shift by automakers to new technology platforms, with most planning to launch systems by 2025. Many automakers have set up their own software and operations strategies and partnerships to create software-defined vehicles and digital cockpits, and employ thousands of software engineers to develop solutions. . Long-term investments in software development from companies like Ford, GM and Stellantis will amount to billions of dollars. New potential revenue streams will be launched from subscriptions, fleet services, insurance and on-demand features such as driver assistance, separate from the option package. BMW’s ConnectedDrive Store offers digital services and features through subscriptions or microtransactions for items, including heated seats, high beam assistant, driver assistance and CarPlay. Stellantis targets $20 billion in revenue by 2030 from software services.
Auto OEMs have to decide what to do. Those who continue to support smartphone mirroring in future vehicles will provide continuity of service and a familiar user experience for existing users who will retain their emotional connection to the smartphone and the ecosystem, but it will be a generic solution and OEMs will miss an opportunity to differentiate themselves and create new sources of income. Those that offer only their new digital cockpit solution will seek to differentiate themselves with their own user experience, personality, environment and potentially revenue-generating services that are unique to their brand, while some will give the driver a choice of their own interface or mirror solution. The battle in the coming years is whether drivers will remain emotionally connected to their smartphone experience or embrace the car experience with a digital cockpit.