Cell phone integration with car infotainment systems is becoming increasingly popular. So far two products are dominating the market, the obvious contenders being Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, however there is another announced contender nipping at their heels, called the SmartDeviceLink Consortium (SDL).
From demonstrations and considering outright capability, CarPlay and Android Auto are almost neck and neck in terms of which is of better quality. The general consensus among users is that CarPlay has the better interface and overall usability, while Android Auto seems to work better with specific functions like voice recognition and navigation. However both seem to struggle with third party media apps like Spotify and Pandora.
One could say that Apple and Google are now, or in the process of, cornering the market on cell phone integration with auto infotainment systems, and that’s where SDL comes in. The SmartDeviceLink Consortium is brought on by Ford and will serve as an alternative to Apple and Google’s car integration apps, allowing users to choose if they want to use the Apple or Google software, or the software that already comes with the car to connect to their phones. Many cars already have their own infotainment software differing in interface and usability, like Cadillac’s User Experience (CUE). SDL’s purpose is to unify every car manufacturer to use the same base integration platform.
So far only a handful of manufacturers have shown interest and intent to use SDL, including Peugeot, Honda, Subaru, Mazda, Toyota and of course Ford. A good sign for SDL is that Blackberry QNX is interested as well. Blackberry QNX makes all of the backend software for nearly every car manufacturer’s infotainment system, including connectivity, in-car network security and acoustics among others.
Blackberry QNX serves as the operating system cars’ infotainment systems run on. Assuming SDL catches on, Blackberry QNX would allow it to communicate with cell phones to integrate their software with the car’s infotainment system, instead of downloading an app on your phone that communicates with the vehicle.
It sounds a little complicated, but the implications are that each car manufacturer would have total control of how their cars communicate with Apple and Google devices, as the manufacturers would be able to choose what apps do and don’t work with their cars. Ford’s SDL is a decent example of how the free enterprise system can be used, and effectively silences any monopoly Apple or Google may or may not have had in the automotive industry. What’s more about SDL is that it will allow specific software integration because each car will have its own software, instead of Apple and Google’s generic blanket software.
As per usual, using Google or Apple software comes down to preference as neither one is clearly better than the other. Whichever software you end up using with your car ultimately depends on what kind of phone you have, as every manufacturer will allow both. There are only a few differences between the list of car brands that support CarPlay vs. Android Auto, but being that both products serve to mitigate cell phone distraction on the road, it seems that every single manufacturer will soon be able to run both within their vehicles. SDL at least gives users a choice of whether they want to use Google or Apple software (depending on which phone they own), or the software that was designed specifically for their car.
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