Automakers Battle Phone Manufacturers For Consumers’ Attention

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Drivers are increasingly turning to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as their primary technologies for navigation and voice recognition than automaker’s proprietary technologies, according to J.D. Power.

In its recent 2018 U.S. Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study, the company found that technologies, such as smartphone mirroring, are quickly adopted by new-vehicle owners, while other technologies can take decades to be fully embraced according.

Two clear examples of technologies with rapid adoption are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, each of which are quickly becoming “must haves” for many consumers just a few years after their introduction. Both are showing rapid year-over-year penetration increases. In contrast, many technologies that have been around much longer are not nearly as sought-after by new-vehicle owners.

“This rapid adoption of smartphone mirroring is the unavoidable outcome of consumers thinking that automakers are being outperformed by smartphone software providers in certain areas,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of Driver Interaction and HMI Research at J.D. Power. “Most consumers consider phone systems better for navigation and voice recognition—and they’re free. ‘Better and free’ are hard to compete with, so automakers will inevitably have to cede this territory and will be much better served by focusing on areas where they are the exclusive provider—like driver assistance and collision avoidance—and continue to hone those systems.”

Factory-installed navigation systems are easily replaced by another device. In fact, 19 per cent of new-vehicle owners who have factory-installed navigation don’t use it and, of these, 70 per cent use another device instead, almost always a smartphone.

In the smartphone mirroring battle, drivers using Apple CarPlay report significantly higher satisfaction with the system than those using Android Auto (777 vs. 748, respectively, on a 1,000-point scale). However, Google fights back when it comes to navigation. Among owners who use their own navigation system, 56 per cent use Google Maps most often and 16 per cent use Google-owned Waze most often, while only 23 per cent use Apple Maps most often. Even iPhone owners are more likely to use Google Maps than Apple Maps, whereas very few Android owners use Apple Maps.

The study also finds that wide differences exist between automakers in terms of how frequently owners use some of their systems. For instance, the number of owners who say they use their lane-keeping/centering system “every time they drive” ranges from a low of 46 per cent to a high of 67 per cent across the different automakers. For adaptive cruise control, the range is 16 per cent to 42 per cent, and for voice recognition it is 10 per cent to 29 per cent. Obviously, there is something to be learned about what is driving those differences. Automakers that create systems that aren’t being used are making investments in technology that are unlikely to be successful.

“Today’s experience with a technology drives tomorrow’s desire,” Kolodge added. “Consumers are challenging the level of usefulness that some automotive technology provides, including whether it’s needed at all. For example, although automakers’ built-in navigation systems are appreciated for image quality, owners often prefer using smartphone-based navigation because they consider it more accurate.”