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Smartphones to determine car choice?


If you ever want to start a debate, consider putting a question like “Which cell phone is the best?” up on a social media platform. I guarantee you that the comments will come in thick and fast for those pro-Android users, pro-iOS people and, well, there’s also Blackberry and Windows, but let’s not get into that (see what I did there?).

The same thing applies to cars: people select a brand and they will often vehemently support it when its reputation is challenged.

But what if your car loyalty became compromised by your smartphone or contrariwise? Would you change your cell phone brand when opting for a new model to match your car? We have already seen the implementation of some mobile technology by Ford with its Sync system, which uses Microsoft software.

As of 2014, we will see automotive manufacturers working in collaboration with cell phone producers to create more harmonious infotainment solutions for the vehicles we buy. There have been reports that Audi is working with Google, who develops Android - although Audi has been using Google Maps in its navigation systems for a while now - to create in-car infotainment and navigation systems based on the Android operating system.

It makes use of a newly developed 10.2-inch Audi tablet called the Smart Display that will integrate with the car’s systems via Wi-Fi, letting passengers 
control the radio and access the internet via the car’s built-in LTE capability.

There has been a group established - called the Open Automotive Alliance - that consists of Google, General Motors, Honda, Audi, Hyundai and American global technology and chipmaker Nvidia. The alliance was created to ensure that smartphone technology is brought into the automotive infotainment sphere and will attempt to add more automakers to the alliance. We will see the first vehicle with this technology by the end of 2014. Over in Korea, Kia is said to be working on an Android-based navigation system in its Soul model too.

On the other side of the battle, the likes of Chevrolet, Ferrari, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Volvo are using Apple’s iOS in the Car (iOSitC) system, which mirrors your iPhone’s screen and navigation info on your car’s dash. The iOSitC system, as it’s called, is now standard on all Apple products and was announced at the Apple Worldwide Developers conference in June 
last year.

These sound fantastic, but what about the implications of having your phone in your car at all times from a safety perspective? The screen will now be bigger, your alerts will be louder and the temptation to update your social media will be further enhanced. In the USA, there are plans to limit these in-car systems to the extent where they are expected to be programmed to make it impossible for drivers to browse the internet, text and watch videos, meaning many will become voice-controlled systems with all apps having a ‘car’ mode.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to have a more smartphone-like display in my car. The current crop of infotainment systems are not exactly cutting edge - some are very good, but they just cannot perform the breadth of functions that a smartphone can, which is why automakers in their infinite wisdom have opted to work with the cell phone manufacturers.

What about applications available in your respective app stores right now? Let’s take a look at five we found very useful as car owners.

Waze - This free navigation application is available on most stores. The best thing about it is that you can avoid traffic jams based on other users’ reports, which tell the application to reroute you, saving you time

Gumtree - This free app is good for pretty much everything, but when searching for a used car, bike or even parts and service centres, it comes in particularly handy

Fuel Manager - This is a locally produced app which can be used to track your fuel consumption as well as determine maintenance and fuel costs at any given time. It can indicate possible theft or fraud and quantify the potential losses, manage toll gates and fees and even manage warranty 
claims and outstanding orders

OBD Auto Doctor - Many workshops use diagnostic machines to detect problems with vehicles. This free app allows you to communicate with your vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system and basically turns your computer or mobile into an automotive scanner. The only catch is that the app only 
works if you have a Bluetooth OBD2 adapter.

Garage Buddy - This app is great for those who are technically minded or want to learn more about their cars. It is free and offers a unit, tyre-size, power loss at altitude and gearing calculator, plus a few other features.

Article written by Sean Nurse
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