Home » Here’s How Japanese Automakers Put Apps In Cars Long Before Mercedes Put TikTok In The New E-Class

Here’s How Japanese Automakers Put Apps In Cars Long Before Mercedes Put TikTok In The New E-Class

New E Class Tiktok Topshot

Mercedes has released images of the next E-Class’ interior and the big news is that the German automaker is launching its own app store. If you spec your new E-Class with the entertainment package, you’ll be able to download apps like WebEx and TikTok directly to your car that can make full use of a selfie camera built into the dashboard.

I’ll admit, part of me wants to grumble that passengers should be happy to just listen to an audiobook, play on their phones, or stare out the damn window, but I suppose that app integration is something customers actually want and that apps in cars aren’t actually anything new. In fact, they’re a rather old concept that predates Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. Oh yes, we’re kicking things back to the Limewire era when Japanese automakers were rolling out features E-Class owners only dreamed of.

2005 Acura RL

Back in 2004, Acura announced that it was putting the Zagat Survey restaurant guide in every 2005 RL sedan. If your paycheck in 2004 didn’t have at least six figures in it, the Zagat Survey restaurant guide is basically JD Power but for restaurants. Back in 2005, a quarter of a million diners in 70 cities completed a surveys that could give local restaurants a maximum of 30 points. In theory, higher scores meant better restaurant experiences. In short, not only could the Acura RL navigate you to a restaurant, depending on that restaurant’s location, it could tell you if that restaurant was any good. Keep in mind, this was more than two years before the first iPhone launched, so outside of software developers and business types with Palm Tungstens, most people didn’t know what a mobile device app even was.
Toyota G-Book 1

However, the RL definitely wasn’t the only car to include digital functionalities outside of a normal navigation system, and one earlier attempt was substantially more advanced. Back in 2002, Toyota started making Japanese-market cars that had something called G-Book, an incredibly powerful infotainment system for the turn of the millennium. Stock market information, emails, your bank balance, and the weather could all be accessed through G-Book. Video games could be downloaded to the infotainment system and even karaoke could be beamed directly into cars with G-Book. It almost sounds too good to be true, but it’s real and Toyota even put out a promotional video that shows some G-Book functions.

Wild, right? I assume beaming emails to your car probably wouldn’t fly now that we know more about distracted driving, but this is an incredible piece of technology for 2002. It held memory on SD cards when many navigation systems still used CDs, required a subscription just like digital features in many cars today, and essentially previewed the software-defined vehicle. Car And Driver seemed equal parts impressed and infuriated in a 2003 road test of a WiLL Cypha equipped with G-Book, writing that “The Cypha’s radio is approximately as complex as the tax code.” Complex, certainly, but also astounding.

Nothing happens in an instant, and that’s especially true of Mercedes putting TikTok in an E-Class dashboard. People who’ve been nerding out about in-car infotainment for the past two decades probably saw this eventual change coming, and it’s likely only surprising to everyone else. You can draw a direct line from Toyota beaming emails to dashboards to Mercedes putting Angry Birds in an E-Class, so it’s almost amazing that it took this long. I wouldn’t be surprised if more manufacturers put social media apps in cars soon as the art of passing time on road trips continues to evolve.

(Photo credits: Mercedes-Benz, Acura, Toyota)

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.


Got a hot tip? Send it to us here. Or check out the stories on our homepage.

Share on facebook
Share on whatsapp
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit

14 Responses

  1. Tungsten was one of my 3 Palms. Nothing like learning some free-market economics lessons through the “Dope Wars” app…

    My pre-iPhone Sony Ericson phones also had apps on them. I loved those little guys who fit entirely in pockets, could use by feel, played videos and music, and worked as a remote control for my computer.

  2. Wow, LimeWire and Palm Tungstens, Thomas must be really close to my age. I’m pretty sure if you were a few years older or a few years younger you would have no idea what those things are. 🙂

  3. Same way anything is touchscreen – whatever is used for the touch capability is mounted in front of the screen and that’s how you interact with it. LCDs and OLEDs aren’t the part that registers your touch now either, it’s a component in front of them.

  4. Why do the car makers insist on making the car’s dash duplicate features 95% of their buyers already have on a device they carry into the car with them every time? Mirror the screen of my smart phone – we’re done.

    I don’t need another app store. I don’t need more cameras.

  5. First company to build a nice car without all this trash technology will go down as legends and I think could change the entire industry direction with their sales. I want to see things move backwards tech wise. Radio, heated seats and awd/4wd. Maybe a rear sensor for the parking lots. Otherwise you can miss me with all this sensor/apps/connected crap.

  6. Yeah, well, my new-to-me 2008 Outback can play DVDs on the console backup camera/radio dial screen, and the only DVD I could find in my apartment without digging into storage was “Wild Things.” So I popped it into the car’s DVD drive, and now if passengers misbehave I can threaten to pull the car over and make everyone watch “Wild Things.”

  7. And nobody is going to mention that the first fully digital GPS system was first found in the… 1990 Mazda Eunos Cosmo?
    Oh yeah. Mazda went full “fuck it, do it” on a level that you cannot conceive. Because you’re one of those ‘SAVE THE MANUALS’ who turned their nose up at Japanese luxury that wasn’t a rebadged Toyota.

    And when I say full ‘fuck it’ I mean all the goddamn way. Engine? A 2-liter SEQUENTIAL TURBO TRIPLE ROTOR making a claimed 276HP. (The 13B claimed 276HP. The 20B did not make 276HP.) It only had an automatic transmission because it was a luxury car, not a sports car. And it was so far ahead of everyone else, just… I’m just gonna list some things. Okay? Okay.
    – ‘Palmnet’ high speed serial bus connecting multiple modules
    – First built-in GPS navigation system in any production car which was delivered on…
    – a CRT color touch-screen, which also had your climate control
    – … which integrated with your mobile phone too
    – … and also functioned as an NTSC TV because why not?


    Yes. That’s the original factory CRT in there. (The cupholders are offensively aftermarket.)

Leave a Reply