There’s a lot of alarmed talk right now because General Motors announced it’ll be phasing out support for the wildly popular phone-to-car infotainment systems Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on all future GM electric vehicles. In keeping with GM’s long and storied history of baffling, self-defeating product-planning decisions, what we have here is a move that absolutely nobody who buys cars wants GM to do. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are incredibly popular, with a vast number of car buyers demanding the systems as a prerequisite to even consider a new car. This seems, to me, like a stellar act of not just stepping, but actually stomping, with golf shoes, on one’s own metaphorical dong that I feel confident in predicting that even GM will, at some point in the near future, walk this back. I mean, I hope they do. Or that they prove me wrong about this being a bad idea and I have to eat my own socks.
The decision to abandon CarPlay and Android Auto on all upcoming EVs (gas cars will keep the features) starting with the 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV was outlined in this Media Fact Sheet:
In there you can see where GM comes out and says:
“As a result of this strategic approach, we will be moving beyond phone projection systems, namely Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.”
Here’s page two of the Fact Sheet, which mentions the four 2024 electric GM vehicles that will offer Android Auto and Apple Car Play:
Now, it’s not like there aren’t entirely valid reasons for wanting tighter integration between a car’s infotainment system and its other systems; there are plenty of solid engineering reasons for that, including the ability to easily pass important data about things like state of charge or speed or other internal sensor data from the car to applications in the infotainment system. Also, I bet GM will save a bit of cash by not having to pay for Car Play or Android Auto. But, importantly, nobody gives a shit. People want the user experience they use nearly nonstop throughout the day on their cars as well, with full access to all of their relevant data and preferences, because of course they do.
Just look at some of the comments on the Verge’s article about this:
And this is not specific to commenters on The Verge — this has been the general response of, pretty much, the whole internet.
Way to read the room, GM.
This is such a baffling bit of news on every single level that I’m really a bit awestruck. To me, it seems almost like GM conducted extensive and comprehensive consumer research and then decided that it’d be a real hoot to just do the exact opposite of whatever it learned. Because people sure like CarPlay and Android Auto, and absolutely nobody has ever demanded that GM partner with Google to make some new, different car OS that isn’t like the system everyone is already used to and just wants to keep using on their cars, already.
GM’s stated reason for dropping phone mirroring systems like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto has to do with what the company claims is the need to more tightly integrate the in-car UX with other features like Level 2 semi-automated driving system, Super Cruise, which I suppose is more important than offering in-car infotainment systems that customers, you know, actually want.
Mike Hichme, executive director of digital cockpit experience for GM, explained this in an interview with Reuters, saying,
“We have a lot of new driver assistance features coming that are more tightly coupled with navigation. We don’t want to design these features in a way that are dependent on person having a cellphone.”
I’m excited to meet this new owner of a GM EV who doesn’t have a cellphone! I’m especially excited to feed the unicorn this non-cellphone-owning GM EV buyer would have to have ridden in on a magic carrot, too, because that’s what imaginary things like unicorns and EV buyers who don’t have cellphones like, you see. Of course, I don’t for one moment believe that GM’s digital cockpit experience executive director thinks there’s any significant number of non-Amish smartphone-free potential EV buyers, but this was one of the statements directly quoted, so we can’t just ignore that.
I suspect the actual motivations for what seems like a comically risky plan are closer to what Edward Kummer, GM’s chief digital officer, told Automotive News:
“We do believe there are subscription revenue opportunities for us.”
That seems about right.
The context of the quote about subscription revenue in the Reuters article seems important:
Buyers of GM EVs with the new systems will get access to Google Maps and Google Assistant, a voice command system, at no extra cost for eight years, GM said. GM said the future infotainment systems will offer applications such as Spotify’s (SPOT.N) music service, Audible and other services that many drivers now access via smartphones.
That sounds like GM wants to get some revenue from subscriptions to applications people already use on their phones or other devices, but perhaps there’s more to it than that. In fact, I think this other bit of speculation from the same article could give more explanation:
GM’s decision to stop offering those systems in future electric vehicles, starting with the 2024 Chevrolet Blazer, could help the automaker capture more data on how consumers drive and charge EVs.
Gathering data is, of course, very important for so many companies, so the idea that GM would want to be in a position to gather as much as possible directly could be a factor in this otherwise strange decision.
Sure, there are other carmakers who have decided to not support these popular phone mirroring systems, most notably Tesla, but a quick glance at Tesla forums and websites reveals a widespread and powerful desire to use these systems, to the point of finding workarounds or even hacking Tesla’s in-car operating system. But GM isn’t Tesla, which has a large pool of bordline cultlike fans who will forgive almost any shortcomings Tesla may have, and Tesla enjoys a status in the greater culture far beyond what GM has, at least currently.
Of course, it is possible that GM will come up with a system that is so much better, so much more intuitive and easier and enjoyable than what Apple or Google are capable of releasing – well, Google is working with GM here to develop this but, it seems, outside of the context of the Android OS – that this will all make sense and it will be better for everyone involved. It’s possible. But is it likely that GM is going to, say, beat Apple at UX design? GM, the company that has recently made you open a glovebox by navigating on-screen menus? That GM? I might not choose to hold my breath.
If GM wants this to work, it can’t just be as good it has to be better — much better — in order to get people to not just switch over, but even be aware of it at all. Because as it stands, a vast number of consumers will just see that the Car Play or Android Auto checkboxes are empty and move on. I’m confused why GM decided they needed to completely eliminate the two largest, most desired options while they’re developing their own system; wouldn’t it make more sense to develop their own system in parallel, and, you know, hedge their bets? Then if they actually do manage to pull off making something better and more desirable, they can still get people to buy in, without losing potential customers in the first place before their system has had a chance to prove itself.
[Editor’s Note: Apple Car Play and Android Auto are just such big names right now that to even talk about phasing them out seems like bad PR. If GM can somehow develop something that’s competitive with these two — a tall order — that’d be amazing, though it’d take some time to get consumers used to it. You’d almost want to offer it in parallel with Car Play/Android Auto, at least until people warmed up to it. These two are just too important to consumers right now. GM is doing this with lower-volume cars (EVs) to start, but these aren’t that low volume, so it does seem risky from my vantage point. -DT].
I reached out to GM for comment, and I’ll update if I hear back anything interesting. In any case, I don’t believe GM is going to actually do this, as it is just seems too high risk. The company has some exciting-looking new EVs coming, and I’m pretty sure at some point it’s going to realize that it can’t just ignore what consumers actually want, because wanting something is why people buy one car over another in the first place.
Or, this may be yet another Vega or EV1 or Hy-Wire or whatever. I’m just hoping it won’t be.
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Five years ago when I was looking for a replacement family wagon, I briefly looked at the Rav4. Really wanted the Prime, but no Android Auto at the time meant it was quickly eliminated from contention. Ended up with a Forester. After years of dealing with auto manufacturer’s quirky self-developed infotainment systems, I decided if I was paying big bucks for a new car, I wasn’t going to be frustrated by a piece of technology that I interact with every time I’m in the car, not to mention being extorted for annual map updates.
GM = Generally Mediocre. Convince me otherwise.
I’ve never had a car with either of these, so this bothers me much less than it would someone who was used them. It certainly didn’t affect my most recent car purchase (one month ago).
GM to their competitors, “We don’t really want these customers so we are giving them another excuse not to buy our products. You’re welcome.”
Ha, When will automakers realize all I want is a Way to connect my phone to my car with screen mirroring for maps, music, etc.
Buttons & knobs for everything else.
I will get a new phone every couple of years and everything will stay up to date and fast…..
Oh wait……they want a way to wring more money out of people after they have bought a car….of course!
I added an aftermarket head unit to my 2012 Corvette that supports CarPlay and Android Auto…..not just wired, but with wireless connection. It is absolutely wonderful!
And, my now 11 year old car is as up to date with infotainment and navigation as any car fresh off the showroom floor. In some ways, more so.
But, this doesn’t make GM anymore money on an 11 year old car. And, god forbid a company doesn’t show ways to continually produce more revenue via a subscription model so the almighty shareholders are appeased.
Since the first “connected screen” popped up on a car, the OEMs tried to create their own ecosystem and failed pretty much universally. No one wants it. It is always limited, it is usually clunky, the hardware can’t be upgraded, the software is rarely updated.
Hell, since the first screen showed up in a car, my initial thought was “it’d be great if your phone would display in here”. Then Carplay and Android Auto show up.
It was never, “I wish my car had it’s own system with a limited number of apps that I could manage separately from my phone, and also may require more subscriptions and a separate charge for a data connection when I’m already carrying around a data connection.”
I agree with the statement that GM will be walking this back. There is SO MUCH hate on this dumb decision, they almost have to. I am one of those people that have said my next vehicle has to have Apple CarPlay. When we purchased by wife’s car almost two years ago, that was a “must have” also.
They will walk it back after acting surprised at the negative reaction. GM’s brass is just completely out of touch with what their customers want. Almost any jackass off the street could have told them this was a terrible idea.
*Insert clip of Principal Skinner saying “Am I that out of touch? No, it’s the children that are wrong”*
Is GM’s metaphorical dong large enough that stepping on it (by GM or anyone else) is a serious concern?
Hear me out. I understand the logic behind GMs thinking. Without AA or Carplay – they can (theoretically) have a more unified/optimized in car entertainment experience. Less code, less engineering, etc. Even the good implementations are quite janky when it comes to accessing certain in-car functions. In most cases you have to swap between the OEM and AA/CP interfaces if you want to adjust an address, then change the EQ on your audio or anything else that can only be accessed through the factory interface (this is especially painful on cars that hide certain climate control functions in the screen – no physical buttons). This problem has been partially solved over the years by allowing access to certain elements of the car (e.g. the cars ambient light sensor, or being able to pass turn by turn instructions to the HUD or digital dash) – but there is still a big gap and i dont see it ever closing, beyond maybe more OEMs using Android Auto OS (or whatever Apple may offer – if anything). That said, i agree with Torch that this is a horrible idea and will go poorly. GM is one of the last OEMs (outside of maybe Stellantis) I would trust to make a good in car OS. Tesla and Rivian may be able to get away with it – but not GM. Not at this point.
I bought my first car in 1996. It was a Chrysler, and it was, frankly, a POS.
I bought my second car in 1997. A GM product. I _loved_ it.
Third car: a Honda. It was fun, but I missed the previous car.
Of my fourth through twelfth cars, all but one been GM (the exception, a 2005 Jeep Liberty, was given to me for free). Not out of blind loyalty per se, but because each time I was in the market, a GM model best fit the bill.
Today, I own five cars: four GMs and the aforementioned Jeep. In the next few years, I’m likely to buy my first EV. I had been looking at a Lyric, and was very interested in SuperCruise.
All of this to say that I am probably a customer GM would like to keep.
And, with that as context, I hope someone from GM reads this: I will not under any circumstances buy another car that doesn’t support Apple CarPlay.
I use Apple Music for music. I sincerely doubt that Apple will build an app for GM’s bespoke app platform, although that’s not completely out of the question.
But I rarely listen to music in the car; I prefer podcasts. I use Overcast, and I can promise you with absolute certainty that Marco will never build a version for GM’s platform.
I choose Apple platforms in general because I value privacy and security. Apple doesn’t sell my data, and they work tirelessly to close every vulnerability in their software.
I’m not alone here: 79% of new car buyers say that they will only consider cars with Apple CarPlay. Presumably some additional percentage considers Android Auto a must as well, and let’s not forget that the announcement includes that as well.
Does GM really want to pass on four out of five potential customers? Surely not.
I’ll bet they backtrack on this before it ever affects a single delivered vehicle.