In-vehicle infotainment? There’s a car for that

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Viewscreen of the Toyota Entune app interface.

Close-up view of the Toyota Entune interface screen. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Frederic Lardinois/NewsGrange)

Smartphone users are accustomed to having thousands of apps from third-party developers at their fingertips, and they want similar features when it comes to in-car apps. While the new wave of in-car infotainment systems don’t have quite as much selection yet, systems offered by automakers like Toyota, Ford and Austin Motor Company will soon provide drivers with a remedy for their app cravings. The key for the automakers, reports Popular Mechanics, is maintaining the level of quality of in-car apps that customers have come to expect from the auto brands themselves.

Infotainment via in-dash control

In-car applications are still in the very early stages of evolution. Familiar apps like Pandora and Twitter are available, but automakers like Ford are currently in the process of reviewing thousands of third-party submissions. GM has even sponsored contests to inspire developers. Until there is an in-car app boom, the following systems lead the pack for in-vehicle infotainment.

The Mini Connected

In the Mini Connected, primary apps reside on an iPhone, but data syncs to and from the vehicle. Many standard apps – Pandora, Twitter and web radio – are available for free via the Apple app store. One fun feature of the Twitter client is that your Mini will post its own status updates while driving, reporting destination, temperature and other vehicle conditions.

Mini Connected is available on Mini cars with built-in navigation systems.

The Toyota Entune

The Toyota Entune’s in-car app system resides in the cloud rather than locally on a phone or in the car’s computer system. Apps appear on the dashboard screen, and Bing search works via voice control. With Entune, your Bluetooth phone is simply the gateway to car-specific apps that live in the cloud. The apps are displayed on the navigation screen and offer voice-controlled features like Bing search. First available this summer in the Prius V wagon, Toyota Entune may include a monthly service fee.

Ford Applink

Available now in the new Ford Fiesta with optional $395 Sync and in the Ford Mustang later this year, Ford Applink depends upon apps housed on your smartphone of choice. Control of apps is accomplished via either a Bluetooth or USB connection to the phone. Factory navigation hardware is not required, as it is with Mini Connect.


Popular Mechanics

MINI connect, keeping you in the action

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