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Android Auto, Apple CarPlay: One Head Unit Is Better Than Two

Stuffing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into the same head unit makes sense, so much so that automakers and aftermarket suppliers are ramping up availability of head units equipped with both technologies.

Kenwood just began shipping the $950-suggested Excelon-series DDX9902S and $900 Kenwood-series DDX9702S, joining three dual-technology Pioneer head units at MAPs of $700, $1,200 and $1,400.

The heads make sense because of the commanding shares of the smartphone market held by Apple and Android in the U.S. In January, 41.3 percent of smartphones in use by U.S. residents ages 13 and up ran iOS, and 53.2 percent ran Android, according to a comScore survey. Aftermarket suppliers want their head units to appeal to both types of consumers. Dual-technology heads also make perfect sense for the many families that use a mix of Android and iOS devices.

The potential is not lost on automakers. Recently, Chevrolet said it would equip 14 2016 model-year vehicles with one or both systems. Vehicles with the 7-inch MyLink screen will get both CarPlay and Android Auto, and vehicles with the 8-inch MyLink screen will get only CarPlay early in the 2016 model year. Those heads might also get Android Auto by the end of the model year, Chevrolet said.

Cars getting both OSs include Spark, Cruze (Chevy’s best-selling passenger vehicle), Camaro, Camaro convertible, Silverado and Silverado HD. Car getting only CarPlay at the outset are the Cruze, Malibu, Impala, Volt, Camaro, Camaro convertible, Corvette, Corvette convertible, Silverado, Silverado HD, Tahoe and Suburban.

For its part, GM’s Buick division just announced that it will add CarPlay in all 2016 Regal and LaCrosse models. Later in the model year, Android Auto capability will also be available on the models. Both technologies will be available in the vehicles’ standard-equipment radios, a spokesman told TWICE.

Hyundai offers only Android Auto on the 2015 Sonata.

Though automakers have begun to implement one or both interfaces, the aftermarket will enjoy years of potential sales of its own CarPlay and Android Auto products because the average age of cars on the road is more than 11 years, said Pioneer marketing VP Ted Cardenas said. The automakers will also drive awareness that will drive up aftermarket installations in all those older vehicles lacking the technologies.

A couple of notes: Android Auto suffers a disadvantage in that it requires phones running he Android Lollipop OS, and Android OS updates are slow to come to Android devices.

As for the ability of Apple’s planned iOS9 smartphone OS to deliver wireless CarPlay connectivity via Wi-Fi, that might not be something that aftermarket suppliers will be willing to add because of cost. But the cost might not be a big deal for automakers that already offer Wi-Fi in their vehicles.