Apple iPhone 4S and Siri: Another nail in the coffin for in-dash car navigation?
The iPhone 4S and Siri: What is likely to happen with automakers? Here’s an interesting article written by Bill Howard on October 4, 2011 about the likely outcome of the Apple iPhone 4S and Siri for car manufacturers.
“If you’re underwhelmed by an iPhone 4S that isn’t propped up by an unannounced big brother iPhone 5, automakers should feel differently: The Siri voice-activated assistant, which will arrive with the iPhone 4S on October 14, will put this $199 device head and shoulders above the $1,500-plus navigation systems in car dashes today. Only some in-car navigation has interactive voice response (IVR) and none have it with the sophistication of the iPhone. It raises the question again, “Why am I paying as much as two grand for navigation that’s harder to use than what’s in my iPhone or Droid”?
The iPhone 4S resembles the iPhone 4 but with a faster processor, better camera, more powerful antenna, and improved voice recognition, selling for $199 (16 GB) to $399 (64GB), on AT&T, Verizon, and now on Sprint. But a hoped-for iPhone 5 was not announced. The improved antenna should help users talk farther from cell sites and get better Pandora and Mog streaming music. That’s nice. It’s the voice recognition that should concern automakers.
With most cars, you tap in the destination on the LCD display or using a cockpit control wheel such as BMW iDrive or Audi MMI. Some cars have a limited form of voice input: “Say the State … say the City … say the Street … say the Number.” (That was so the overworked on-board processor could keep up.) A handful have one-shot destination entry where you can tap the navigation button and then the destination button, then say “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.” Success in parsing depends on how well the microphones captured, how well the nav system recognized your voice, and whether you used the right syntax. “Navigate to” might work while “directions to” or “take me to” might not.
Cars with integrated data cellphones (for mayday calling and now for other services) can do offboard voice processing. That’s what’s used by GM OnStar and others such as the promsing Blue Link service on cars such as the Hyundai Veloster. But it costs you $180 to $300 a year for the telematics service, on top of the cost of the navigation system. And none of it is as powerful as on the iPhone 4S and Siri, at least as shown in Apple’s demo. Lots of features, including interactive voice response, seem to work less amazingly out in the field.
Current navigation apps on both Droid phones and iPhones have some ability to handle spoken directions, meaning once you get to the navigation / destination part, you can speak the street name or POI (point of interest) name: “1600 Pennsylviania Avenue [or the White House], Washington, D.C.” It’s nice for getting to a restaurant without looking up the address.
With the conversational nature of Siri, a command such as “I want to get to Carnegie Hall,” should know you want to navigate to 881 Seventh Avenue in New York City. (On April Fool’s Day, an iPhone 4S with a sense of humor might respond with “Practice, Practice, Practice.” <rimshot>)
Here’s what likely to happen with automakers. It’s like a shortened version of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief before dying:
- First, denial. Something so small and cheap can’t be that good.
- Second, anger. Automakes will note how it’s hard to see a four-inch screen (still 3.5 inches with the iPhone, up to 4.3 inches with the largest Droids) and how often the suction cup cradle mount comes undone. Plus they don’t have to do all the safety testing the automakers say they do.
- Bargaining. They’ll try to get hold of the same Siri voice recognition, or work with Nuance, the industry’s main player, to do the same thing.
- Depression. Automakers will despair of ever getting their prices down, partly because they do so much safety and compatibility testing, and in part because they insist on using proprietary components that can’t be used industry-wide.
- Acceptance. Some will figure out a way to make existing navigation systems work nearly as well.
The likely outcome: Automakers will feel more pressure to bring the price of in-car navigation down below $1,000. Some will do it. BMW, which had been charging as much as $2,100 for navigation, now offers it on some 2012 models for $1250. Many will embed telematics cellphones in cars to do offboard IVR and to get access to the most up-to-date maps. So the shift from embedded telematics (GM OnStar, BMW Assist) to telematics via your cellphone (Ford Sync) may shift back to embedded telematics on all but the cheapest cars.
Some automakers may decide the best solution is to sync the smartphone’s display to an integrated 7- or 8-inch LCD and give up entirely on trying to do their own navigation. Despondant as automakers should feel about the iPhone’s navigation capabilities, the real nail in the coffin may be struck at the makers of of portable navigation devices. It’s a tough time to be Garmin or TomTom.” (Source: http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/98501-apple-iphone-4s-and-siri-another-nail-in-the-coffin-for-in-dash-car-navigation)