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Beyond In-Vehicle Controls: The Rise of the Smartphone

Telematics Detroit, the automotive industry's leading telematics event, recently highlighted innovative approaches to using connectivity technology in vehicles, including Hyundai's comprehensive Blue Link package with everything from roadside assistance to voice-to-text features. Lending a new twist to the in-vehicle technology journey, Enprecis' latest mobility panel on smartphone connectivity shows that many drivers tend to use their smartphones rather than connecting them to in-vehicle features, highlighting an area of focus for automakers.


Where Connectivity & In-Vehicle Features Fail

According to our May 2011 smartphone study, only 21% of smartphone users connect their smartphone to their vehicle via Bluetooth, while 36% connect with a cable and 43% do not connect their phone and vehicle at all. The relatively low amount of connectivity suggests that drivers need a better way to integrate their phones and vehicles.

Just 45% of users are satisfied with in-vehicle features such as music or navigation, with 43% expressing a neutral opinion and 12% dissatisfied with in-vehicle features. This low level of satisfaction highlights a significant opportunity for automakers to act, either in terms of improving those in-vehicle features or letting smartphones take over in the areas where they perform best.


Where Smartphones Win

According to our study, drivers are most satisfied with music and entertainment features in their vehicle, followed by the quality of the sound system. These features have been established in vehicles for some time, which has given automakers time to optimize them. However, users much prefer smartphones for their portability (14%) and ease of adding new features (11%), indicating that the rapid development of mobile technologies is meeting their needs in these areas--and vehicles need to catch up.

What to Work On

Nearly 40% of users would prefer either that their vehicle synchronize better with their smartphone (21%) or offer controls that are more similar to the phone (17%). The widespread use of smartphones has made drivers dependent on the data in their phones while also making smartphone functionality near-native to drivers. Consequently, automakers must work to offer vehicle features that operate similarly to smartphones and allow for seamless integration with contacts, emails, messages, music, and other data stored on smartphones.

How to improve in-vehicle features

Following smartphone synchronization, ease of use (19%) was the top factor that drivers thought would improve smartphone-vehicle integration. This data suggests that drivers might like to use their phones more in their vehicles, but are displeased with the connection experience. The longer product development cycle for automobiles makes developing integration with the newest technologies difficult, but the data shows that drivers demand tools that are easy to update and use.



Automakers who can best integrate their products with rapidly changing mobile and tablet devices will clearly have an advantage on the competition. Whether this involves embeded, upgradeable software units or better integration with mobile technologies, the consumer demand is there--and automakers must figure out how to meet it.

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