Automotive Blogs

No iCar for Me, Thank You

by Roger Lanctot | 12月 22, 2020

It’s been a couple years since the auto industry was abuzz with rumors of Apple’s plans to make a car – a 2015-2018 buzz. Now that rumor is back with a 2024 expected date of arrival and enhanced battery tech as the justification.

The idea isn’t farfetched. When you have as much money lying around as Tim Cook at Apple does, you have to ask yourself: “Are we going to fly to Mars or are we going to build a car?” Bezos and Branson opted for Mars. Musk opted for Mars and cars. It appears that Cook has chosen cars.

Has he chosen wisely?

Apple put touch screens, music, and videos in our hands and turned its mall stores into high traffic sales and service operations while expanding the market into touchpad computers. What will the iCar ownership experience be?

It’s a few days before Christmas and my iPhone is routinely running out of juice and storage. The same goes for my iPad. I find myself in a daily struggle to delete apps and stored content and turn off applications that are running in the background including location.

We live in a world of operating system and application updates on our phones and our computers. All indications are that our cars will soon be engaged in this same annoying exercise. Are we prepared for that?

It’s clear that Apple has not mastered the art of mobile device updates. If it had, it would have built in a more useful and informative user interface capable of alerting users before too many apps had been downloaded to allow future operating system updates.

Apple happily allows us to paint ourselves into our digital corners with the only way out being a subscription to cloud storage – which Apple is also happy to provide. Since mid-November when both my iPhone and iPad started acting up I had the sneaking suspicion that Apple was trying to herd me back to one of its many stores for a replacement of one or both devices - prematurely, I felt.

I attempted to make the Apple store pilgrimage to plead my case to the fruit-based gods, but in a post-pandemic world the line of waiting mobile device supplicants was too long. If I were still interested in offering tribute, I’d have to come back TOMORROW! Forget it.

There is one car company that appears to have mastered the art of software updates and customer service within the confines of the normally unforgiving form factor – the automobile. Tesla Motors has delivered hundreds of software updates to hundreds of thousands of vehicles with nary a hitch.

With a Tesla, there is no talk of deleting apps or removing functionality (with the exception of a recent infotainment system upgrade that deleted AM/FM radio) to make room for enhanced software code. Apple’s battery-centric approach may be missing the boat.

The focal point of the Apple rumors is a battery performance breakthrough intended to set this future iCar apart from competing EVs. I don’t doubt that Apple’s billions may have bought the company a battery breakthrough, but there’s a missing customer service breakthrough that represents a more immediate concern. Apple has been accused of using monopolistic tactics in the management of its app store and has also been accused of deliberately downgrading the performance of older products to stimulate replacement purchases. Makes sense to me. I am living that experience.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk may have his critics, but he has delivered on the promise of a connected electric vehicle with exceptional endurance and performance and a software update strategy (and execution) that would be the envy of the mobile phone industry.  Two or three years ago, the prospect of an Apple iCar sent a thrill through the tech industry. Today, the shine is off the Apple. The core has been exposed.

Apple has replaced Microsoft’s blue screen of death, with the frozen iPhone screen of failure. You can blame the COVID-19 pandemic for closed Apple stores and a resulting customer service logjam, or you can blame Apple for delivering a poor user experience. The prospect of shifting the software experience on my Apple iPhone into my car is nothing less than horrifying.

Apple is offering an automotive battery breakthrough? Really? Fix my phone, Apple. Fix my iPad, Apple. And please, please, please, stay away from the automotive industry – if you know what’s good for you. Mars makes way more sense. Forget batteries and throw in with Bezos, Branson... and Musk.

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