Apple announced plenty of new features for iOS 7 in its WWDC keynote on Monday, but one of those new features takes the company somewhere it's never been before – your car. Sure, you've probably got an auxiliary cable snaking out of your dashboard and a USB charger plugged into your cigarette lighter, but Apple is going for something a bit more elegant than that.
Creatively named iOS in the Car, Apple plans to integrate your iOS device with your in-dash system. This means if you own a vehicle equipped with iOS in the Car, you can connect your iPhone 5 to the system and use your car's built-in display and controls. You can also use Siri Eyes Free, which allows you to control the system by voice so you can keep your eyes on the road.
There's still relatively little information about exactly what you'll be able to do with this system, but here's what we know so far: iOS in the Car knows when you're leaving for work (or coming home), and automatically displays traffic conditions along with your estimated time of arrival. You can also get turn-by-turn directions with Apple Maps, either by entering an address or by using an address received in an email or text. But this may be a mixed blessing until Apple further irons out its widely criticised Maps app, or allows you to use an alternative, like Google Maps.
Text messages will appear on your car's display, and Siri can read them aloud over your car's speakers, after which you can dictate a message back. You can also ask Siri to play back your voicemail and return missed calls.
Music playback is handled via your vehicle's built-in controls. You can play back anything on your iPhone, including audiobooks, iTunes Radio, podcasts, and more.
This all sounds well and good, but its success is largely dependent upon how many cars Apple can get iOS in the Car on board. At WWDC, Apple announced that manufacturers including Honda, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Ferrari, Chevy, Infiniti, Kia, Hyundai, Volvo, Acura, Opel, and Jaguar have all signed on to feature the system in upcoming vehicles.
It remains to be seen how car manufacturers will react to the news, and whether they'll be okay with ceding this much control of the infotainment system – and related profit from GPS navigation and other options. For example, BlackBerry has already been at work on a similar idea to this, utilising the QNX Car platform it acquired with partners from Audi to Saab.
But if there's one thing we've seen Apple succeed at, it's giving customers a very clear idea of how to use a relatively new product or service until it becomes a must-have. That, along with the ubiquity of the iPhone, could mean that iOS in the Car has a real shot at transforming automotive infotainment as we know it.