First Click: Apple CarPlay pulls ahead of Android Auto at Geneva Motor Show

March 3rd, 2016

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This week I've been kicking the tires of the finest, most exclusive, and most exotic cars at the Geneva Motor Show, and I've spotted two emerging trends: cheap oil is bringing huge gas guzzlers back into fashion, and Google's Android Auto is falling behind Apple's CarPlay. Android Auto isn't a complete absentee from the show, of course, but the headline-grabbing cars, the cream of Geneva's crop, have all gravitated toward Apple's solution and ignored Google's alternative.

Lamborghini's big unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show was the Centenario, a car so exclusive that all 40 units of its production run had already been sold — at a price of €1.75 million each — before company CEO Stephan Winkelmann even took the stage. It was a show of the brand's power and attraction, and it was notable to the tech world for its prominent inclusion of Apple CarPlay in among high-performance specs like 770hp and a 2.8-second 0 to 60 time. Contrast that with the Maserati Levante, which supports Android Auto alongside CarPlay, but makes no big noise about either one. The same is true of the Hyundai Ioniq, the updated Fiat 500S, and the Audi Q2: Android Auto is typically a second option quietly thrown in after CarPlay. Google's software is an afterthought. Apple's software is a major highlight on the car about to grace the cover of the next Forza racing game.

As if the 770hp Centenario wasn't enough, Apple's CarPlay will also figure at the heart of the 1,500hp Koenigsegg Regera. I asked Koenigsegg about Android Auto and was met with a blank stare. The truth is that there is some validity to the cliche of wealthy people all owning iPhones, and that's the thing prompting Lamborghini and Koenigsegg to get on board with Apple's infotainment system. And even though the vast majority of us will never get closer to a Regera or Centenario than a visit to the Geneva Motor Show, the use of CarPlay in those cars will certainly have a positive effect in driving demand for it in more conventional vehicles. You might not be able to afford a carbon fiber monocoque, but you can grab yourself a sporty hatchback with the same CarPlay smarts as within those hypercars.

Like CES, the Geneva Motor Show isn't really an exhibition of practical near-future machines for the mass market. It has many of those, to be sure. But its purpose is to show off the edge cases of human ingenuity and invention, affordable to only the very few, while also sketching out the shape of a future for all the rest of us. Bugatti's president sees his company as "the R&D department of the Volkswagen Group," and everyone watching from the Geneva sidelines looks to the exotic car brands to set an example going forward. This year, the guidance has been to mix the tradition of more power through bigger engines with the modernity provided by Apple CarPlay. Google's Android Auto is here, but the hype for it isn't.

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