Apple said today that it has teamed up with more car makers to provide iPod integration with their car stereos. The company said it has formed partnerships with Acura, Audi, Honda and Volkswagen to include iPod connectivity for their 2006 model lines. Apple noted that there are now 15 car companies around the offering iPod integration and that more than 5 million cars – 30% of the total US market – will ship with iPod support in the US in 2006.
Audi will add iPod integration in its A3, A4 and TT models in November, and Volkswagen will offer iPod connectivity “for the majority of their 2006 US lineup.” Certain Volkswagen cars dating back as far as 1999 model year will be capable of using the $249 iPod integration kit, which includes installation for that price. Apple said Acura and Honda will also feature iPod integration in “the majority of their lineup beginning later this year” and that the Honda and Acura Music Link will be the first to include text-to-speech capabilities or VoiceID, which is used to search for playlists, artist and album names or genre information.
Apple representatives at the San Francisco special event told iLounge that there will be substantial variation between the kits offered by companies, noting that automotive companies are now tapping a wide variety of after-market car accessory designers (including Dension and others) to provide their in-car options. Dension, for example, has provided the Volkswagen integration system.
Our impressions of the systems we saw were mixed. Many used the simple “pick from five playlists” selection concept originally introduced in BMW’s iPod interface, but each added a new feature or two. Volkswagen’s car enabled you to shuffle songs with one of the car’s buttons. Honda’s system, by comparison, uses a text-to-speech interface to read letters and words from your collection for easier iPod navigation, but uses a confusing array of buttons and a one-line text display taken from a CD changer interface to display information.
Fairly describing the current system as a “stopgap” measure intended to offer as much iPod integration as is technically possible immediately, a Honda representative noted the inherent difficulties of adapting cars designed before the growth of the iPod phenomenon for use with devices with unique controls and the ability to output ID3 tag information. Honda and Apple representatives said that because of standard industry planning and timing issues, more sophisticated and intuitive iPod integration kits would begin to appear in cars released for model years 2008 and 2009.
“We’re thrilled to team up with Acura, Audi, Honda and Volkswagen to provide drivers with a seamless iPod experience,