SAM solutions such as Apple CarPlay leave users frustrated with their cars, study finds

An Apple CarPlay touchscreen. Image: Apple

Driver frustration with Smartphone Automotive Mirroring (SAM) technologies is falling squarely on users' cars, rather than their smartphones, according to a new study by J.D. Power. That could potentially give automakers pause when implementing such solutions, and if they lean in favor of in-car connected computer systems, it could accelerate a promising IoT opportunity for carriers.

“When smartphone mirroring technology doesn't function the way owners expect it to, they are more likely to blame the automaker than their personal device. Since 2013, the two most prevalent problems reported are Bluetooth pairing/poor connectivity and problems understanding voice commands, outpacing other problems by a wide margin,” J.D. Power wrote in a press release introducing its new “J.D. Power 2016 Smartphone Automotive Mirroring (SAM) Report.”

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There are basically two routes automakers can choose when connecting automobiles right now. The first, SAM solutions like Apple CarPlay and the majority of Android Auto connections, use an in-vehicle touchscreen, but depend on pairing with a mobile device to connect to the network.

In SAM solutions, carriers are essentially selling auto data as smartphone data – it all goes through the handset's connection. According to J.D. Power, however, users aren't always responding well to such solutions.

"The likely result of increased smartphone mirroring presence is that the impact on vehicle quality is expected to increase as well," said Kathy Rizk, director of automotive consulting at J.D. Power, in the release. "When this technology does not function as well as expected – and, in fact, creates new and unique problems – owners are understandably frustrated."

But automakers have an alternative: They can install modest computer systems with an independent connection, as Android Auto was originally envisioned. And if automakers start leaning in that direction, if could be a big opportunity for wireless carriers.

Such independent platforms would comprise the first step in true connected cars on an Internet of Things network. They would need their own data connection, one that carriers would be incentivized to sell either directly to the consumer or through a partnership with automakers.

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Historically, automakers have avoided this path because it's significantly more expensive. Initial attempts at implementing Android Auto added around $700 to the price of the car – that's a premium automakers were hesitant to either absorb or pass on to the consumer.

But if automakers see that consumers are generally blaming them when SAM solutions go awry, independent platforms may begin looking much more attractive.