Apple CarPlay is also anti-competitive, a US lawsuit claims

Buried in the 88-page antitrust lawsuit the U.S. Department of Justice filed against Apple is a reference to everyone’s favorite phone projection system, CarPlay.

The DOJ says vehicle infotainment systems, like smartphones, have become another way for Apple to engage in anticompetitive behavior to harm both consumers and competitors.

Apple’s plans to introduce a more immersive version of CarPlay, in which the system displays key aspects of the car’s functions such as speed and HVAC, are further evidence of the company’s illegal smartphone monopoly, prosecutors say.

Infotainment systems have become a new way for Apple to engage in anti-competitive behavior

“By applying the same limitations playbook to CarPlay, Apple further locks down the power of the iPhone by preventing the development of other disintermediating technologies that work in tandem with the phone but reside outside the device,” the lawsuit said.

The inclusion of CarPlay, as well as digital key functions through Apple’s Wallet feature, came as a surprise to some analysts, who say the DOJ may be misunderstanding the usefulness and functions of the phone mirror system.

This is especially true of the next-generation version, which prosecutors insidiously describe as taking over “all the screens, sensors and gauges in a car, forcing users to experience driving as an iPhone-centric experience when they want to use one of the following functions.” the functions of CarPlay.”

That’s misleading, says Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Guidehouse Insights and vehicle software expert. “Even with the next-gen system, OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] We don’t actually need to let Apple take over all the screens,” he said in an email. “They can limit the interface to the screens they want.”

Automakers still need to build a basic software interface so vehicle owners can adjust their air conditioning, change the radio station or control native navigation maps, Abuelsamid said. They cannot assume that every car owner has a smartphone, let alone an iPhone, which he projects onto his car’s infotainment screen. And the car must be able to function when no smartphone is present.

“Apple further locks in the power of the iPhone by preventing the development of other disintermediate technologies”

Additionally, there is no cost to the customer to switch to Android Auto, Google’s other popular phone mirroring service. And even in vehicles that have Google’s Android software as standard, owners are not prevented from using CarPlay if they wish.

Apple CarPlay is immensely popular, with a large number of Americans calling it a must-have for future car purchases. Only General Motors has made the decision to cut off access to all phone mirroring services for its electric vehicles, citing a desire for a more “holistically integrated” software experience. (This move has proven very unpopular with car buyers.)

GM may also have cut off access to CarPlay for reasons other than holistic integration. The company likely refused to share data with Apple, which had been working on its own secret car project for more than a decade. That work, known as Project Titan, came to an unceremonious end last month — which could ultimately cause GM to reconsider its decision, Abuelsamid said.

Digital keys also make a cameo in the Justice Department lawsuit. The keys, which use a phone’s Near Field Communication (NFC) or ultrawideband (UWB) technology to lock, unlock or start a car, are another cross-platform technology used by Apple to assert its dominance in the smartphone market, DOJ says. Prosecutors use the example of Apple requiring developers to add digital keys developed for their own apps to Apple Wallet in order to function.

“Even with the next-gen system, OEMs don’t really need to let Apple take over all the screens.”

“Apple Wallet’s default status sends users to the Apple Wallet instead of allowing third parties to present digital car keys only in their own cross-platform app, increasing dependence on Apple and the iPhone when using their car,” reads the complaint. “At the same time, it reduces automakers’ incentives to innovate because automakers are forced to share data with Apple and cannot differentiate themselves because they could exist without Apple’s behavior.”

Apple’s digital key technology meets standards set by a cross-industry consortium of automakers and technology companies, Abuelsamid notes. Still, the company has “tight hands” over access to its NFC and UWB chips, and the requirement to work through Apple Wallet is likely to have more impact on other payment apps than on apps developed by the auto industry.

Mike Ramsey, a vice president at Gartner, says that if Apple actually makes digital keys work well, it could be a win for consumers despite breaking the law.

“The tension here is that Apple’s raison d’etre is a smooth, easy-to-use experience and that forcing apps to integrate into the secure Apple wallet system guarantees a better consumer experience,” Ramsey said. “Of course, it also helps Apple gain control of key digital apps in a way that appears anti-competitive.”

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