iOS in the Car cannot come soon enough

By , Sep 6, 2013

2013 Nissan Pathfinder

I recently purchased a new top of the line 2013 Nissan Pathfinder and am very pleased with the family decision. Everything is exactly what my wife was looking for in a vehicle, sleek exterior, beautiful interior, mandatory leather seats, and room for future 2.2 kids and a Great Dane. The size, we felt, was a little lacking, but it stood up to its rivals with a bit of finesse.

We get our new, fresh smelling, SUV home and start playing with it in the driveway like two kids and a new toy on Christmas morning. But, we obviously are attracted to different things. My wife wanted to climb all over the back seats, adjust the driver seat, and set the memory locks for her key fob. I go straight for the dashboard entertainment center.

I took a fairly hard look at the infotainment center on our various test drives, but once I had my iPod classic freshly synced and plugged into the Pathfinder, I quickly grew upset. Below the fold is a personal reaction to the system in our new vehicle and a highlight of how things could be done in a more fluid way…

iPod mirroring

The best way for vehicles to offer full functionality is iPod or iPhone mirroring. As Apple announced at the June WWDC, the car is a “key focus” for the near future. Cook announced that “iOS in the Car” is something customers want and Apple is positioned to help in a unique way.

iOS 7 Siri Car Integration

According to Apple:

iOS in the Car seamlessly integrates your iOS device — and the iOS experience — with your in-dash system. If your vehicle is equipped with iOS in the Car, you can connect your iPhone 5 and interact with it using the car’s built-in display and controls or Siri Eyes Free. Now you can easily and safely make phone calls, access your music, send and receive messages, get directions, and more. It’s all designed to let iPhone focus on what you need, so you can focus on the road.

These abilities will be paramount for upcoming vehicles.

Getting back to our new Pathfinder, there are several features I cannot believe are missing. Simple items like artist or song search are completely missing. For example, if we want to listen to ZZ Top, the iPod list must be scrolled completely through to “Z.” There are no shortcuts either. I hope to simply scan through 26 letters, A to Z, but that is not an option. Each and every artist must be scrolled through using a dashboard knob.

Another failing is operability on the actual device. Once the iPod classic is plugged into the USB port, all operating system functionality is killed and a Nissan logo is displayed. All iPod controls must be initiated through the lacking dashboard system.

Moreover, when plugging in my iPhone 5, the functionality is also terrible. Once plugged in, the user cannot navigate to the Music.app, or Pandora.app, Spotify.app, Podcasts.app. The audio app must first be playing, then the iPhone can be plugged into the USB port. Worst of all, once the iPhone is plugged in, no control is offered through the dashboard for these features. However, unlike the iPod classic, some functionality is retained and operated directly through the iPhone.

Piling on, the Bluetooth system is failing. Nissan’s Pathfinder only allows calls via Bluetooth. Despite all of the BT 4.0 advancements, the 2013 Pathfinder still prevents users from wirelessly streaming audio to the infotainment system. Consequently, everything is wired through the USB port inside the center console between the two front seats.

What about the auxiliary jack? Unfortunately, there is no 3.5mm input. If there was a input jack, all of these control problems would be eliminated because the user could simply control the audio from the iOS device. But, just like the Bluetooth oversight, the audio input cable is also left on the design floor.

Just upgrade every year

Preventing similar calamities, vehicle and cell phone manufactures need to inherently work side by side to accomplish this task. This is not to say all vehicles have similar troubles to the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, but it is clear through my own experience, at the least, Nissan is behind the times.

One obvious and unavoidable road block, pun intended, is smartphone refreshes comes every few months. With new cell phone updates releasing so quickly, combined with users purchasing new phones at two year intervals, our vehicles will need to be future-proofed. A majority of consumers drive their vehicles for an extended period of time, through at least three phone upgrade cycles or about 10 years.

Car manufacturers do refresh their lines on a yearly basis, but most upgraded items are minimally affecting smartphone connectivity. Maybe from 2012 to 2013 the vehicle receives a new fancy pair of LED accents for the headlamps or the hood has a more aggressive angle, but little to no attention is paid to the dashboard system. After doing a little research, Nissan has failed to update this particular system since at least 2008.

icar

Future upgrades to infotainment systems will hopefully occur every year with the new model. If that is too costly or not possible, upcoming vehicle centers should possess the ability to easily upgrade their software to adjust with new smartphone features. If new features are released for the vehicle, create a smartphone app that can download the new firmware to the vehicle console.

It appears Apple is headed in the right direction, but just like cable TV providers, auto manufacturers are slow to adapt to new technologies. That is not to say that many manufactures are behind the times, but in the case of my Nissan Pathfinder, someone clearly fell asleep behind the wheel. Scrolling through artists, songs, and albums one by one is a problem I thought the world solved about five or six years ago. Thanks to Nissan refusing to keep up with the times, my current model vehicle is like a typewriter of yore.

Once Apple pushes the auto industry to update their ways more rapidly, expect a more updated system throughout the whole vehicle lineup. I look forward to having a continually updated infotainment system that keeps pace with my rapidly updating technology. With iOS in the Car, the dashboard system is upgraded as soon as iOS is updated. There will be no need for in-dash firmware upgrades or costly additions. Simply, the iPhone image will appear on a screen in front of the driver, with no reliance on the auto manufacture.

Do you own a current or recent model vehicle that is similarly frustrating? Do you think the auto industry is behind? Meet us in the comments below.

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  • NaSty

    Not sure if this was just a reason to show-off your new car Jim :)

    • JimGresham

      False! Just angry. You figure a certain level of compatibility in a 2013 vehicle.

      • TesticularFortitude

        My wife just bought a 2013 Pathfinder too… And that’s the one thing I absolutely hate too. Sometimes when I plug my iphone in, it still says iPod not connected. The whole infotainment center sucks. I like the keyless starter, rear leg room and backup cam, but they missed the mark on the infotainment center.

        Did you take yours in for recalls?

      • Pitchy

        We just traded in our Eclipse for a 2013 Kia Soul and I don’t know how bad the Pathfinder is to what Kia is doing, but with the Soul, bluetooth works flawlessly and I don’t even touch the USB connector for the phone. We use a dual 10w USB cigarette lighter adapter for charging 2 phones or a tablet from time to time and then connect to the stereo over bluetooth because it works immensely better than the included cable. I much prefer it this way. I don’t like plugging the iPhone into the provided Kia cable because the moment you do, it takes over and maybe I just want to charge and continue listening to Sirius XM… So that cable stays in the glove box. Bluetooth is the way to go for me.

      • NaSty

        I was only kiddin :)

  • Hugh Jassol

    In terms of iOS car integration, I feel Apple is behind, not necessarily the car makers.

    IMO, iOS in the car is the most interesting feature of ios7. Most of us spend hours a week in the car and now with all the dangers of texting etc., this feature is essential.

    My iphone (connected via A/V cable to in dash TV) has been my in car multimedia center for music, navigation & tv for the past 4 years so this feature will be gladly welcomed.

    • iThinkergoiMac

      I never understood the point of dash TVs. You shouldn’t be watching movies while you’re driving, and I can’t imagine sitting and watching one in your car is the most comfortable or convenient. It has a certain “ooo, neat” factor, but that’s about all I can give it. If I’m going to watch something, I’ll do it in my living room on my actual TV or on my iPad or something along those lines, where it won’t only be comfortable but will cost me significantly less money to do so.

      • Hugh Jassol

        Arghhhh…..another holier than thou ignorant comment, SMH.

        I never understand gun owners. You shouldn’t shoot people either. See where I’m going here?

        There is nothing to debate but debating itself.

      • iThinkergoiMac

        Actually, I honestly wanted to know. I figured I was missing something. But, from the tone of your comment, I’m not actually missing anything. If I’m to read into your comment as much stuff not actually present as you read into mine, then I assume that you just like watching things while driving even though it’s a huge distraction and makes you a terror to be around on the road.

        Except I’m not making that assumption.

        My assumption is that one would want to be a responsible driver and thus would not watch TV while driving on the road, so there must be a purpose in there that I’m missing. Maybe all it is is that you do find watching movies in your vehicle convenient and I don’t.

      • Al Iverson

        Nobody with a brain watches TV while driving. Lots of people have little kids etc. and play videos to keep them busy. My wife and I have even been stuck in storms so bad and had to pull over to wait them out, and stuff like that is a great time to be able to fire up an episode of a TV show to kill the time.

      • iThinkergoiMac

        You say nobody with a brain does it, but I know a few people who are otherwise quite smart that do. It always baffles me. Like a friend of mine who doesn’t wear a seat belt because he thinks he can brace himself better than a seat belt can stop him. He’s actually a very smart guy in general, just has this one crazy blip of complete blindness.

        I completely understand for kids (though, for kids, I would assume rear seat screens), and that’s a good point about stopping for inclement weather. Thanks!

      • Hugh Jassol

        I didn’t read anything into your comment. You stated “You shouldn’t be watching movies while you’re driving”, …I don’t hence the ignorant reference.

        Exactly what I said…..nothing to debate but debating itself. Now, look at all the sheep comments that have followed from YOUR assumption that I must be watching TV while I’m driving….

        These dumb comments/assumptions are no more naive than me assuming that gun owners must shoot people. Do I like or own guns? ….no, but I’m not naive to think that everyone who does shoots people.

        Next, since its obviously distracting, lets debate whether having a navigation screen should be allowed in the front seat. Then, we can debate whether you should be allowed to change your radio station while driving. Whats next?

  • iThinkergoiMac

    One thing I always do with my car when I get one is upgrade the head unit at the very least, usually the speakers as well. I find that built-in sound systems on most non-luxury cars tend to be lacking. Doing this would solve your issues as well.

    That being said, I have never bought a brand-new car, always used, and so I don’t know how that works with today’s increasingly-integrated systems. I believe you end up installing the head unit somewhere else and leaving the existing system in place apart from the audio.

    It’s an added expense, yes, but well worth it, IMO, for what you get.

    • Al Iverson

      The problem is, what aftermarket head unit do you buy if you want great iOS integration? The Pioneer Appradio breaks with every iOS or application update, from what I’ve read. My Nissan will take an aftermarket head unit just fine but I feel like we’re a year or two away from something with solid iOS support.

      • iThinkergoiMac

        TBH, I have not researched what head unit would be best, as I have no real inclination to put a screen that size in my car unless it’s GPS integrated or some crazy mod with a jailbroken iPad I can use to control everything in the car in one spot. That being said, I feel like there must be better solutions out there than what Nissan is offering.

        Honestly, though, what I really want is an iPad embedded in my dash. I could do GPS with it (assuming it’s 4G/3G) and, if I had the coding chops (which I don’t), run a program on it that would replicate the functions I’d have lost in the space (heating and cooling, other buttons) and give some control over the programming of the engine.

      • Al Iverson

        I’m with you there. An iPad mini in dash would be perfect. It could either pair to the phone for internet or have its own 3G/LTE.

  • Shane Sparky

    Yeah Nissan and the radio unit is fairly poor. Shame considering they make great vehicles. Hopefully in the near feature that changes.

    Remember when some cars had mp3 CD support and some didn’t? Haha

  • Andrew Brown

    And that’s why I just do the infotainment center myself… Hacked the wiring in my 2010 Audi A6 hooked it up with an Apple TV … The possibilities with mirroring and more are endless… If you want it done right just do it yourself…

    • FOFF

      you have wifi in your car?

      • Andrew Brown

        Indeed through the iPad -which has unlimited LTE through the sim swap loophole…. It is hard wired so anything possible at home I can do including stream live TV through my nifty slingbox – it took about $500 worth of electronic connectors and such but it’s cheaper and more successful then any aftermarket system

      • VEGGIETORTA

        Would you happen to have a write up? I would like to check it out. I’m guessing it was something like this = Airport Express -> AppleTV ->Monitor. Did you opt for airplay to keep the interaction from phone to monitor cable free?

  • T_Will

    iOS in the car cannot come soon enough. We just got a Honda CRV, and it uses almost an identical UI to the one my parent’s Toyota had a decade ago. It’s clunky, slow, and ugly.

  • Max

    I also have the new 2013 pathfinder. Just wanted you to know that you could wirelessly play your music thru the system with Bluetooth. If you go to a setting in the dashboard. It’s just hidden somewhere in there. But I agree with everything else you said. Disappointed compare to what other dashboard can do right now.

  • Pitchy

    I think it needs to be more than just iOS on the dashboard. It needs to be a standard that is going to work with a multitude of devices with various interfaces and operating systems. It’s going to need to be able to sync with iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and as you mentioned iPod Classic. It needs to be able to stream over bluetooth or USB for all the above mentioned platforms. So if it is going to be an iOS based dashboard, it has to play nice with others.

    One of the things that bothered me was with the iPhone 5 and the Lightning Connector was that the old 30 pin was almost an industry standard. There were so many cars that had a 30 pin cable included in some form or fashion… like on a Mini Cooper, you can easily plug an iPhone or iPod right into and it works great… but that new connector changed that. So we need some standards that’s going to work with everyone.

  • Gus Me

    iOS in the car will be nice, but there already are quite a few new car infotainment centers that do a very nice job. I think this is just Nissan’s way of saying that it’s not that important to them. My wife had the new Sonata and its center was great. Bluetooth connection, phone connection were excellent. Someone also said their Kia was good too. With aftermarket stereos, I don’t see this becoming a make it or break it as far as sales goes. It wasn’t for you ;)

    • FOFF

      all car makers need to do is sell cars with and apple option which will have a removable ipad mini as you music player and nave unit etc..

      • Gus Me

        That would help sell a few cars.

  • micD

    Stupid question, but with the new iOS for the car, do you think its going to be a software upgrade? Or do i need to hypothetically purchase a new car? I recently purchased a 2013 Nissan Juke, and I noticed a SD card reader, thats why Im blindly assuming its a software upgrade.

    Any information or theories would be appreciated!

    • FOFF

      new car

  • Al Iverson

    My theory is that these haven’t been updated lately because car makers can’t really compete with what the phones do themselves. The iPhone does it all way better, and the in-dash UI experience is crap, and iOS-in-dash just isn’t here yet. We had a 2011 Nissan Versa with the full monte of in-dash nav, bluetooth, etc., and after a short while we gave up on programming routes into the nav and just use the phone for navigation. We now have a 2012 Nissan Rogue (the 2011 died in a car accident) and we went with the low end audio system, no nav, etc. We use the USB input, but just to charge and play music. We actually bought a phone mount that slides into the CD slot, and we put the phone in front of the stereo screen. It works great, though I wish the phone’s screen were bigger.

  • matt

    My Mercedes does bt streaming. It shows the artist song title on display and doesn’t matter where I’m pulling music from pandora, spotify,soundcloud, mix cloud. Also I can skip songs using rotary dial located next to shifter on center console/ armrest. This just sounds like poor execution by Nissan.

    • FOFF

      yup

  • burlow

    my current car is a 2004. I’ll be buying a new one from the first company that integrates iOS in the car

    • FOFF

      BMW is there now

      • burlow

        I can go to a bmw dealership right now, and buy a car that integrates with iOS in the car (iOS 7 beta, obviously)?

      • FOFF

        yup BMW and apple signed an integration deal its available on all NEW high end models

  • FOFF

    i bout the skosch iphone integration kit for my BMW and wired it up myself it works fine and i just use the iphone as navigation and music player with my 2000 watt audio system

  • iThinkergoiMac

    FWIW, by default aftermarket units won’t let you use the screen for video watching unless the handbrake is engaged (or some other similar lockout). You have to actively disable that feature to use it while the car is in motion.

  • Jerry

    I have to agree the all the software that come with these new cars are very PAINFUL to use and horribly done. I too always thought “why can’t they just do it ios style” where everything just works. It feels like your pulling teeth when your navigate through stuff or just try to sync anything

  • mav3rick

    A car is a car. It’s moving at speed and it needs full attention. For entertainment: basement, bedroom, bar, just couple suggestions.
    Getting entertained behind the wheel it can cost lives, worse that sometime of the others.

  • GGopher

    I just bought a 2013 Toyota Venza. The stereo in the base model includes a large touchscreen and it integrates perfectly with my IPhone. Bluetooth streaming music from my iphone plays automatically within ~10 seconds of starting the car, no cables to connect and no buttons to press. From the steering wheel controls I can browse my iphone music including podcasts.

    The most frustrating thing is trying to determine which cars offer the best support. I was tempted with the Ford Edge, but I had no desire to use the Sync Touch system provided by Microsoft.

    I wish iOS in the Car was a reality with full Siri integration from the steering wheel, but unfortunately their are very few options available. That was one of my main criteria while car shopping, but nothing came close in a compact SUV.

  • Ekosc

    I am renting a 2013 pathfinder and concluded within 5 minutes the radio system sucks. Where is the simple aux plugin on the radio that I can plug in my portable satellite xm radio or iPhone. Not there. After spending 20 minutes at rental agency they got me connected thru the stupid USB port and like people said it is not intuitive and far from it. Put the USB port and aux port in there for the masses to use until the auto and software people get it figured out. Have 12 hour drive home to Indy on new years day and hope I can listen to iPhone music and audio books. Got connected but do not have a clue on hw to control the music using the dash buttons. I do what I think the manual says and it plays different music. Radio SUCKS!

  • Tracy Turner

    Just purchased ipone5s and tried to download contacts to my 2013 pathfinder. It doesn’t work! Nissan blames it on apple and Apple blames it on Nissan, go figure. The auto download will not work and with 454 client contacts I am only able to install 40 contacts manually??? WTF . Any one have any suggestions. It would be appreciated.