Amongst all the hype surrounding Apple’s latest ventures like iOS8, Apple Pay and the Apple Watch, somehow one major creation has gone largely neglected: Apple CarPlay.
As you may have sussed from the name it’s Apple’s attempt at an in-car operating system. One central command unit from which you can access all of the features of your iPhone in a driver-safe manner – everything from playing music to navigation to receiving text messages. There’s nothing out there right now which offers up quite as comprehensive an experience, and certainly not one that does it with Apple’s typical polish and seamless integration.
So far several high-end manufacturers are on board with the setup, including Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar. There are also more affordable brands like Nissan, Mitsubishi and Vauxhall offering the package, but this would still mean buying a brand new model of a brand new car. Basically, whichever way you go CarPlay is going to cost you.
It’s a good thing that Alpine exists, then. The Japanese electronics company created the first ever in-car sat-nav device in 1981, and has been a major name in automotive electronics ever since. Now it’s created an aftermarket CarPlay console.
Mechanically it works just like any other car radio. You simply purchase the device and then visit an in-car entertainment specialist to have it fitted. They pop out your old central console and slap the shiny new Alpine iLX-007 in instead. This means that it’s now possible to get ApplePlay in just about any car. The iLX-007 is compatible with every iPhone down to the iPhone 5 and works fully with iOS8.
The display itself is a fairly moderate 7 inches (so as to fit in a broader range of vehicles) and features full touch-capacity. It supports everything than an integrated CarPlay station would, including apps like Apple Maps, Rdio and Siri.
There are only two downsides, and you can probably hazard a guess at what they are. The first is the price: at $800 it’s not the most expensive bit of kit in the world, but you could get a perfectly serviceable digital radio (with iOS device connector), hands-free kit and sat-nav all for a cheaper price. The second issue is availability. Alpine is currently only advertising the device for sale in North America, although a press release on the company’s site does specifically state that they intend to bring it to the UK and Europe towards the end of 2014.
What do you think? Would you buy the iLX-007? Would you even go as far as to specifically purchase a brand new car with CarPlay already built in?