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Forget the iCar. Porsche gives Apple a first-class ticket to the auto industry

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Porsche’s first mass-produced electric car, the Taycan, is scheduled to make its public debut at the 2019 Frankfurt Auto Show, which opens its doors September 12. While the 600-plus-horsepower battery-electric powertrain is the car’s most important feature, Porsche has also shed light on the in-car technology it developed with Apple specifically for this model. The Taycan won’t be the first high-performance electric car available new — it will arrive too late to claim that honor — but it will be the only mass-produced model with built-in Apple Music when it reaches showrooms in 2020.

Taycan owners will be able to access more than 50 million songs by tapping the car’s center-stack-mounted touchscreen a few times, or by asking Siri. They notably will not need to pair their iPhone with their car’s infotainment system to stream their favorite tunes. Apple Music needs a strong internet connection, however, so Porsche will kindly offer every buyer three years of complimentary in-car internet — roaming included. The service also requires an Apple ID, and a subscription priced at $10 a month (or $120 per year). Still, it’s a great deal for unlimited access to music.

Built-in Apple Music shows how far infotainment technology has come, and it points to the direction automakers will follow as they seek to pack more digital features into your dashboard. In 2019, most cars are able to talk to smartphones, though the conversation doesn’t always go smoothly. In a few short years, well before 2025, the infotainment system will replace the smartphone while the driver is behind the wheel. Everything accessible on a phone today will be available via the screen.

Calls and texts? That’s so 2010. Music? Done. FaceTime? If a car has semiautonomous technology, why not? Shopping? Automakers are already working on it. Porsche rival Mercedes-Benz has started tapping into the infotainment system’s nearly boundless potential. It’s in the process of creating its own, Amazon-rivaling e-commerce platform that will let passengers buy anything from a light bulb to a laptop straight from their car’s touchscreen. It doesn’t take a giant leap of the imagination to picture Apple floating a similar platform linked to Apple Pay. The Apple ID required to access Apple Music also lets users into the Apple Online Store, and into the various Apple Retail services and programs.

On a secondary but more lasting level, the tie-up with Porsche gives Apple a quick, easy way to expand its presence in the automotive industry beyond CarPlay. The Cupertino, California-based tech giant might never build the long-rumored iCar, and why would it want to? Developing and manufacturing cars requires a great deal of experience and a colossal investment, but the profit margins are thinner than a MacBook Air. Tim Cook’s team would stay up at night brooding about fine-tuning suspension geometry, rust-proofing body panels, and making dashboards capable of withstanding an Arizona summer. By taking over your center stack instead of invading your engine bay, the firm is cherry-picking the most profitable part of a car, and staying comfortably close to the technology it has amassed decades of experience in.

While nothing is official yet, it’s reasonable to assume that additional models from Porsche and other automakers will offer built-in Apple Music in the coming years.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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