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Toyota Entune and VW Car-Net do things Android Auto and Apple CarPlay can't touch

John Brandon | July 30, 2014
While the world waits for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to change how we use our phones in our cars, automakers are already busy coming at it from the other direction--changing how we use our cars with our phones.

For some reason, rather than just tapping in the vehicle's VIN number and registering on my iPhone 5, I had to call a special registration line and obtain an account number and passcode. That's a bit annoying, though also a good security precaution.

Once registered, the app worked fine for conveniences like locking and unlocking the car, flashing the lights and horn in an emergency, checking the current fuel economy and distance to empty, and even calling for concierge help from VW. You can find a location on a map and send the directions to the car's nav system. I clicked an option in the app, dialed the number, and asked about which movies were playing my area.

I wanted the app to do more, though. There's no support for Pandora or other music streaming services, no Facebook integration, and no option for reading your texts while you drive. Car-Net is also expensive: One year's service costs $199, or you can pay $17.99 each month.

Car apps coming from all directions

Car apps are still very new, and so are all the do's and don'ts, whys and wherefores, around what an app can or should do. Toyota's Entune and Volkswagen's Car-Net do things that Android Auto and Apple CarPlay may never do — because the automakers are, understandably, cautious in giving away controls like locking and unlocking doors, or turning on the air conditioning, to third parties, even ones as formidable as Google and Apple.

With the automakers coming at it from the car's side, and the phone makers coming at it from the phone's side, someday, at least theoretically, the technology should converge in the middle. In the meantime, using a car app gives you conveniences that are well worth considering if you're shopping for a new car.


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