What happens to the AM/FM buttons with Apple CarPlay?

At last week's CES, much of the buzz about autos was connectivity with phones.  On the heels of that, Apple recently posted more details about their in-car solution Apple CarPlay.   My email and phone have been buzzing with questions. Some are easily answered and some are unknown.  

There are 21 manufacturers and 100 car models slated for roll out.  So, it's happening now or in the near future. The list is here.

How will this affect radio?  One never knows for sure, but intuitively, linear radio's wide-moat in the car is vulnerable.  People crave choice and control - two giant modern media themes - and that's what CarPlay represents.  Look at how on-demand has changed TV and video (see my last two posts about CES and the ascension of YouTube and Netflix).  

CarPlay removes much of the friction of choosing audio sources such as podcasts and streaming, and thus opens up a myriad of options for listeners.  But CarPlay does something else potentially damaging to linear radio -- it removes the AM/FM buttons from the user interface and pushes them at least several clicks away - depending on the car manufacturer's own options.

As you can see below, Apple will enable some additional apps, but not all. Simplicity in the car is critically important. To date, iHeart and CBS News are the only AM/FM radio apps I have seen included - congrats to iHeart for the significant forward thinking. But streaming apps including Pandora and Spotify move front and center along with other new listening options.  

Where are the AM/FM buttons?  No car company is expected to remove AM/FM radio - it just will not be the "automatic" default if people choose to tether their phone to the car.  It is expected that the car's system will fault to CarPlay.   

From Apple's website.  

From Apple's website.  

All of this change reinforces the notion that linear radio needs to think beyond the transmitter and create great and compelling audio available on multiple platforms.  

Steven Goldstein1 Comment