At ALG, we have the benefit of exposure to a wide range of vehicles in just about every segment on the market. This also means we experience a vast array of in-car technology, which in the past decade has moved from including things like CD players and navigation to an endless range of safety, comfort and entertainment options.
In this new blog series, we’ll explore some of the ways that automotive brands manage to integrate and execute these increasingly complex features. We’ll show you the best practices that make the cabin experience better, and we’ll politely point out some of the ways that current executions could improve.
The first feature we’ll tackle is one that is becoming de rigeur for the latest generation of vehicles, as more and more drivers carry their music with them on a mobile device. No longer just for carrying on a hands-free phone conversation, Bluetooth lets you stream media stored on your device or straight from the Internet, through apps like Pandora and Spotify.
Bluetooth often integrates with vehicles through increasingly complex infotainment systems, and we’ll certainly be offering commentary on the variety of screens, knobs and touchpads that you’ll find in automotive cabins these days. But for our first look at in-car technology, we’ll focus solely on the execution of Bluetooth.
Make connecting easy
The initial connection should be a cinch, not only for a driver when they get in their new car for the first time. Other passengers will often want to connect to the system to share their own media on a road trip. Make it easy to find the right command (hint: through the “phone” menu), and don’t make us type in a code. We’re all just going to use “0000″, so what security is this really providing? And make it pop up on the user’s phone as something intuitive, like your brand name.
And don’t connect via voice commands. We had one system that did this recently that drove us all bonkers, since it was impossible to use the touch screen to connect. Thankfully that system is on its way out.
Use your display!
If you have a big beautiful screen, use it. We’ve definitely seen systems that sequester the song information in a tiny little corner or restrict it to an 8-character line of text. Be proud; display it boldly.
An even bigger and more flabbergasting demerit is issued to those systems that don’t display song info at all. Some systems merely tell you you’re streaming via Bluetooth. Yes, I knew that, but what I don’t recall is the name of this song buried at the bottom of my playlist that I haven’t heard in ages. Yes, I want to know what it’s called, and I also want to know what album it’s from.
Another strange but common execution is the mis-use of the instrument cluster display. Many brands are now giving us lovely full-color screens next to the speedo and tach. But some of them, despite being able to show streaming music data on the infotainment screen, can’t get that text to the cluster. Puzzling, but all too common. If you have space, display the album artwork. If the song is missing the artwork, move the text over so it doesn’t rub that fact in the driver’s face.
One of the most salient differences between systems is what happens when you get back in the car. If you left your music streaming when you got out, odds are you’ll want to continue doing so on your next drive. Some systems reconnect automatically. Some don’t. Others take so long to reconnect that you’re ten blocks away by the time you hear anything.
Quick reconnection can be a technical challenge, but it’s an important one. Otherwise the system will have to automatically switch the source to radio, in order to avoid the dreaded dead air, which then necessitates extra button presses to get back to square one.
One brand has gotten much better with reconnection times, but its systems default to an input selection screen–a legacy of when things weren’t so quick–which requires that you scroll down to select your phone before it takes you to the main music display, which should be there from the start.
Bluetooth is a feature that has quickly gained prominence, and is now being sought out by many used buyers. It may not necessarily raise the value of a car a great deal, but its absence on cars will grow increasingly conspicuous. And the quality of execution will inform consumers’ impressions of a brand, which means it’s definitely worthwhile ensuring that the details are done right.