5 Most Popular Types of Apps Commuters Use in Their Cars

June 9, 2015  |  By John Jasper  |       


One in three smartphone owners use their devices while driving, according to the 2013 Mobility of the Future report by McKinsey & Company. There’s no denying that in today’s digital age, cars have become more than just machines we use to get from point A to point B. They have become our mobile living spaces, and with the proliferation of smartphones, consumers are doing more while driving than ever before.

Of the McKinsey & Company respondents who admitted they use smartphones in their cars, 68 percent said they use them for navigation, 39 percent for instant messaging, and 31 percent to check e-mail or social media. Of course, it doesn’t end there – there’s a seemingly limitless list of smartphone apps people use on the go.

Here are the most popular types of apps consumers use in their cars:

1.     Navigation

Most drivers have long discarded their bulky map books and GPS devices in favor of mobile apps. According to Pew Research Center’s U.S. Smartphone Usage in 2015 report, 67 percent of smartphone owners use their phones at least occasionally for turn-by-turn navigation. Common navigation apps include Google Maps, Apple Maps, and MapFactor. Automotive OEMs or Tier-1 supplier need to consider the user experience of their car navigation system.

2.     Traffic

Savvy smartphone users also leverage mobile apps to check traffic along their routes. Google Maps provides this feature, as does Waze, a community-based app that determines traffic patterns and re-routes drivers accordingly. Users can add their own data to let other “Wazers” know the locations of accidents, roadwork, and even speed traps. Beat The Traffic, another anti-gridlock app, goes one step further by notifying users of issues along their regular commutes.

3.     Social networking

With apps available for every social network, drivers are sharing, tweeting, and chatting their way down the road. While most people use Facebook and Twitter, according to a 2015 comScore report, popular social networking apps also include Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. It’s important that OEM’s and tier-1 suppliers understand how users are connecting with their friends and family when integrating these types of apps into vehicles. Driving Safety and limiting distractions are important issues when including these within your infotainment system

4.     Entertainment

Globally, the needs of car owners can be drastically different. In parts of East Asia and South America, many consumers use a traditional AM/FM head unit. On the other hand, more elaborate automotive infotainment units are common in newer cars in the US and Canada.  The days of being a slave to ONLY radio programming are long over.  With a simple auxiliary audio cable, consumers can augment their in-vehicle infotainment by using mobile apps to pipe virtually any type of media over their car speakers and head unit monitors, from music to podcasts to audio books. According to comScore, the majority of smartphone users listen to Pandora Radio and iTunes Radio. Audible, Overcast, and Spotify are prevalent as well.

5.     Travel

Armed with smartphones, consumers always have the power of information at their fingertips. Rather than wandering around aimlessly, drivers can now rely on specialized apps to locate what’s nearby. Is your customer always looking for cheap gas? Integrate a gasoline pricing location based app. Are your vehicles plug-in hybrid or electric? Integrate an app to help them find the nearest charging station. Are you customers mostly city drivers? Integrate a parking lot/space finder app.

The Connected Car Experience

While smartphone apps are certainly handy and can enhance the driving experience, they can also be distracting to drivers. To cut down on distraction, commercial companies, like Abalta, are developing the technology to project smartphone content onto the main dashboard display, or head unit. By creating a true “connected car experience,” this technology could go a long way in making smartphone users more engaged with your infotainment technology.

Topics: Connected Car - Apps

John Jasper

John is the President and COO of Abalta Technologies. Abalta Technologies, Inc. is an emerging leader in the connected car landscape. Abalta has developed an innovative platform to enable car companies, automotive electronic firms and tier 1 suppliers to bridge the gap between the smartphone and the car’s infotainment system.

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