It’s no secret that the next generation of drivers wants their cars to act like smartphones on wheels — meaning that modern vehicles should be connected and easy to use and maintain. Luckily, you can turn a car into a smart device with the help of a smartphone. Automotive companion apps on a driver’s phone and wearable devices are there to assist, unlocking vehicle features and ensuring a connected driving experience. Keep reading to find out about the benefits of companion apps and the most popular ones on the market.
In this article, you’ll discover
- What is a vehicle companion application?
- Why do OEMs choose to create connected automotive applications for their cars?
- What are the most interesting and popular automotive apps on the market?
- Intellias experience with connected automotive apps
What are auto companion apps?
Before we explore the benefits of automotive companion apps, let’s make it clear what they are and what they’re not. A companion app is an application on a smartphone or any other device that’s able to communicate with your vehicle. Thanks to its mobile connectivity, a companion app can enable a unique set of features in your car. For instance, it can provide driving assistance, car service management, door-to-door guidance, or even enable remote control of a vehicle.
I know what you’re thinking: today, with the help of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, any basic mobile app can become a companion. It can, but such applications are often limited in their functionality. So when we talk about auto companion apps, we don’t just mean any app that can be integrated with a car’s head unit. We mean mobile applications that are designed specifically for automotive industry and deliver great value when you use them with your car.
Why do OEMs and car manufacturers create companion apps?
Car connectivity is a crucial selling point for OEMs and auto manufacturers. A survey by McKinsey shows that 40% of respondents will change the make of their vehicle for better connectivity services. So it’s no wonder that to retain their customers, automakers have to provide as many connected car features as they can. This includes mobile app development solutions and developing auto companion apps for smartphones and wearables.
Customers prefer vehicles with more connectivity options and are willing to switch carmakers for them.
According to research by Gartner, 79% of car brands in the US have a connected car app that spans multiple vehicle models. Unfortunately, most automakers fail to benefit from companion apps and to use them for marketing purposes. Instead, car manufacturers tend to boast third-party integrations with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Want to know a secret? There are two main reasons why OEMs and car manufacturers should definitely develop companion apps.
- Automotive connected apps ensure a great experience with a vehicle
Companion apps enrich the driving experience by unlocking new features in a car. Basically, they make driving easier and more pleasant. Companion apps assist drivers without distracting them while on the road. They help car owners to stay both productive and safe by providing features such as door-to-door mobile navigation. They also make it easier to manage vehicle servicing. This results in high customer satisfaction.
- Connected apps increase brand loyalty
Mobile applications are one of the channels of communication between OEMs and car owners. They’re a way for car manufacturers to build meaningful long-lasting relationships with their customers that don’t end after a single purchase. Auto companion apps ensure daily interactions between customers and the OEM’s ecosystem of services. In other words, connected automotive applications increase customer engagement, trust, and brand loyalty.
Meet the most interesting car companion apps on the market
Car manufacturer apps
Let’s take a look at auto companion apps developed by car manufacturers. These apps are usually free and available for both iOS and Android. They’re designed to work with specific vehicle makes and models.
Škoda mobile apps
No one knows more about the value of automotive connected apps than Škoda. The auto manufacturer has developed not one but several mobile applications for Škoda owners. First, there’s the MyŠKODA app that tells you everything you need to know about your car, containing a car manual along with many tutorials. This app provides data about the car’s range, battery charge, and upcoming service appointments. It also includes quick maintenance tips, control of lamps, a parking assistant, news about Škoda, a Škoda e-shop, and Škoda assistance.
Another outstanding Škoda application is the ŠKODA Connect App, a companion application for remote vehicle control. It allows you to check a vehicle’s status, including its fuel range, driving data, and last parking position. Moreover, you can even use it to honk remotely. Beyond that, the ŠKODA Connect App has a mobile navigation feature, and the app’s Trip Planner function makes sure you always arrive at the right place at the right time.
But that’s not all. Škoda has all audiences covered with their mobile apps, even offering ŠKODA Connect LITE for owners of any Škoda vehicles manufactured after 2008. ŠKODA AR is for anyone shopping for a car who wants to know what a Škoda is like. The company has even made a ŠKODA Magic Book for kids so they won’t distract their parents from driving.
Like Škoda, Mercedes-Benz has also created an ecosystem of mobile applications. The Mercedes me app allows car owners and even users of taxi services to check a car’s current tire pressure, fuel level, battery charge, and more. Moreover, drivers can use the Mercedes me app to remotely control the vehicle and plan trips. Mercedes-Benz Guides helps people choose a new vehicle and contains the owner’s manual. Beyond that, there’s a Mercedes me Adapter App that displays personal driving data, assists in parking, and keeps the owner updated on the vehicle’s service status.
This application helps car owners manage their Citroën vehicles. The MyCitroën App can show the exact location of a car, making it easy to find in a parking lot. It displays the details of a journey and collects trip statistics, providing feedback for drivers so they can improve their skills. The app helps car owners check their maintenance plans and schedule appointments when needed. It also provides quick user support.
Other connected applications
Now let’s dive into another type of companion apps that are not designed for specific makes. These are mobile applications that can be easily downloaded to any smartphone and paired with any vehicle. Compared to car manufacturer’s apps, however, they are a bit limited in their functionality.
For electric vehicle owners, having PlugShare in their smartphones has already become a must. This application shows an accurate EV and Tesla charging station map, which includes more than 300,000 locations worldwide. PlugShare is free and available for both iOS and Android.
The wide community of GasBuddy users is ready to assist you in finding the best price for gas nearby. What’s more, the application will help you plan a trip to a certain destination. And most importantly, GasBuddy can track your driving habits to provide options for more effective fuel usage.
This automotive application comes with an OBD2 FIXD scanner that connects to a car’s OBD2 port and transmits valuable data to the smartphone app. The FIXD app helps you understand the real issue behind your check engine light. It also shows you the exact spot where a problem has occurred, making it easy to fix.
This app helps you find the best deal for a parking spot and can even reserve a spot beforehand. BestParking links to your phone’s navigation app and provides turn-by-turn integrated navigation.
Intellias’ experience with connected automotive apps
One of our clients, a British auto manufacturer that specializes in the production of luxury cars, came with a challenge. They wanted to improve the driving experience with a sophisticated human-machine interface (HMI) system and mobile companion apps. Our team of Intellias engineers designed and implemented a comprehensive, stress-free HMI that offers an innovative navigation experience by combining mobile devices, vehicle head units, heads-up displays, and rear-seat displays into one cross-linked system. We also developed iOS and Android companion apps for mobile navigation. Now drivers of our client’s vehicles can plan routes through their smartphones even when they’re out of the car. Moreover, thanks to dynamic processing of real-time traffic information, route planning and guidance is more accurate. In case of an accident on the road, the application will quickly offer alternative routes.
Another of our clients, a global automotive navigation market leader, decided to shift from simple point-to-point guidance to more innovative and personalized navigation. To achieve that, they needed to build an SDK for sophisticated IoT-centric in-vehicle infotainment systems. This SDK had to enable cloud-powered cross-platform communication, over-the-air (OTA) map updates, real-time traffic, routing, and destination predictions, and integration of data from vehicle fleet sensors. Intellias’ engineering team successfully developed such a complex program. The SDK for connected NDS-based navigation covers many different functionalities including rendering, routing, positioning, map updates, and the integration of mobile navigation and map-related features. Notably, it can even synchronize stored routes and personal places between the embedded navigation system and the driver’s smartphone, which is vital for door-to-door navigation.
To stay competitive, OEMs and car manufacturers can’t ignore the opportunity to create companion apps. Companion apps mean constant communication with customers and offer a way to assist them in their daily routines. Automotive connected apps increase brand loyalty and customer satisfaction. They naturally extend a car’s features and turn driving into a pleasant experience.
If you’re ready to try out all the benefits of companion apps, contact Intellias. Our automotive experts will help you ensure a truly connected driving experience for your customers.