Is this one more step towards “dumb terminals” for low-cost cars?

Toyota's latest edition of the Touch Life is able to use several core features and functions for the iPhone including navigation and hands-free calling, but the Android remains absent, though the absence isn't significant.

10/27/2011


Yesterday saw the official announcement from Toyota of the release of their newest edition to the “Touch” family of infotainment head units, the Toyota Touch Life for the IQ. The unit itself contains only an AM/FM radio, allowing it to cost very little, but, unlike other systems in small low-cost cars this one has a trick up its sleeve.

Through a combination of the Connected Car Consortium’s MirrorLink, and iPhone integration, the unit can allow access to several core features and functions of a user’s cell phone. These include navigation, hands-free calling, and internet radio (depending on platform and country).

So what does this mean to the market? Well, effectively anyone with a Touch Life equipped Toyota IQ will have access to free navigation (on Nokia handsets), and a host of connected services (on iPhones), with the potential for additional apps and services becoming available at a later date. Something that before now has required a costly monthly subscription in Europe and a premium price tag!

The big question, drawing many comments, about this (and Toyota’s previously announced Touch and Go head unit) is the lack of Android compatibility. While this will definitely affect Android owners when they decide whether to opt for this system, I feel it unlikely to be a huge blow to the success of the system. If you consider the sheer number of iPhone and Nokia handset owners and that the MirrorLink protocol will likely be adopted by both HTC and Samsung (both part of the CCC) in the near future, the impact should be limited.

Will we see a host of other auto manufacturers rolling out these kinds of systems across their range? In short, this seems unlikely. Most manufacturers may opt for such a basic system in their very small city cars or low-cost models; but larger, more expensive, models will likely keep hold of some embedded functionality; this can be seen with the latest news from Mercedes and its iPod integration and MirrorLink announcements. This will ensure that when drivers find themselves without their phone, they still have more choice than just the radio to listen to.



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