Jan 27, 2011

3 Ways the Auto Industry is Embracing Mobile Apps

3 Ways the Auto Industry is Embracing Mobile Apps
BY Brett Circe

Smartphone Apps | Video

Lately I have been seeing lots of automotive brands like Jaguar, BMW, and Hyundai releasing mobile apps to help market their autos. I have even seen a GM tv spot solely dedicated to selling their OnStar mobile app.

Last month I purchased a new car, (a Chevy Volt electric car actually, you can read about it here) And with that purchase I had the opportunity to see what GM is doing in the mobile space first hand.

Car Book with QR Codes

QR Codes in the Manual

Mobile Barcodes
The first thing I noticed is that each section of the welcome book has a QR code in it linking to a video overview of the section. Driver controls, dashboard lights, climate controls, audio system, etc. Each video was 2-5 minutes in length, provided a short overview that was easy to watch, and allowed me to quickly understand the features and benefits of my car’s controls. Well done.

Custom Apps
The book also suggested I download the Chevrolet app from the App store, which I did. Now I have a searchable owners manual right on my mobile phone. I can scroll through the chapters and tap a topic for more information. And hey – there’s those videos again, right in the app. If I tap on an “indicator light” on the dashboard, it defines what that light is used for and what it means. Very nice.

Other features of the app include Roadside Assistance, which locates my car and calls an 800 number; a Parking Reminder, which pins my car on a map and has a Meter Timer to remind me when my meter is running low. There are also dealer locators, service reminders, and other items.

It also links to another app called “OnStar MyLink”. OnStar is basically the cars built-in cell phone that can transmit audio and data. This app actually connects to the car via cell signal and downloads it’s current status to the app. I can check battery charge status, how much gas I have, tire pressure and more. It also has some stats about MPG. A very cool feature is the “door lock” button (Did I lock my doors? I don’t remember, tap — yes I did). And a “remote start” button not only starts the car but also enables the climate control system to heat or cool the car before you get in it. See that GM OnStar TV spot I mentioned earlier to see it in action.

SMS Sent from the Car

SMS Messaging
Remember I mentioned that OnStar is basically an internal phone in the car? Well, within the Settings tab I can setup email and SMS reminders and alerts from my car. For instance, it can remind me to plug it in to charge it, notify me when the charge is complete, or most importantly, notify me if the charge gets interrupted. For instance, I popped a breaker at family member’s house, the Car sent me an SMS to notify me so I could go check on it. This is very cool, and very functional.

Other Apps
So now that I have an “Auto” app folder on my phone for my apps, I also decided to download a fuel tracking application that I can use from day one for my new car. Road Trip Lite allows me to enter my odometer, gallons and price each time I fill up. I want to track my miles per gallon for every fill up (more details than the OnStar App) and I also want to track my annual spend on fuel in my new car, this app does both for me, including making nice little charts too.

In conclusion, mobile apps seem to be a natural fit for automobiles. They can help users feel more connected to their cars, less intimidated, more informed, and maybe in the end, more loyal to the auto brand they drive.