Does anyone remember what it was like to not have an iPhone, or some kind of smartphone in your pocket, alerting you of every message, social media post or hipster breakfast? Having grown up in the late ’80s, early ’90s, I can only vaguely remember such a time. While mobile phones were around in my childhood, they weren’t nearly the life necessity that they are today and that reliance on a smartphone really came from Apple.
The original iPhone was a revelation and it completely changed how we interact we literally everything in our lives. When Steve Jobs stood on that stage and told everyone he was going to change the world, most people watching assumed that he was being a hyperbolic showman, trying to sell his product. But he couldn’t have been more correct and he knew it.
It may be time for Apple to do it again, though this time with Tim Cook at the helm. The Apple Car has been rumored for a couple of years now, with insiders speaking of its possibilities with hushed tones. Executives have met in dark parking garages with secret code names for each other and what they were discussing. It’s been a myth in the auto industry for years. However, its reality is becoming more and more a possibility the more time goes on. But the question isn’t will an Apple Car be made, as that’s likely, it’s what would an Apple Car be?
When the iPhone first debuted, it was like nothing else on the market. No buttons, no antennas and no flips or slides. It was a sleek, simple and elegant rectangle that felt like it was made of the highest quality materials and it had but one touch screen that handled everything. When you started it up, there was no fancy start-up screen with crazy graphics. No, instead it was just a black screen with a white Apple logo. Apple took the entire experience of using a cell phone and simplified it to the point where customers couldn’t believe they ever did it a different way. Apple changed the telephone forever.
I must admit, I got my first iPhone only about four months ago, an iPhone 6S. Before that, I had countless flip phones, a couple of Blackberrys and a few Androids. Anything but the Sheeple-favorite iPhone. Then I caved and bought into the Apple life. And the change is amazing. Not necessarily good or bad, but simple fascinatingly different. Obviously, any new Android is pretty similar to the iPhone, but the latter’s simplicity, even coming from a very expensive and high-end Android, is refreshing. It’s elegant and easy to use with no clutter anywhere to be found, making its experience better. Could Apple apply that thinking to a car and completely change the way we think about the automobile, despite our reluctance? I hated iPhones before I got one, now I completely understand their hype and popularity. Could an Apple Car do the same for me and other enthusiasts?
So what could an Apple Car be?
Motor Trend recently got a group of people from different industries together, the tech industry and the auto industry, to discuss what a future vehicle from the famous Cupertino company could be. What they’ve come up with and the discussion they have is fascinating. The video of their round table discussion is really quite interesting and if you have the half hour, check it out.
But think about the way Apple approaches everything else and then apply that to an automobile. Apple doesn’t just try and make a product that it can sell. Apple tries to completely change the way we interact, experience and think about a product. It takes that product and ingrains it in our lifestyles. So the Apple Car would be a game-changer, for better or worse.
It would likely be as simple and elegant as possible from the outside, but still be attractive. Think about iPhones or Macbooks, they all look like quality, expensive items despite the fact that there’s about as little design as possible. The Apple Car would be the same way. It might not be the van-like people carrier that Motor Trend drew up, as one of the members in the discussion points out that Apple’s upper executives all like fast and beautiful cars. So expect beauty but simplicity.
The real focal point will be the interior, where you interact with the car. Inside would likely be some sort of open cabin that features very little of the interior elements we’re so used to. No center console, no shifter, no gauge cluster and not even a real dashboard. However, some pretty cool stuff like an augmented reality windshield, personalized screens that read your preferences from your iPhone or Apple Watch and even laser-projected displays. Plus, the Apple Car would know your lifestyle, routine, habits, schedule, preference and basically everything about your life. Which leads me to BMW.
A few months back, BMW displayed a showcase at the 2016 CES (Consumer Electronics Show) where it debuted the concept dubbed “The Internet of Things”. What that was, essentially, was a network that was build around the consumer, a network filled with smart devices, a smart home and even a BMW i3, that all communicated to each other about what they needed to do for their owner. It was a world of devices and technology that revolved around ever aspect of the owner’s life. The BMW i3 would know when the owner needed to leave for work in the morning so it would automatically leave its garage and park itself outside of the owner’s front door, awaiting their arrival. It would then autonomously take them to work, leave them at the front door and park itself. When the owner had to leave, for either a scheduled appointment or just at the end of the day, the i3 would know about it and bring itself to the front door at work and pick the owner up to take them home.
BMW is already thinking about this future network of cars, and has been doing so before anyone else. Realizing that what BMW is thinking for the future is suspiciously similar to what people are assuming what Apple would be thinking as well, makes those meetings between Tim Cook and BMW seem very interesting. Yes, both Cook and BMW denied rumors of working together on a future product, but then again they would, wouldn’t they? Plus, there’s the pretty widely accepted idea that Apple wouldn’t actually manufacture a vehicle, but outsource that to an automaker. Apple would just supply the interior design and technology while using another company’s powertrain, chassis and, most likely, body. BMW already has the necessary vehicle and powertrains to do such a thing and we do know that Tim Cook was interested in BMW’s i Division. So it’s not outside the realm of possibility. In fact, it makes perfect sense.
It’s likely that Apple is working on something big for the auto industry. There’s little left to do, in terms of genuine innovation, in the smartphone department. A smartphone can only do so much more to help our lives, but an automobile has so much untapped potential for Apple. Using BMW as a partner and manufacturer, Apple could change the world yet again and make people 20 years from now wonder how we ever lived without an Apple Car.
Is it possible that the cars we’ve been driving for the past century are the mobile flip phones of the ’80s and ’90s and that Apple is going to change our world, yet again?