Audi is putting Apple Music on the dashboard of cars sold in Europe, North America and Japan beginning with the 2022 model year. Audi’s older cars in those markets will also get an Over-the-Air (OTA) update to enable Apple Music natively, meaning that CarPlay and an iPhone will no longer be necessary to stream music in Audi cars. But only if Apple Music is your streaming service of choice — Spotify, Tidal, and other music streaming services won’t get this level of native support in Audis.
Audi says it’s going with Apple as its music streaming partner because the tech giant provides a premium service, which apparently gels with Audi’s own vision:
Integrating Apple Music into the Audio infotainment system marks the next step in the collaboration between Audi and Apple [...] For our customers, it means that we are offering them direct access to their own personalized listening experience. This is our understanding of a premium digital in-car experience. At Audi we are systematically driving the digitalization of the vehicle and we are convinced that the interior is increasingly developing into a third living space.
For now, let’s ignore that many drivers aren’t huge fans of the “digitalization of the vehicle” — just another way of saying that car features will be tied to software (i.e. subscriptions). After all, Audi says its customers in Europe will be charged for cellular data used by the native Apple Music software.
The pressing question these partnerships pose, I think, is about why or how car companies choose which platform over others. Why does Tesla have native support for Spotify? Why did Toyota and Lexus enable Spotify and Amazon at launch, but not Apple Music?
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On the surface, it would seem whichever service has the biggest share of subscribers would make the most sense. Spotify has 158 million paying subscribers, according to The Verge. Apple Music passed 78 million subscribers in January, as 9to5Mac reports. And while I’m always rooting for Tidal, I won’t cite its subscription numbers because those are different depending on who you ask.
But, again, the question posed by Audi committing to Apple Music doesn’t have a satisfying answer based on the numbers. Unless Audi knows that the majority of its drivers use iPhones, and therefore are more likely to subscribe to Apple Music over other services.
Or, if you take what Audi says at face value about a “premium digital in-car experience,” it’s hard to overlook that Spotify hasn’t rolled out its lossless streaming tier yet, which will cost more when it eventually rolls out. Meanwhile, Apple already rolled out its hi-fi tier, and will not charge subscribers more to use it. Maybe that 16-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system in the Audi e-Tron GT isn’t overkill, after all.