Honda was one of the first automakers to sign on to Apple’s Siri Eyes Free program for in-vehicle voice commands, but with the new version of its connected in-vehicle system it’s getting even cozier with the smartphone maker.
The new version of HondaLink will be available in 2014 Honda Civic, which goes on sale tomorrow, and it bring an iPhone feel to the dash. The seven-inch screen can be navigated through familiar smartphone gestures such as swipes and pinches, but it also further integrates Eyes Free into its user interface, allowing drivers to launch apps and access iPhone features through spoken commands to Siri and physical buttons on the steering wheel.
Honda is also launching a new set of apps for the iPhone 5, 5s and 5c, which will connect directly to Link’s screen and in-car user interface. First up is a launcher app will act as bridge between third-party apps on the phone and Link. The pickings appear to be a bit slim at launch – Honda highlighted only Pandora and Sirius XM radio at its media event – but the automaker said it plans to bring more apps online from select developer partners. Unlike GM and Ford Honda hasn’t opened up its developer program.
But that doesn’t mean Link will be short on content. It’s partnered with Harman to build its Aha streaming service into the dash. Controlled for the iPhone app, Aha features thousands of channels, ranging from internet radio to text-to-voice translations of your Twitter and Facebook feeds.
Like most automakers, Honda isn’t allowing outside smartphone navigation app into its system. Instead it’s one of the first automakers to use Nokia’s new Here Auto navigation system across both iOS and the infotainment screen (It’s still unclear whether Nokia is powering Link itself or is only supplying its mapping software).
Nokia’s Here smartphone app is available as a free download to iPhone users, but if you want the version that integrates with link it will cost you $60 on iTunes. The auto industry is still clearly trying to protect its navigation service revenues, even though smartphone apps like Google Maps or Here could easily be extended to their infotainment screens.
The final app is called Connect, which brings a host of basic information services like weather updates and local search to the dashboard. Honda is also adding new telematics features such as accident detection and driver emergency assistance.
So what about Android? More support for Google’s market-leading OS is coming, Honda says, but right now Android owners who want a new Honda Civic will have to be content with basic connectivity features, such as Bluetooth integration and Pandora. Though the new version of Link is clearly Honda’s big entry into the connected car market, it appears to be introducing it gradually to its vehicle line. The next car to get the user interface technology powering will be the 2015 Fit, scheduled for release this spring.