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Apple’s fancy new CarPlay will only work wirelessly

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Apple’s fancy new CarPlay will only work wirelessly

Apple’s been talking about its next generation of CarPlay for two years now with very little to show for it — the system is designed to unify the interfaces on every screen in your car, including the instrument cluster, but so far only Aston Martin and Porsche have said they’ll ship cars with the system, without any specific dates in the mix.

And the public response from the rest of the industry towards next-gen CarPlay has been pretty cool overall. I talk to car CEOs on Decoder quite often, and most of them seem fairly skeptical about allowing Apple to get between them and their customers. “We have Apple CarPlay,” Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius told me in April. “If, for some of the functions, you feel more comfortable with that and will switch back and forth, be my guest. But to give up the whole cockpit head unit — in our case, a passenger screen and everything — to somebody else? The answer is no.”

That industry skepticism seems to have hit home for Apple, which posted two WWDC 2024 videos detailing the architecture and design of next-gen CarPlay. Both made it clear that automakers will have a lot of control over how things look and work, and even have the ability to just use their own interfaces for various features using something called “punch-through UI.” The result is an approach to CarPlay that’s much less “Apple runs your car” and much more “Apple built a design toolkit for automakers to use however they want.”

See, right now CarPlay is basically just a second monitor for your phone – you connect to your car, and your phone sends a video stream to the car. This is why those cheap wireless CarPlay dongles work – they’re just wireless display adapters, basically.

But if you want to integrate things like speedometers and climate controls, CarPlay needs to actually collect data from your car, display it in realtime, and be able to control various features like HVAC directly. So for next-gen CarPlay, Apple’s split things into what it calls “layers,” some of which run on your iPhone, but others which run locally on the car so they don’t break if your phone disconnects. And phone disconnects are going to be an issue, because next-generation CarPlay only supports wireless connections. “The stability and performance of the wireless connection are essential,” Apple’s Tanya Kancheva says while talking about the next-gen architecture. Given that CarPlay connectivity issues are still the most common issue in new cars and wireless made it worse, that’s something Apple needs to keep an eye on.

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There are two layers that run locally on the car, in slightly different ways. There’s the “overlay UI,” which has things like your turn signals and odometer in it. These can be styled, but everything about it is entirely run on your car, and otherwise untouchable. Then there is the “local UI,” which has things like your speedometer and tachometer — things related to driving that need to update all the time, basically. Automakers can customize these in several ways – there are different gauge styles and layouts, from analog to digital, and they can include logos and so on. Interestingly, there’s only one font choice: Apple’s San Francisco, which can be modified in various ways, but can’t be swapped out.

Apple’s goal for next-gen CarPlay is to have it start instantaneously — ideally when the driver opens the door — so the assets for these local UI elements are loaded onto the car from your phone during the pairing process. Carmakers can update how things look and send refreshed assets through the phone over time as well — exactly how and how often is still a bit unclear.

Then there’s what Apple calls “remote UI,” which is all stuff that runs on your phone: maps, music, trip info. This is the most like CarPlay today, except now it can run on any other screen in your car. 

The final layer is called “punch-through UI,” and it’s where Apple is ceding the most ground to automakers. Instead of coming up with its own interface ideas for things like backup cameras and advanced driver-assistance features, Apple’s allowing carmakers to simply feed their existing systems through to CarPlay. When you shift to reverse, the interface will simply show you your car’s backup camera screen, for example:

But carmakers can use punch-through UI for basically anything they want, and even deeplink CarPlay buttons to their own interfaces. Apple’s example here is a vision of multiple colliding interface ideas all at once: a button in CarPlay to control massage seats that can either show native CarPlay controls, or simply drop you into the car’s own interface.

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A lot of carmakers are going to take the easy way out here, I think.
Apple

Or a hardware button to pick drive modes could send you to either CarPlay settings, deeplink you into the automaker’s iPhone app, or just open the native car settings:

Apple’s approach to HVAC is also what amounts to a compromise: the company isn’t really rethinking anything about how HVAC controls work. Instead, it’s allowing carmakers to customize controls from a toolkit to match the car system and even display previews of a car interior that match trim and color options. If you’ve ever looked at a car with a weird SYNC button that keeps various climate zones paired up, well, the next generation of CarPlay has a weird SYNC button too.

All of this is kept running at 60fps (or higher, if the car system supports it) by a new dedicated UI timing channel, and a lot of the underlying compositing relies on OpenGL running on the car itself.

All in all, it’s a lot of info, and what feels like a lot of Apple realizing that carmakers aren’t going to just give up their interfaces — especially since they’ve already invested in designing these sorts of custom interfaces for their native systems, many of which now run on Unreal Engine with lots of fun animations, and have Google services like Maps integrated right in. Allowing automakers to punch those interfaces through CarPlay might finally speed up adoption – and it also might create a mix-and-match interface nightmare. 

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All that said, it’s telling that no one has seen anything but renders of next-gen CarPlay anywhere yet. We’ll have to see what it’s like if this Porsche and Aston ever arrive, and if that tips anyone else into adopting it.

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Meta’s redesigned Quest app puts a big focus on Horizon Worlds

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Meta’s redesigned Quest app puts a big focus on Horizon Worlds

Meta is rolling out a revamped version of its Quest mobile app that links it more closely with its 3D social platform Horizon Worlds. The app, now called Meta Horizon, comes with a new tab that lets you complete quests from your phone and customize your avatar.

You can also use the app to explore and join new worlds, as well as connect with friends in Horizon Worlds, which launched on mobile and the web last September. Meta says the update won’t take away any features in the existing app, and you can still use it to set up your Quest headsets and browse the library of apps in the Meta Horizon Store.

Another small update coming to the Meta Horizon app is the addition of light mode, allowing you to easily swap between light and dark whenever you want. Meta also rolled out a new feed featuring content from creators in the mobile app earlier this month.

The update comes as Meta looks to expand Horizon Worlds and its handle on the VR industry. In April, Meta announced plans to license its headset operating system, called Horizon OS, to companies like Lenovo and Asus. It will also start featuring experimental App Lab titles more prominently in the Meta Horizon Store and is trying to make it easier for developers to bring their mobile games to Horizon OS.

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Google is purging ‘low-quality’ Android apps next month

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Google is purging ‘low-quality’ Android apps next month

Google is raising its minimum quality requirements for Android apps, and will soon remove those that don’t meet expectations from the Play Store. According to the company’s latest spam policy update, apps that demonstrate “limited functionality and content” — such as text only apps, single wallpaper apps, or those that are literally designed to do nothing at all — will no longer be permitted on the Play Store effective August 31st.

These join existing restrictions that barred broken apps that are not responsive, don’t install, crash, or otherwise function abnormally. Google says it’s added the additional requirements to “ensure apps can meet the uplifted standards for the Play catalog and engage users through quality functionality.”

Google has made previous efforts to better police the apps hosted on its Play Store. As noted by Android Authority, as many as 2.28 million apps were blocked from the service in 2023 for violating policies and putting user security at risk. Google also said it had banned 333,000 “bad” Google Play accounts that same year for repeated severe policy violations, and concerns surrounding fraud and malware.

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Retail prices can jump in seconds with high-tech store price tags

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Retail prices can jump in seconds with high-tech store price tags

Have you noticed how technology is rapidly transforming our shopping experiences? From online marketplaces to self-checkout kiosks, the retail landscape is evolving at breakneck speed. Today, let’s explore one of the latest innovations set to shake up the way we shop for everyday items: digital price tags.

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Digital price tag (Walmart) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

The rise of smart pricing

Imagine walking into a store where prices change in real time, just like they do on your favorite shopping websites. Well, that future is closer than you might think. Retailers across the globe are experimenting with dynamic pricing systems, bringing the flexibility of online shopping to brick-and-mortar stores.

Retail prices can jump in seconds with high-tech store price tags

Digital price tags (Walmart) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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What’s driving this change?

Several factors are propelling this shift towards digital pricing. Stores can update thousands of prices instantly, saving time and labor. This improves accuracy, eliminating discrepancies between shelf prices and checkout totals. The system also allows retailers to quickly respond to market changes or competitor pricing. Additionally, there’s a sustainability angle, as digital tags reduce paper waste from traditional price tags.

Retail prices can jump in seconds with high-tech store price tags

Digital price tag (Walmart) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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The technology behind the change

Electronic shelf labels (ESLs) or digital shelf labels (DSLs) are at the heart of this retail revolution. These small, battery-powered e-paper displays are wirelessly connected to a central system, allowing for quick and easy price updates. But they’re more than just digital price tags; they’re a gateway to a more interactive shopping experience.

Retail prices can jump in seconds with high-tech store price tags

Digital price tags (Walmart) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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What can these smart labels do?

These smart labels are multifunctional devices. They can display prices and product information, show QR codes for additional details, guide store employees for restocking and assist with order fulfillment for online purchases. It’s like giving each product its own mini-computer.

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Retail prices can jump in seconds with high-tech store price tags

Showing how smart labels are multifunctional devices (Walmart) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

The potential impact on shoppers

This new technology could bring both benefits and challenges for consumers. On the plus side, we can expect more accurate pricing and the potential for better deals on soon-to-expire items. Shoppers will have access to more product information right at their fingertips.

There’s also a possibility of lower prices due to increased store efficiency. However, it’s not all rosy. We might see the introduction of dynamic pricing, similar to surge pricing in ride-sharing apps. This could lead to rapid price fluctuations. There are also privacy concerns with the increased data collection that comes with these systems.

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Retail prices can jump in seconds with high-tech store price tags

Digital price tags (Walmart) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Real-world examples: Who’s leading the charge?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at some specific examples of how this technology is being implemented. America’s largest retailer, Walmart, recently announced plans to introduce digital shelf labels in 2,300 stores by 2026. Given Walmart’s massive market share in the U.S. grocery sector, this move could expose millions of shoppers to the technology.

According to Daniela Boscan, a Walmart food and consumable team lead, “A price change that used to take an associate two days to update now takes only minutes with the new DSL system. This efficiency means we can spend more time assisting customers and less time on repetitive tasks.”

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While Walmart’s announcement made headlines, they’re not the first to experiment with this technology. Other major players include Kroger, Whole Foods (owned by Amazon), Ahold Delhaize, and Schnucks, a Midwestern chain. A recent market study estimates that about 26% of grocers and general merchandisers were capable of using ESL technology in 2023, indicating a growing trend in the industry.

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Retail prices can jump in seconds with high-tech store price tags

Employee scanning digital price tag (Walmart) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

The great price-tag switcheroo

When a store decides to make the leap from traditional paper tags to digital ones, it’s not just a simple overnight change. It’s a massive undertaking that requires careful planning and execution. Picture this: a small army of workers descending upon the store, armed with digital price tags and determination.

These “price tag transformers” swarm the aisles, systematically replacing each paper tag with its high-tech counterpart. Shelf by shelf, aisle by aisle, the store undergoes a visible transformation. The familiar sight of paper tags gradually gives way to the sleek, uniform appearance of digital displays.

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Retail prices can jump in seconds with high-tech store price tags

Changing out paper tags for digital ones (Pricer) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

The bigger picture: Dynamic pricing everywhere

The adoption of digital price tags in grocery stores is part of a larger trend toward dynamic pricing in various industries. We’ve already seen this in ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, airline tickets, live music, event sales and fast food, as evidenced by the recent Wendy’s controversy. This shift raises questions about how consumers will adapt to more fluid pricing structures in their day-to-day purchases.

Retail prices can jump in seconds with high-tech store price tags

Digital price tags (Walmart) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Kurt’s key takeaways

As we stand on the brink of this digital revolution in retail, it’s important to consider both the opportunities and the challenges it presents. On one hand, the increased efficiency and flexibility could lead to better shopping experiences and potentially lower prices. On the other hand, the introduction of dynamic pricing to everyday purchases might require a shift in how we approach our shopping habits.

As this technology rolls out, it’s crucial for you to stay informed and adapt your shopping strategies accordingly. Monitor price trends, take advantage of additional product information and provide feedback to retailers about your experiences.

What’s your take on this digital retail revolution? Are you excited about the potential benefits or concerned about the challenges? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips and security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

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