Apple Music has a new home, and it’s coming to a Porsche dashboard, marking the first time the streaming service will work independently in the car.
Porsche unveiled details about the partnership and integration at an event in Atlanta, which has the largest Porsche facility in North America. The vehicle in question will be the Taycan, an all-new, all-electric model whose inner workings have yet to be publicly revealed.
What is known is that Apple will be a big part of the infotainment setup inside to deliver what Porsche is calling “the best music experience available.” Users won’t need a phone to tap the streaming service’s library — it will all be there inside the car itself.
Building it out
The result is a culmination of a two-year dance between the two companies, with engineers and developers on both sides figuring out the best way to bring Apple Music into the Taycan.
To be clear, this is a layout and set up independent of CarPlay or the iPhone, entirely. The Taycan will integrate the full gamut of the platform, meaning drivers can listen to music without touching the phone at all. However, there are some interesting pieces of this puzzle.
First, Porsche is including three years of online access for free. But, as always, there is a bit of a catch. The LTE access is only for streaming services that are built-in to the car, namely Apple Music and online radio. It doesn’t include the vehicle’s in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, which is treated separately, and thus, incurs separate costs for data.
Basically, you can stream Apple Music as much as you want, but streaming from the hotspot for kids in the back seat will cost extra.
Second, Siri won’t be built-in the same way. Instead, it’s Porsche’s own voice assistant that will handle all verbal commands, though there is some cross-referencing that will apparently happen in the cloud when it comes to specific requests for Apple Music.
I asked if that meant that drivers wouldn’t be able to ask for a specific song or playlist, user-created or otherwise. “We’re working on it,” was the response, indicating that the final build may include that kind of indexing. Another demo suggested that song-specific requests would be fine, whereas playlists might confuse the assistant. Until there’s a final build to test, it’s hard to say for sure.
Porsche made Apple Music its own audio source within the new Porsche Advanced Cockpit system. It’s not all that different to how most infotainment systems treat SiriusXM, with its own dedicated button or section onscreen.
The Apple ID tied to your Apple Music account is directly linked with your Porsche ID. This way, your account and library sync over to the car. Make a change or add a song in the car or on your phone or iPad, and the change is reflected either way.
The user interface heavily favours Apple’s service, to the point where the integration goes beyond its own library. For example, if you were listening to a song on FM or online radio, you could like and add that song to your Apple Music library. If you were so inclined, you could also start a radio station based on that song. Album artwork and metadata also appears when it matches what Apple has available.
That unique crossover won’t work with SiriusXM content because of “technical” reasons that weren’t fully disclosed. If you listen to a song you like through that service, there is no way to push that, or similar content, over to Apple Music. It appears that also won’t work with songs playing from another source on a different device.
For example, if streaming music on Spotify, Google Play Music or another third-party service via Bluetooth, you can’t add songs to Apple Music. Same with music files you might playback via USB.
Audio quality upgrade
Part of this rollout will include a boost in audio quality. As is usual with Porsche, both Bose and Burmester will design car stereo systems, with Burmester being the premium of the two.
To up the ante, Apple will also stream its recently rebranded high-res music, Digital Masters, to the Taycan. Apple Digital Masters is a spin-off of the Mastered for iTunes program that sought to enable sound engineers and producers to encode digital files from high-quality masters.
For its part, Apple claims its Top 100 charts are available to stream as high-res streams. It’s not clear how long it will take to do that with the rest of the library, though Porsche did confirm that anything on Apple’s streaming service available as a Digital Masters file will be what plays in the Taycan.
Unfortunately, there was no hands-on demo to test that out, so I can’t attest to what the audio quality will be like.
The complimentary Apple Music deal won’t only be for Taycan drivers. Existing Apple Music subscribers driving Porsche vehicles also get six months free, even if they already used the 90-day trial Apple offers on its own.
What remains unclear is how the system would handle multiple Apple Music accounts in the same car. There is a way to switch Porsche IDs in the car, and presumably, that would mean also changing the Apple ID, since they are tied together. Until I can test that, I don’t know for sure.
I did ask if family accounts would be a workaround for that, but that also remains unclear. Since Apple Music is also available on Android, there is no problem in not having an iPhone. Make a change on the Apple Music Android app, and it syncs over to the car the next time you turn it on. Beyond that, it appears Android’s integration with Porsche’s system will be limited.
It doesn’t appear there are any restrictions for Canada. The only thing I could find was the onscreen keyboard for searching for artists, songs or stations. Porsche confirmed that won’t appear when the car is in drive in the United States, and I suspect Canada would be the same.
First time out
This marks the first time Apple has gone this far into an automaker’s vehicle, but it’s not an industry-first. Spotify did something similar with BMW and Ford on separate occasions, only the key difference there was the lack of a dedicated LTE connection for the streaming service.
Porsche says an overwhelming majority of its customers are iPhone users, yet didn’t say that they were also Apple Music subscribers. Whether or not this partnership spurs more to join up and stick around will be interesting to see.