Android on Wheels

Attention all you iPhone weenies: Brace yourself for a dose of reality. Android is the world’s most popular mobile operating system, by a wide margin. During a recent conference call with analysts, Google revealed that about 550,000 Android phones are being activated every day. And over 6 billion Android apps have been downloaded and installed.

Actually, the phone market is so big and expanding so rapidly, that Apple probably isn’t overly worried about Android. After all, Apple sold 20 million iPhones last quarter and posted a net income of $7.3 billion. Not too shabby.

But one missing piece in the expanding Android universe has been car hookups. While many cars use the “Made for iPod” standard to connect Apple products with a USB cable, Android has been limited to Bluetooth or (yikes!) headphone-jack connections (although some workarounds exist with some Android products). Well, now there’s an easier way.

Google has introduced the Android Open Accessory Protocol, which, among other things, will allow a USB connection between Android phones and tablets and the car. You’ll be able to run music and other apps (video, navigation, email, etc) through the head unit or with voice commands and steering wheel controls, and stream video to a rear-seat entertainment system. The Protocol currently supports tablets running Android 3.1 and phones running 2.3.4; other upgrades will be available.

Of course, you’ll also need a car radio that’s hip to it. Not to worry. Harman has announced that it will support the Protocol in all of its upcoming OEM radios (entry level through luxury); you should start seeing them in 2013 model vehicles. Also, clearly, the aftermarket car-radio companies will be offering this as well.

I’m sure Apple isn’t worried. Right?