Talking tech since 2003

I just bought a new car yesterday — a 2014 Chevy Spark. As tempting as it was to go bare bones with it, I paid a little bit more to get the 1LT model that features Chevy’s MyLink system. MyLink is the brain of your car’s entertainment hub. It controls music, apps, and more.

And it’s not that great.

Apple's CarPlay
Apple’s CarPlay

It really shows me how car entertainment was left behind over the past few years. While most technology around us got exponentially better, the fun things inside cars were mostly ignored. And now that we carry our smartphones everywhere and expect other devices around us to be just as smart, our cars suddenly seem really, really dumb.

One great thing that MyLink does is use your smartphone for integration with some apps. But it does so sparingly, and with little regard for the future. Four apps can be used with MyLink, with no signs of any other apps coming. It doesn’t seem like there’s any way to update the system, either, so if you’re praying that you’ll one day be able to upgrade to CarPlay or Android Auto, you might want to pray for something a little more likely.

There’s not a lot of cohesiveness, either. I can plug my iPhone in via USB and use it as an iPod (for local music). But it won’t stream Spotify. I also have to pair the phone using Bluetooth to get hands-free calling to work. And to listen to apps that aren’t supported, I have to plug an audio cable into the AUX input. So, to get the most out of my phone, I’m connecting it to my car three different ways. How is that smart?

Oh, and speaking of Apple and Google’s plans for the car, they both hope to get into some newer models in the near future. I’ll just remind you that we heard the same about Siri Eyes Free, which didn’t make it into many cars. A whole lot goes into building a car and the system inside it, and I don’t think the transition to iOS or Android-powered experiences will happen as quickly as we’d like.

I don’t want to knock MyLink totally. It’s a lot fancier than my previous radio, which had knobs and buttons and didn’t let me “thumbs up” a Pandora track without unlocking my phone. But this is an area that still needs a lot of work. And it’s not like Chevy is alone here — not many automakers are getting this right. And even though Apple and Google are promising to save the day, they’re probably a few years out from doing so.

If you have a choice between the less-advanced AUX input and a super neat looking touch-screen car system, you’re probably not missing much going with the former. Save the money. That’s my advice.

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