Honda announced its HondaLink app will include a navigation feature, letting drivers run navigation on their iPhone and see it on the car's LCD.
Wayne CunninghamManaging Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Many drivers find the navigation apps on their phones work better and are more up-to-date than those built into their dashboards, yet relying on a handset for turn-by-turn directions can be inconvenient and even dangerous. Honda hits the sweet spot with its new HondaLink app, integrating navigation from the phone into a car's built-in LCD.
Although different initiatives exist to emulate smartphones in the dashboard, the only example currently available from an automaker comes in the Chevy Spark and Sonic. Drivers of those models can buy the BringGo app and use it as the navigation engine, integrating it with the car's infotainment system.
Honda's example works in the just-released 2014 Civic model when equipped with its Display Audio feature. All 2014 Civic's above the LX trim get Display Audio, which uses a 7-inch touchscreen. The Display Audio interface allows swipe and pinch control, similar to that on smartphones and tablets.
The next piece of the puzzle is the HondaLink app. At launch, the new generation HondaLink app will only work with the iPhone 5 or later, but Honda promises to extend compatibility to certain MirrorLink-enabled Android phones next year.
Owners will need to pay $60 for navigation within the HondaLink app.
HondaLink uses maps from Nokia Here, which will show on the car's LCD and can be displayed in plan or perspective view. The maps have a modern, refined look and use the entire expanse of the Civic's LCD to show streets and guidance. The system also includes live traffic.
The app includes online local search, so drivers can easily find businesses. Drivers will be able to use the app outside of the car, looking up and saving addresses for use on the road.
Beyond navigation, HondaLink integrates online weather and includes the car's manual. And as in the previous generation HondaLink app, it will include podcasts and Internet radio stations served up by Aha Radio. An emergency function will call out to an operator in the case of an airbag deployment.
The connection to the car is a little clunky. The iPhone needs to be cabled to the car through a special adapter provided by Honda, which plugs into the car's HDMI and USB ports. As Android supports a more open Bluetooth connection, future integration with Android phones may be easier.
After the 2014 Civic implementation, Honda says the next model to get the Display Audio and HondaLink integration will be the 2015 Fit, to be introduced in late 2014.
Along with the new HondaLink app, the 2014 Honda Civic will support Siri on iPhones, letting drivers push a button to activate their iPhones' native cloud-based voice command.
Honda will be conducting a Google Hangout to announce and discuss the new HondaLink capabilities on its Google Plus site, on Tuesday December 3, 2013, at 10 a.m. PT. CNET editor Wayne Cunningham will be participating in the Google Hangout.