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Pandora’s Future in Your Car

The report was based on an email sent to Toyota Entune users by the carmaker.

Is this dire for Pandora? Should radio be celebrating?

No. And no.

I own a late model Toyota and I received that email.

First, anyone who is forced to suffer Toyota’s miserable Entune entertainment system knows it’s easily the worst thing about their Toyota which, fortunately, can be easily circumvented by accessing the content of your choice directly though your mobile phone.

Toyota’s system is clunky and extraordinarily unreliable. Getting it to work properly for a service like Pandora is like carrying nitroglycerin without blowing off your hands. It’s not only more reliable to use the service right off your phone, it’s infinitely less complicated. And if there’s one thing consumers like, it’s “less complicated.”

So as far as I’m concerned this is an acknowledgment that consumers don’t want and don’t need kludgy music services from their Toyota entertainment center. What consumers need is to access the magic of their mobile devices on that entertainment center directly and without and Toyota-designed crap applications.

Second, before radio imagines a wake at Pandora’s funeral, you should know that Toyota is in the final stages of acquiescence to reality and to consumer demands. Beginning with several 2019 models Toyota is adding Apple CarPlay to its lineup – finally (CarPlay is Apple’s in-car system that brings your iPhone to the dash in a direct and uncomplicated way).  So the absence of Pandora from the dash will be, at best (from Radio’s perspective), the calm before the storm. Eventually ALL Toyota models will come with CarPlay available because in the meantime, consumers (like me, for example) will opt out of Toyota vehicles in favor of automakers with a more enlightened sense of who sits in the driver’s seat and who does not.

And what about Google’s CarPlay alternative, Android Auto?

Well, Toyota says not any time soon due to “privacy concerns.”

That Android slow-walking will cost Toyota, and I predict they will ultimately reverse that decision or stand by as consumers reverse their decision to buy a Toyota.

I have long argued that automakers will succumb to consumer demands and make it easier – not harder – to access the content they love on their phones on their auto dashboards.

If the mobile device is an extension of you, then so is the car dashboard. And if you stand in the way of consumer desires you will pay the price in the long run.

And that’s why I swore that this would be my last Toyota.

So what Toyota is really doing here is acknowledging that consumers find it easier to listen to Pandora via their phone synched with their car via bluetooth or cabled directly than to work through the absurd complications of “making Entune work.”

By the way, this is the same way one listens to Spotify on a Toyota – Spotify never had an icon on the Toyota dashboard, and look how that hasn’t hurt Spotify.

Meanwhile, the puck keeps moving. CarPlay will come to all Toyotas within a few years, thus joining the 400 auto models that currently contain it. And Android Auto will soon follow, joining the hundreds of models that already feature it.

So, in other words, don’t cry for Pandora. And don’t celebrate its demise, either.

Worry instead about creating great content for your listeners and providing great value to your advertisers, radio.

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