Proton X50 SUV: why no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto?

One of the big questions asked by you readers about the recently-launched Proton X50 surrounds the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. The latest Geely Key User Interface in the car, GKUI 19, is one of the most advanced infotainment systems on the market, yet it doesn’t come with these two features that are becoming commonplace in Malaysia.

Our Chinese-language colleague Jason Chung wrote a great article to explain why that is. Seeing as Proton’s partner Geely is a Chinese brand, it’s no surprise to find that the decision not to support these in-car operating systems has everything to do with China.

You see, the Middle Kingdom has blocked Google, Facebook and their respective services as part of a state-wide censorship operation. This has had the knock-on effect of severely curtailing the number of applications you can use in Apple CarPlay in the country, such as Google Maps, Waze and WhatsApp. Android Auto isn’t even available there – then again, it isn’t officially supported in Malaysia, either.

Proton X50 SUV: why no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto?

The restrictions placed on international companies, coupled with the sheer competitiveness of the local technology industry, mean that Chinese users simply prefer their own apps and services. Navigation apps like Alibaba’s AutoNavi (which powers the navigation system in the X50, by the way) and music streaming services like Tencent’s QQ Music take the place of big names that are unavailable in China, such as Spotify.

These services are usually either natively integrated into the car’s infotainment system or can be used in indigenous screen mirroring services like Baidu CarLife. As such, there’s little incentive for Chinese carmakers to invest in Apple CarPlay or Android Auto-compatible infotainment systems, and while some brands have made the effort, Geely isn’t one of them.

What does all of that have to do with us, you ask? Well, the answer is cost. Proton may be part of the Geely group, but the fact is that Malaysia is a small market in the grand scheme of things. The national carmaker’s input is limited to translating the GKUI system from Chinese to English (by the way, the system is only capable of a single main language, so stop clamouring for a BM version) and localising certain functions with the help of a local joint venture company, ACO Tech.

Developing a new version of the GKUI system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto would cost a lot of money, which wouldn’t make sense given the small userbase. At the moment, customers are served by the QDLink smartphone connectivity function, offering MirrorLink functionality for Android users and a rudimentary screen mirroring feature for iOS devices.

Could Apple CarPlay and Android Auto eventually find their way into future Protons? Perhaps with enough demand, the company could justify spending the extra cash on building a compatible system. Another possibility would be through the European market – Lynk & Co will be bringing GKUI to the continent later this year, and with the greater demand of these features there, Geely may well be forced to add them to the system. The functionality could then trickle down to Proton models – we’ll just have to wait and see.