Daimler AG‘s (PINK:DDAIF) Mercedes-Benz and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) go back a bit. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was infamous for driving a plateless Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG, and the late Apple co-founder would replace the $130,000 car every six months to avoid any legal requirement for license plates.
The German luxury automaker was also one of the first to recognize just how popular Apple’s iPhone would become. Mercedes offered iPhone integration kits for all post-2004 models immediately after the first iPhone’s 2007 release, stepped it up with a 2008 version that tied in more closely with the vehicle’s Navigation system, and offered an iPhone app in 2010 (mbrace) that gave Mercedes owners the ability to remotely lock or unlock their car doors, along with a variety of concierge functions. The automaker also unveiled an updated version of the platform, called mbrace2, that features a 3G connection to the cloud.
And last year, when Mercedes was talking up plans for an “iPhone Interface Plus,” it announced an iPad dock that uses the tablet as a rear-seat entertainment device. Android love? Not so much. Clearly Mercedes has felt there is a connection between its core customers and Apple’s.
Speak to the car
The latest development in this relationship was revealed early last week when PSFK reported on a Mercedes announcement about Apple’s Siri voice recognition technology found on the iPhone 4S. Mercedes will be the first auto maker to integrate Siri functionality, allowing iPhone 4S users to control a number of functions—including music system operation, text messaging, status updates on social media sites, and navigation feature on a preinstalled Garmin system—all by voice command. The system will be offered in all A-Class Mercedes cars starting this fall, with plans to later incorporate it in B-, C-, and E-Class vehicles.
The average U.S. Mercedes-Benz owner has an income of about $175,000, and 28% of them have a four-year college degree. A 2011 Hunch poll of 15,818 users turned up some interesting clues in the Android vs. iPhone demographics. According to its results, an iPhone owner is 67% more likely to have a $200,000-plus annual household income and 37% more likely to have a graduate degree than someone who owns an Android smartphone.
Playing to the demographic?
So is Mercedes-Benz simply chasing a more affluent demographic that happens to be more likely to sling an iPhone? That’s a possibility, although published data comparing the income levels of Apple and Android users is difficult to come by and certainly wasn’t capable of showing any kind of meaningful trends in 2007, when Mercedes first started down this path.
It could be that Mercedes gave preferential treatment to Apple’s products because both companies had significant brand awareness and a reputation for offering premium products—they made a natural pair.
It could also be that the uncertainty over Google‘s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android (particularly fragmentation with different devices running different versions and often employing a customized user interface) made Mercedes hesitant to risk a poor customer experience over possible compatibility issues with their Android smartphones. This challenge is actually a widespread one and helps explain why consumer products that benefit from smartphone integration (speaker docks being a prime example) tend to focus on supporting Apple’s iOS devices, despite the fact that Android is winning the sheer numbers game.
Then there’s the hint from PCMag suggesting the possibility that Mercedes and Apple have had a partnership in place and that Steve Jobs—always driving a Mercedes—was testing out iPhone integration on the side.
Whatever the reason, if you plan to buy a Mercedes and want full smartphone integration with your car, better make sure you use an iPhone.