Tech Feature Friday: Why In-Car Wi-Fi?
Audi Connect provides a hotspot in the car's interior, but requires a separate data plan.
I had a pre-3G smartphone at the time, but Autonet Mobile came in handy on a family road trip so that others in the car could connect to the Internet to access email, surf the Web or play games -- although I remember that in parts of rural New England the cellular-based signal was so weak that online videos frequently stalled.
Fast forward to 2012, when I had a chance to check out the Audi Connect service in a 2012 A6. Audi Connect uses a dealer-activated T-Mobile SIM card that slides into the dash. The first six months of the service is free, and then a subscription of $30 a month kicks in if you want to keep the data flowing.
While Audi Connect also offers services such as Google Earth navigation mapping, Google Local Search and other online info, the Wi-Fi feature still leaves me wondering how many people will pay for it, especially since most people already own a portable device with an accompanying data plan. Not to mention that 3G coverage is widespread, and 4G is gaining ground.
The A6's in-car Wi-Fi worked fine, as you can see in the short video below. But I found it sort of pointless pairing my iPhone 4, unless I just wanted to use Audi's data. I could see it making more sense when traveling with the family, who are equipped with 3G-less iPads.
That being said, I couldn't see paying for another data plan just to keep the kids in the back seat connected and entertained. And I have unlimited data on my phone, but with today's data caps, that could get expensive. When I mentioned the Audi Connect feature to a tech-geek friend, he scoffed and said, "On road trips we just throw my phone up on the dash and everyone shares the connection."
Maybe the feature makes more sense for a businessperson, and the typical A6 driver. I think that the 2013 Ram 1500'snew Uconnect system, which lets the owner either create a pay-as-you-go Wi-Fi hotspot in the vehicle courtesy of an embedded Sprint cellular modem or simply connect to an existing external Wi-Fi hotspot, offers more flexibility
So if you see a bunch of new Ram pickups parked outside of Starbucks soon, you'll know why.
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