Apple’s New Circuit Boards Could Yield More CarPlay Devices

One of the few things holding CarPlay back from becoming a preferred tool among more automobile drivers is compatibility. It’s a simple fact that at this point not all vehicles are compatible, and external tools providing CarPlay can be expensive (and sometimes difficult to obtain).

Apple announced its powerful M1 chip in Nov 2020

This is not to suggest there are no good options. We’ve covered Coral Vision’s wireless dashboard, which can bring Apple CarPlay into your vehicle even if it’s not compatible on its own. It’s a 7-inch console that can be attached to your dashboard and paired with your iPhone to display CarPlay in its entirety — essentially a CarPlay-specific tablet made for your car. The device has some Android compatibility as well and it is sold for a very manageable $225.

While this is an excellent third-party machine though, it’s conceivable that we could also be on the cusp of more devices of this ilk being made available by Apple itself. To be clear, we do not know of specific news regarding such a product. But recent news about the tech giant’s business regarding circuit board technology is promising with respect to the future of a lot of devices — including, potentially, CarPlay consoles.

The Coral Vision Dashboard Console – Standalone CarPlay in a boxed display console

What we’re referring to specifically is a MacRumors report on Apple and PCBs from this past summer. The report specifically revealed that an outside manufacturer will be supplying Apple with “super-thing rigid PCB” components (PCB meaning “printed circuit board). Apple will use these new PCBs in its “LED-backlit iPads and MacBooks.” The significance of the specific supplier apparently comes down to “cost control capability” and “production management.” But the decision to invest in super-thin rigid PCBs speaks to Apple’s commitment to that mini-LED backlighting — which can enable “thinner and lighter product designs.”

For those who may not be familiar with how PCBs can affect devices, Altium’s look into PCB board thickness helps to explain the significance of this move by Apple. As that write-up points out, different circuit board designs have different thickness requirements. Essentially, more powerful PCBs have traditionally called for more components, ultimately requiring thicker designs and/or multiple layers. What Apple is investing in is essentially a more high-tech PCB that can deliver the performance Apple’s products require while maintaining a super-thin design.

The M1 line-up of devices are no match for Apple’s competitors

What this ultimately implies is that Apple will be able to produce certain devices as smaller designs, with superior performance, and possibly at lower prices. As a recent example, consider the latest laptops in the MacBook Air lineup. Per BGR’s review of the M1 MacBook Air, this computer is “even faster than the most powerful Intel-based 16-inch MacBook Pro.” It also sells for $999 ($1,249 for the 512GB option), whereas the latest 16-inch MacBook Pros sell for $2,399 (512GB) and $2,799 (1TB).

This does not necessarily mean that Apple will end up perfecting more fringe devices like CarPlay consoles. Again, we have no specific news to that effect. However, cost-effective manufacturing of thinner PCBs does give the company more options to pack significant power into smaller, more compact devices. This general concept is already paying off via the glowing reviews the new MacBook Air is receiving, and it could mark the beginning of a trend.

If Apple should design its own compact, portable, and affordable console for CarPlay, it could be a game-changer for the technology.

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