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Audi Brings Android Auto and Apple Carplay to next SUV

LAS VEGAS - The OS battle has shifted from smartphones to cars at CES 2015. But the upcoming Audi Q7 refuses to pick a side.

Both Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay will be featured on Audi’s 7-seat luxury SUV, ensuring the majority of smartphone users will have an option that works for them. Audi has integrated both digital car platforms into its existing MMI control system, blending the physical controls of previous generations with the new cars OSes.

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When I got a chance to preview the system at Audi’s booth at CES 2015, I really liked the immediate sense of familiarity I had when using the new system. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay draw inspiration from their respective mobile OSes, giving you the clean Material interface of Android 5.0 and the tile-based grid that Cupertino, Calif., loves so much.

Getting started is as easy as plugging in your phone, Audi provides a microUSB cord for Android and a Lightning cable for Apple. Once attached, the car takes over, routing calls and messages to Audi’s pop-up display. One drawback; the system isn’t ready for wireless, so you will have to physically connect your phone every time you enter or exit the car, and only Android phones running Lollipop or Apple's iPhone 5 and 6 will work.

One main difference between Audi’s system and other companies integrating Android Auto or CarPlay, is that the Q7’s display is not touch enabled. Instead, you will have to rely on Audi’s MMI touchpad and jog wheel to navigate the screen.

While the Audi representative was quick to say each OS was not in direction competition, they both offer the ability to stream music, use maps and send messages hands-free via voice control. Really, the choice was made when you bought your phone.

Unfortunately, while this news comes early in the year, the Q7 isn’t expected to roll off the line until late 2015. In the meantime, buyers will just have to opt for one of the many third party solutions from the likes of Pioneer and JVC Kenwood.

Sam Rutherford is a Staff Writer at Tom’s Guide. Follow him @SamRutherford on Twitter, and Tom’s Guide on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Sam is a senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.