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Are Smartphones in the Process of Replacing OEM Instrument Panels?

Apple iPhone mounted on Aprilia Caponord 1200 Rally – utilizing Aprilia aMP technology.

Will motorcycle manufacturers bother to include an instrument panel on future models? If every purchaser of a new motorcycle owns a smartphone, why bother?

In the world of automobiles, smart displays have been integrated into vehicle dashboards for quite some time. Owners of these vehicles frequently lament the fact that relatively inexpensive tablets (iPads or Android devices) have (1) better screens, (2) more intuitive navigation capabilities, and (3) quicker, more powerful processors. Many automobile drivers already mount a smartphone on their dash, as well.

Just two of several smartphone displays available from Aprilia aMP.

Aprilia has had a system available for several years that utilizes a bluetooth connection with a smartphone, enabling a rider of one of its bikes (the Caponord 1200 Rally, for instance) to access and display a wealth of data … right down to lean angle. The smartphone is mounted on the handlebars (see photo) or other position where the rider can easily see it at a glance.

Many smartphones today also contain most, if not all, of the elements comprising an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), including an accelerometer and gyroscope. Even as a stand-alone device, some modern smartphones, utilizing their GPS capabilities, as well, can provide nearly all of the information available from an on-board instrument cluster.

Of course, new hardware is also arriving (heads-up displays in helmets, for instance) that can improve on the traditional instrument panels’ ability to convey information to the rider. Take a look, for instance, at what i-Laps has coming.


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56 Comments

  1. Bob says:

    One reason I ride is so that I don’t have to deal with a phone. Give me a simple analog speedometer and I’m good.

  2. Gary says:

    There will be a window of opportunity for cell phones to perform this function. But only for five years. Ten years max. After that, cell phones will be replaced by something much smaller and lighter (likely something you wear), and all vehicles on the road will be autonomous.

  3. takehikes says:

    I barely need a speedo so why would I want much else. I suppose GPS speeedo so I’d be sure I wasn’t speeding. I have zero need nor interest in anything else electronic. I do carry a cellphone when riding, its part of my tool kit.

  4. Norm G. says:

    they can use a phone for the dash of the new carbon fiber BMW (hint Dirck, full “carbonized” S1RR now showing, rims prolly more awesome than the twin spar).

  5. MGNorge says:

    I like technology a lot and today’s smartphones have phenomenal computing power but..
    submitting to and relying on them tends to put our easily distracted minds in the wrong place and that’s dangerous no matter what else we really should be doing. I have no doubt they can handle the job but when I ride (or drive) I prefer to keep my phone holstered. Keep the dedicated instruments.

  6. CDL says:

    A few things come to mind:
    -A motorcycle manufacturer could team up with a phone/tablet supplier to build a rugged phone that mates up well to said bike. Think about Microsoft Surface tablets in the NFL. These could be the “suggested device”, but also work with any other. This leaves the electronic supplier to the specialty of sourcing and producing the latest technology along side their other products. These electronics suppliers deal in greater volumes than any OE motorcycle could keep up with.

    -If the motorcycle manufacturer can postpone cost increases by eliminating some of the mechanical gauges that should offset your personal cost of adding the electronics. I doubt to see a cost reduction….

    -There are plenty of options out there for holding and charging phones and devices. A newer player in the power sports game is http://www.ciro3D.com, they have a number of mounts and holders designed with motorcycling in mind. Adaptable to a variety of sizes and case options.

    -USB based connections seem to be the most obvious, since most everything is based on that now. Easy enough for an OE to create a new dongle adapter if that was to change in the future. Even better is the expansion of wireless charging, a cradle could be developed with that in place. The bikes could be created with bluetooth or other transmitters to get the information out.

    -Most newer cars now rely on electronic screens as gauges, these can be highly customizable to the riders preference. How much or little info do you want? What color or texture today? Brightness, Needles or digits… This goes on and on. An aftermarket supplier could provide one gauge replacement that meets the needs of anyone through simple software changes or user settings.

    -As for distraction, this is only as much as you want it to be. I have ridden many bikes with tank mounted gauges from the OE. Having to look down is just as dangerous. It would be very simple to disable any user input above a set speed.

    -As for data usage and coverage I agree it is something to consider; but I would imagine the bike itself could/would provide most of the info. i.e. speed, RPM, lean angle, temps, mileage….. Modern bikes are full of computers and sensors. The odometer is already stored within the computer; no getting around that.

    -Custom builders have been going this way for a while. There are a number of Harley inner fairings that mount full IPADS for gauges and stereos. Think of a little bobber that would not need “normally” need any gauges, but easy enough to clip one on if the time is right.

    -Most people have multiple phones/tablets/readers anyways, so what is the problem to have one more that could even be mounted semi-permanent to the bike. OE’s would probably need to develop some kind of anti-theft latch anyways.

    It would definitely not be for everyone, but there will always be plenty of old iron out there for those guys too. Forward thinkers will get this and learn to embrace it.

    • Auspuff says:

      “Forward thinkers will get this and learn to embrace it.”

      “New” is not a selling feature, nor is “New” for new’s-sake considered empirical “Forward Thinking.”

  7. clasqm says:

    I have mounted my iPhone on the handlebars, and I have a USB outlet to keep it charged. But the screen becomes unreadable as soon as you get into any kind of sunlight, especially when you are trying to read it through a visor and/or polarized sunglasses, and the little speaker can’t be heard over engine and wind noise. Then, on the rare occasion when you are riding at night or on a heavily clouded day, and you can actually see what is going on, half the screen gets obscured by an alert telling you that you have received a text message from some spammer! Useless.

    Keep your smartphone and earphones in a pocket, point your front wheel in a direction and see if you can get thoroughly lost. Then when it is time to go home, use the smartphone to get you there. Earphones under a helmet hurt a little, but you can always take them out once you are back in familiar territory.

  8. mickey says:

    Shoot, I still use paper maps from AAA for all my route planning and navigation. Cell phone? Zipped into a pocket in my riding coat for emergencies. Don’t listen to music usually at all but in particular while riding. I ride to get away from all that stuff. 52 years on the road, back and forth across the country multiple times every direction, 5 countries in Europe. Just never found a need for an electronic nanny. Have they added any new cities since 1965? I think all the current ones are on my paper maps lol.

    I understand my 6 year old truck (Honda Ridgeline) has bluetooth something or other but honestly I have no idea what that means or how it works. I have never used it. I can’t even keep CDs/DVDs straight in my head. Think one plays music the other movies.

    Waze, Fobo TPMS ???? what the heck do those initials mean?

    Heck it cracks me up to go to a restaurant and see a family of 4 all sitting there staring at their cell phones while they eat, not saying a word to each other or looking up, except to stick a fork in something and then stick it in their mouth.Then back to looking at the phone.

    curmudgeon? probably … no definitly! lol

  9. Mitch says:

    Doesn’t the phone use data?

  10. Azi says:

    In some countries it’s currently illegal to simply look at a phone whilst driving a vehicle. In these cases the answer is a straightforward no.

  11. ilikefood says:

    Oh god no. Touchscreens in cars are the dumbest idea the auto industry has come up with in a long time. We don’t need this distracting crap on motorcycles. The last thing I want to see while riding is text messages and phone calls

  12. Don E. says:

    I’ve crossed this country nine times without the use of cell phone or GPS. The first few times before the interstate highways were completed. I live so far out in the sticks that I still have no use for a cell phone. Leave the basic instrumentation on the bike.

  13. todd says:

    I was at the thrift store the other day and the electronics section was loaded with two-dollar second-hand phone cradle gadgets and media docks. They were useless unless you happen to still have an iPod or ten year old iPhone. Our GTI has an iPod dock in the center console. That’s really forward thinking there.

    The gauges on my 20, 30, 40 year old bikes still work fine (except one BMW), I don’t think I’ll have the same luck with touch screens or 30 year old cell phones.

  14. Doc says:

    Apply the KISS principle here please!

  15. Buzz says:

    A lot of new cars have Apple Car Play or Android equivalent. Your phone plugs in and it’s then displayed on a screen.

    On a bike, the phone could be in a safe place.

    You would still need a screen and phone storage so I don’t know how that would be better than regular instruments.

  16. David M says:

    I don’t think smart phones will replace OEM instruments as we now have them. But, the idea of a blank slate that we can configure which instruments we want, their style, size,and placement is intriguing. Presumably connected via Bluetooth to a sending unit built into the bike.

  17. ABQ says:

    My phone fades to black if I am not constantly touchig the screen.
    And the battery does not last more than a few hours of constant use.
    Then there is the problem with the charger cords failing or coming loose.
    And don’t forget the glare on those computer devices make them difficult to read.

    Just give me an old fashioned analog speedometer.
    I don’t need GPS, or to know where I am going. Just point me forward.

  18. Michael Haz says:

    No. Smartphones are not waterproof. And they’re too expensive for this use.

  19. Fivespeed302 says:

    This is the way of the future. I have no doubt. I’d never spend extra for some touch screen display in my car because it’ll be obsolete before the vehicle is on the showroom floor.

  20. Bluflame - Western Australia says:

    Went for a great ride with my Apple smartphone on Sunday. (Dirt Bike – Husky TE510) The only thing wrong with the day was the persistent rain.
    Unfortunately the rain destroyed the phone.
    The other problem I encounter with these devices is that they rely on a coverage most of the time for some of the apps. A lot of the good riding areas have little or no cell phone signals from my experience.
    Maybe when we get a fully waterproof alternative and decent coverage these may be the way of the future.
    Can anyone lend me a new phone? LOL.

  21. TF says:

    It’s almost impossible to get lost anymore and getting lost is half the fun, especially when riding off road.

  22. Rusty says:

    I often mount my waterproof (Samsung claims it is, anyway) smart phone on my handlebars for longer trips when I know I’ll want music, Waze, Fobo TPMS and make/receive occasional phone (not routinely) calls. It is already connected via Bluetooth to my helmet communicator which I like a lot for group riding.

    I don’t think I would like it to replace my stock gauges and info screens already on the bike though. Too easy to lose or damage the smart phone. And I cant imagine it would be a seamless operation to duplicate the ease of the factory buttons and switches on the bike already.

  23. Dino says:

    My smartphone is a great SUPPLEMENT to my cycle, but I would never rely on it solely.

    I used it for GPS on one trip and found a few shortcomings… one, cell range. unless it is a satellite phone, you WILL lose signal at some point, and GPS can’t help you then, unless it pre-downloaded the map detail for that area. It always knows where you are, but cannot display detail on your map around you.
    Two, the vibrations played hell with the auto-rotate feature, so after a while, my map would rotate 90 degrees, then flicker back, even though the phone was mounted well. Bonus?? I hit my 10,000 fitness tracker steps for the day before noon!
    Then of course the mounting of the phone, weather proofing, and charging…

    But there is nothing like a smartphone to look up weather radar (to avoid really bad storms), find a motel/hotel/campground, or even a nice restaurant so you don’t have to eat at McDonalds for the third meal in a row!

  24. Al says:

    Why bother you say? 1. Required by USDOT. 2. From a liability standpoint a bike manufacturer will always have to at least provide the basics of safety of a speedometer. First accident by a rider and the rider’s lawyer will rightly argue the manufacturer was liable because they didn’t provide the buyer with the means to know how fast they were going. Plus a manufacturer is going to trust some old smartphone and a 3rd party app that they have no control over to do that? What about making the bike inoperable unless you have the smartphone and app? That’s no solution either as someone will lose their phone mid ride and then can’t get home and something with happen etc and more liability…

  25. Norm G. says:

    Q: Are Smartphones in the Process of Replacing OEM Instrument Panels?

    A: maybe.

    the phone or device would only have to be built specifically for the application, at which point you could even swap it from bike to bike across brands using a common communication standard like a motorbike OBD-2. think of an even more “ruggedized” version of current phone technology. wait, anybody remember the Panasonic Toughbook…? or some of the Dell Latitude laptops for construction sites…? see, we already know what to do.

  26. red says:

    I have been riding around for several years now with old android phone in a bar mounted cradle with power. My bikes each have a ram ball and usb power nearby, swap the cradle back and forth. Goes in a zip lock in the tank bag if rain. Use it primarily for gps, music and occasional phone call – paired to a bluetooth headset. My preferred gps app uses downloaded maps so cell coverage not an issue. Use a huge micro sd for music storage – no streaming. It’s a sweet setup and cheap. has been durable.. many miles of dual sporting included. If it gets really rough it goes in my pocket.

    All that said.. I still want a simple gauge on bike with mph, odo and trip – at the least.

  27. thrus says:

    Simple answer is no, because of rain. Add in that this would mean there was no odometer so they would be unable to say anything about the warranty mileage limit. Then you have the question of what connector do you have for a phone to charge from? USB so that all plug in and use their own cord? what about 15 years from now a motorcycles tend to have long lives if USB isn’t the common port anymore. How will the bike talk to the phone? and if we change to a new tech and Bluetooth goes the way of an infrared port?

    I’m not sure on this one but I would expect that a great deal of rules say a vehicle must have a speedo and these would be ones without.

  28. Tim says:

    I hope it never happens. I’ve had a couple of motorcycle specific Garmins and the displays fade fairly quickly when used regularly in bright sun light. You also have the issue of connection configurations changing on phones from generation to generation and phones come in a multitude of different sizes, so a factory mounting dock would have to be extremely flexible (and waterproof). Besides, it’s hard to beat an old fashion anilog display. Even my K1600 GTL, with all sorts of electronic wizardry, still has an analog speedometer and tach, and I like it that way.

  29. Ricky Crue says:

    I’ll take “Should’ve laid the crack pipe down sooner” for a thousand Alex.

    No way will a smartphone ever replace an actual instrument panel. I can see them used in addition to factory instrumentation, and some bikes as you mention have that now, but they also have stand-alone instruments. Just in case someone’s phone died, or GASP…..they don’t have a smartphone at all!?!?!?!?!?!?!

  30. Don says:

    If you took the instruments off the bike and put them on your face shield you might get more people to wear helmets!

  31. Trpldog says:

    But officer, I didn’t know I was speeding, it wasn’t backlit enough.

  32. Jim L. says:

    No they won’t, at least not any time soon. I used a smart phone for navigation and communication on a trip last summer. The phone quit about half way through the trip. It may have been due to fail, but I feel the environment on the front of a motorcycle was too much for it. The second issue was data. I streamed way more data on 10 hour days aboard the motorcycle than I ever imagined I would.
    I can’t imagine that smartphone manufacturers have an incentive to beef up the design of their phones for this application for a relatively few users.

  33. Gus says:

    I don’t want distractions on the bike. It is bad enough that I have to pay attention to the speedometer.

  34. Frank says:

    Screen Burn-in, lag, display too dim. Displays are cheap, for the price they should come with a nice display like on a Ford or whatever.

    Maybe some custom screens with mirroring so we can watch soaps!

  35. randy says:

    The smarter the technology (used), the dumber the user.

  36. Brett says:

    What if, instead, you still have the display on the bike (legally required I believe), but were able to employ your phone as an auxiliary computer with the bike screen as the monitor? A bike’s LCD should be larger and capable of higher brightness levels than the average phone too.

  37. Selecter says:

    Asinine. Since motorcycle instrument clusters need to be weathertight, vibration-proof, and extremely durable, they’re at polar opposite ends of the spectrum of your typical piece of trash smart phone (about 100% of them these days), which are designed to last exactly 2 years and fall apart at that very moment, to have nothing a user can replace easily, and force you to purchase a new one. Perfect thing to go wrong in the middle of nowhere, right? And that’s not even counting things like mounts failing (it happens!)…

    As a supplemental source of information, lots of people already use them as GPS units and such. But as the primary, it’ll never happen. I also know that the DOT mandates at least turn signal indicator lights and a speedometer of some sort be mounted to the dashboard of any street-legal vehicle sold in the US. So, at least for the time being, those things can not go away.

  38. Peter says:

    Not weather proof.
    Not rugged.
    Software changes too often.
    Touch screens suck in general, but are useless on a moving bike.

    So yeah, I hope not.

  39. CrazyJoe says:

    I admit I own one but but when it stops working I don’t know if I’m getting another. I’m pretty sure it will stop working when it paid for in a few months. The cost of a new one 750, over two years thirty something a month, could be used for something else like abs. I assume the app will cost a few bucks to. Can I survive with a cheap lap top?

    Why do I need all this add on BS for my bike? Why stare down at an I phone? If ther is a need for it they can come up with a virtual reality helmet with a heads up display graphic enhancements. You can make believe you’re a cyborg riding a star fighter thru a post apocalyptic planet thousands of light years away instead of a corn field in kansas. I better stop I’m getting giddy.

  40. Tim C says:

    Over my dead analog tach

  41. Tank says:

    But officer, I didn’t know I was speeding, I lost my smartphone!

  42. Mick says:

    A friend of mine got around Europe on my Ducati when he came to visit by simply listening to music and doing whatever Google Maps told him to do as he rode along.

    It’s OK if you are doing a bomb from one place to the next. Though whenever we did a joy ride on the back roads. I would make a GPS track that we would follow. There are no phone apps that can pull that stunt to my knowledge. Though I often wonder why not.

    As a courtesy warning to Garmin users. If you want to make a route that you want several units to follow, make a “track” and not a “route”. Many of the automotive based GPS units will ignore the route that you so carefully made and plot you down the highway. A track is a track. You might get off it. But you can find it again and pick it up again. Some units will ignore the entire route once a wrong turn is taken. Tracks stay consistent on all units. Basecamp or Mapsource help when you make a route. Just be sure to turn it into a track before you upload it you your unit(s).

  43. Dave says:

    Technology integration is the future and the smartphones will be a big part of it. After recently mounting my S7 Edge in a holder on the bars of my Vstrom 1000 (which has a plug in on the bars), and a bluetooth headset. Im sold…. It’s a revelation. The trick is not letting it became a distraction. Looking to Nuviz to help with that also……

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