The space between the smartphone and the dashboard has become hot real estate (as radio managers are all too aware, given that drivers and passengers now can use apps to access content like streamed audio as an alternative to traditional radio listening).
Now Pioneer has unveiled something called AppRadio.
The device, coming in June, is described as the first in-vehicle product designed around the benefits of the iPhone and iPod — their processing power, storage capacity, network connectivity and apps — as the primary source for its information and entertainment capabilities. Why? As Pioneer Electronics USA Marketing Director Ted Cardenas put it, the iPhone “has become the window to our mobile connectivity.”
AppRadio provides a connection to the user’s iPod or iTouch operating devices and will list at around $500. It is an aftermarket head unit that installs in the dash and has three buttons: home, volume up and volume down. But when connected to an iPhone or fourth-generation iTouch, its big (6-inch) capacitive touchscreen lets a user control a companion app interface, iPod control and playback, built-in AM/FM radio with RDS text display and Bluetooth calling feature.
The company promotes its touch panel as requiring less pressure, responding faster and recognizing multiple touch points, compared to traditional “resistive” screens.
Google Maps appear on the AppRadio screen; and with the car stopped and parking brake on, consumers can use more apps featuring a second video output on the screen.
Pioneer says it worked with app providers to integrate AppRadio compatibility into apps that are formatted for safe use in vehicles. Pandora is among the available compatible apps, as are INRIX, MotionX-GPS Drive and Rdio. As new AppRadio-compatible applications become available, users are notified via an AppRadio iPhone application, with a link to the App Store.
The product package includes a connector, external GPS antenna, external microphone for hands-free calling and connections to support an optional rear-view camera, wired remote steering wheel control adapter and an external amplifier using one set of preamp outputs.
AppRadio itself ships in June; the AppRadio app is being sold now on the App Store or at www.apple.com/itunes/.
A reviewer for PC Magazine says an Android version also is planned. (He also wrote that the screen display seems “washed out” and that Pioneer made the process of switching between apps “oddly difficult … virtually requiring a user to take his or her eyes off the road.”)
— Leslie Stimson