Back in high school, anyone seen without an aftermarket deck (read: CD-player) in their crappy used car was obviously a chump. The deck alone didn’t make you cool, but it went a long way. It helped if you could add an amp and a couple of subs, with extra cool points if your deck had cool graphics, motorized flip out displays, color screens, XM, or if the CD-player (remember those?) could accept MP3 CDs, DVDs, VCDs or WMA CDs — I started laughing while typing the last two.
Aftermarket in-dash audio hasn’t changed too much in the last decade, they’ve added iPod adapters and other integration with mobile devices and music players, but now Pioneer wants to own your in-car experience with a iOS friendly deck. According to their release, “Pioneer’s revolutionary, game-changing AppRadio is the first car stereo to revolutionize the driver’s smartphone experience by bringing compatible iPhone 4 apps to your dash.”
According to Pioneer, the AppRadio will have:
- WVGA (800 x 480) 6.1-inch capacitive multitouch screen
- MotionX-GPS Drive
- AM/FM radio
- plus an extra video input for an optional rear view camera
Note: there is no optical drive. No CD (MP3, DVD, WMA) player. Shall we take cool points off, or are we past optical media?
The AppRadio will obviously center around Apps. Above you can see Pandora, RDIO and Google are built in, but the real magic of AppRadio is the integration with your iOS device. Were you to plug in an iPhone then you’ll have access to, “contacts, calendar, maps, and more… designed specifically for safer in-vehicle operation.” In fact some of the app integration is specifically blocked for safety reasons (like creating a new station on Pandora or searching songs on RDIO) Plus, they’ve allowed iOS developers to write for the AppRadio so they should, “offer compatibility with many of today’s most popular in-vehicle apps, while also developing an expanding catalog of AppRadio compatible apps for future features and functions”
To give an idea of the kind of integration we’re talking about, CrunchGear writes, “Google Maps including search, routing, directions and even drop pins bookmarks.” Revealing that the AppRadio isn’t just a big iPhone interface, it will in fact be formatted for in-dash access yet preserve much of the iPhone functionality.
Now I’ve seen some of the video for the AppRadio and I have a few concerns. To use the AppRadio interface you have to run the AppRadio app on your iOS device; not a problem by itself, but you have to run it every time you switch apps on the radio. For example: You’re using GoogleMaps on the AppRadio and you want to activate RDIO, you have to pick up your iPhone, and either re-open the AppRadio app or click your RDIO app (now if you did that in reverse order the RDIO app would run in the background, but you’d still have to go to the iPhone to open navigation). This might not be the case upon release, but according to the video I viewed this seems to be the correct operation. I’m surprised as this is neither practical, nor safe for driving operation. Hopefully we’ll see some updates for that functionality. You can watch the video on Engadget
In college, my in-dash audio had an iPod adapter (and actually was a Pioneer) and while it integrated nicely, it didn’t really provide the best experience. The sound was good, but navigating the complex menus via the little plastic buttons was clunky. Plus, when the iPod wasn’t plugged in I felt like my stereo was lacking. The new AppRadio will be better at many of my collegiate concerns and about the same with others. They’ll probably suffer for the lack of apps in the opening days, and though they’re not as common the lack of optical drive, or hard storage might bite them in the tailpipe, but it’s a marked improvement over the other decks still floating around BestBuy’s Car Audio section.
I for one would be excited to pop this baby into my dashboard — though the price might keep me from adding a couple of subs and an amp; Pioneer says it should be “less than $500,” and will be on sale in “late June” — which is to say, today.
I probably don’t need the subs anyway, I shouldn’t be pounding the bass on my new Lady Gaga genius playlist.
Do you want an AppRadio? Is your in-car audio sufficient? Leave a comment and discuss your ideas.