By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
LAS VEGAS — Sony is expanding its selection of CD receivers that use USB-connected iPhones and Bluetooth-connected Android phones as touchscreen remotes and supplementary head-unit displays that can be mounted on top of a dashboard via suction cup.
The technology, called App Remote, also expands head-unit control of a connected smartphone’s music-playback functions and enables head units to launch smartphone apps of any type.
The technology appeared for the first time in five single-DIN CD receivers shipped last October and November. At Sony’s car audio booth, the technology is appearing for the first time in a double-DIN CD receiver due in March. That model is the $200-everyday WX-GT90BT.
The new App Remote-capable head, like the previous models, must be used with Sony’s App Remote app for Android and iPhones. Once downloaded to the phones, the apps turn connected smartphones into touchscreen remotes to select sources such as AM/FM, CD, USB and aux in. Both apps also deliver gesture control, so when the phone is flicked horizontally, the next or previous track on a phone is selected, and a vertical flick selects the next or previous album.
In turning a connected Android and iPhone smartphone into a supplemental music display, the apps help compensate for the limitations of small head-unit displays. The connected smartphones display artist/song information as well as music cover art when their native music player or music-streaming apps are launched.
In contrast, with other Sony head units and most other-brand head units, once an iPhone or Android phone is connected, the phone does not display music information or album art but does display text such as “connected to device.”
In addition, the Android version of the app also
* converts a phone’s text messages to voice;
* expands a head unit’s wireless Bluetooth control of smartphone-stored music beyond track up/down, play/pause and fast-forward/rewind to include the selection of stored music by title, artist, album, and genre; and
* extends head-unit control of any Android-stored music-streaming app beyond track up/down and play pause to include app volume.
For USB-connected iPhones, the iPhone version of the app enables head-unit control of multiple functions of more than 100 music-streaming apps, whereas other-brand head units control only a handful of music-streaming apps on USB-connected iPhones, Sony said.
With the apps, users are also able to launch any Android app from the head units, including navigation and YouTube, and select iPhones apps, including major music-streaming apps, navigation apps and the like.
For the respective apps to function, Android phones must be connected to the head units via Bluetooth, while iPhones must be connected to the head units’ USB port.
Two of the five current App Remote models at $150 and $200 lack Bluetooth, so their App Remote functionality works only with iPhones. The other three at everyday $150 to $250 work with iPhones and Android phones, as does the new $200 WX-GT90BT.
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