Kenwood Makes More In-Car Smartphone Connections

By Joseph Palenchar On Jan 11 2012 - 12:56am




LAS VEGAS — Connectivity is the key to Kenwood’s 2012 automotive head-unit lineup.

In launching 46 new products other than accessories, the company is expanding the number of CD receivers that control Pandora Internet radio on a USB-connected iPhone to 15, from nine, starting at a suggested $140.

Kenwood is also providing a greater degree of headunit control over music stored on USB-connected Android phones, and the company is launching head units that provide as much wireless-Bluetooth control over Pandora apps running on Android and BlackBerry smartphones as does a wired USB connection to a Pandora-loaded iPhone.

In another smartphone-connectivity improvement, Kenwood is upgrading iPhone App Mode in three multimedia head units. The upgrade enables touchscreen control of seek, play, pause and stop functions for such apps as YouTube, Netflix and Slacker Radio. Previously, App Mode enabled streaming of the apps’ audio and video through the iPhone’s 30-pin connector but didn’t allow for headunit control.

In other developments, Kenwood is:
• turning three multimedia head units into more affordable multimedia/navigations systems by enabling them to display maps from a Garmin StreetPilot app running on a docked iPhone;

• expanding embedded HD Radio to eight CD receivers, from two, and to four multimedia/navigation units, from one, all with iTunes tagging;

• adding a port on eight head units starting at an expected everyday $160 to connect to SiriusXM’s new hideaway universal tuner; and

• offering its first head units with software that simplifies and reduces the cost of head-unit integration with Ford Sync systems.

In improving connectivity to USB-connected Android phones, the company is launching a free app that enables head-unit selection of Android-phone-stored songs by title, artist, album and mood when the phone is placed in mass-storage mode. The USB connection also charges the Android phone.

In its 2011 line, Kenwood offered multimedia-navigation units that charged Android phones and allowed users to navigate songs only by folder and by using track up/down controls.

To expand wireless Bluetooth control to more advanced Pandora functions in Android and BlackBerry smartphones, the company is adopting Bluetooth’s serial port profile (SPP) for the first time in 10 head units. SPP appears on four multimedia/nav systems and six CD receivers starting at a suggested $220.

Compared to head units that use Bluetooth AVRCP (audio video remote control profile) to control only basic Pandora functions on Android and BlackBerry phones, SPP-equipped heads add control of channel selection, tagging of favorite songs and artists, and access favorites, and Pandora’s thumbs up/down function. Album art is also streamed to head units with LCD full color displays.

Bluetooth AVRCP enables wireless control only of such basic Pandora functions as track up and play/pause functions.

To deliver connectivity with Ford, Lincoln and Mercury Sync systems, the company is adding Sync compatibility to five new indash multimedia/navigation units at suggested prices from $1,000 to $1,600.

Here’s what Kenwood is launching in select product segments:

In-dash navigation: Five new models are the $1,600-suggested DNX9990HD, $1,500 DNX7190HD, $1,200 DNX- 6990HD, $1,100 DNX6190HD and $1,000 DNX5190. All feature Garmin navigation technology, which is exclusive in the in-dash aftermarket to Kenwood. New features include photo-realistic junction view, predictive routing and traffic-trend routing.

Four of the five feature built-in HD Radio with iTunes tagging, universal SiriusXM tuner port, iPod/iPhone USB connection, and ability to control many functions, not just basic functions, of Pandora apps residing on a connected iPhone. All but one model offer stereo Bluetooth and Bluetooth’s Serial Port Profile (SPP).

All five feature seamless OEM integration with a factory Ford Sync system, thanks to Kenwood’s exclusive compatibility with an iData Link Maestro module from Automotive Data Solutions (ADS). Sync integration also requires vehicle-specific T harnesses and vehicle-specific firmware downloaded from the web.

The ADS module, expected in March, will be less expensive than aftermarket Sync-integration kits that cost around $250, require an add-on LCD display, and require users to keep the head unit in aux-input mode to use their car’s Sync features, Kenwood said.

Within the navigation lineup, the flagship Kenwood Excelon DNX9990HD features 6.95-inch VGA touchscreen, built-in HD Radio, control of Aha Radio on a connected iPhone, digital time alignment and dual iPod/ USB inputs. It ships in March.

Multimedia head units: The $700-suggested DDX719, $550 DDX419 and $500 DDX319 are due in March with control of the Pandora app on a USB-connected iPhone.

All three also offer universal SiriusXM tuner port and exclusive compatibility with an optional Garmin Street Pilot navigation app running on a USB-connected iPhone. All three feature the improved iPhone App Mode, two offer stereo Bluetooth, and all connect via USB to charge Android phones and navigate stored music by file folder and by track up/down. All models ship in March.

Excelon in-dash CD receivers: Seven new models in the company’s premium CD receiver series are priced from a suggested $140 to $320, all with control of Pandora on a USB-connected iPhone. The top three models are equipped with Bluetooth SPP to wirelessly control Pandora on Android and BlackBerry phones. HD Radio with iTunes tagging is in four of the seven.

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