By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The 12-volt market is taking a cue from the iPhone and unveiling new head units with touch-screens that let you swipe a finger across the display to scroll through songs on an iPod.
The feature is on display here at International CES in new Alpine and JVC car stereos and in a Mio portable GPS device. Pioneer is also offering a form of slide-touch, where users can slide a finger along an on-screen scroll bar.
The simple-to-use touchscreens are expected to reduce eyeball time on the devices so drivers can keep their eyes on the road. And it can't hurt that the feature is cool and fun to use.
"Let's face it, that's why people buy the iPhone, because of the cool human interface. We believe, from the standpoint of driving a car, that it makes a whole lot more sense than a scroll wheel or any format we can come up with. It focuses on driver safety, on ease of use and on just cool," said Glenn Irhke, sales VP for Alpine.
JVC is adding an iPhone-like touchscreen to its El Kameleon DVD receiver. The screen covers the entire front face of the single-DIN unit that plays back audio and video.
Users can slide a finger up and down on the El Kameleon KDAVX77 to scan through an iPod's songs. The unit also has the same proximity sensor as last year's El Kameleon model to "wake up" the unit as a hand draws close. JVC is also adding USB iPod control and two-way iPod control to the unit and to most of its 2009 line. The two-way iPod feature lets the user control music directly from the iPod (instead of the iPod going dead once it is plugged in), or control the iPod from the radio.
Other features of the El Kameleon KDAVX77 include built-in Bluetooth with audio streaming, and dual zone capability. The unit is HD Radio ready and satellite radio ready with 5-volt outputs. Shipping and pricing information will be announced.
Alpine's version lets users slide a finger along a 4.3-inch screen to scroll through album art on an iPod or iPhone. It's available on the Alpine 2009 flagship iXA-W404 — a mechless head unit that has a QVGA screen and a new human machine interface. It assigns some tasks to a large rotary knob on the face and some to the touch screen. Alpine claimed it worked with Apple for two years on the new interface.
"This doesn't force the customer to have to turn up the volume through a goofy touch-screen system," said marketing VP Steve Witt, adding, "It also allows you to search by album cover art instead of looking at distracting lines of text."
Consumers can add widgets (floating icons such as those on the iPhone) to the screen. Up to five widgets for a clock or calendar, photo viewer, etc., may be used and can be downloaded from a new Alpine website.
The iXA-W404 is Works with iPhone certified when used with a separate cable, as are all Alpine's 2009 head units. The head units can stream video from an iPhone and iPods and can charge the devices.
The iXA-W404 uses USB iPod control and offers iTunes tagging with an optional HD Radio module. It works with optional Bluetooth and satellite radio adapters and also accepts an Alpine Imprint module for sound processing. It will ship in April at a suggested retail of approximately $499.
The same screen with finger-swipe search will be offered as a 7-inch WVGA slim-line monitor that is 5/8-inch thick including the mounting system. The monitor is slim enough to add to a dashboard for navigation, or to use as a monitor for a backup camera or in rear-seat entertainment. Alpine is aiming the monitor at "customers that are happy with the existing radio" but want navigation and video. "The reason most cars couldn't accept these monitors was that they were big and ugly. Now we're taking something only 5/8th inches thick that the 12-volt installer can add as an upgrade," said Witt. The monitor will ship in April at $299 and it may be used with a new navigation module, model NVE-P1 for a system price of $799. Adding a rearview camera would bring the system to $1,000.
Two of Pioneer's A/V head units for 2009 sport a new slide-touch feature. A bar pops up on the display allowing users to touch and drag along the scroll bar to search files and fast forward and rewind. The bar can control files on DVD/CD discs and USB-connected devices, with some control for an iPod also.
The feature is found on the AVH-P3100DVD and AVH-P4100DVD in-dash DVD/monitors with iPod control and iPod Passenger Mode that lets users search songs directly from the iPod. The double-DIN units ship in March at $450 for the AVH-P3100DVD with 5.8-inch screen and $580 for the AVH-P4100DVD with 7-inch display.
Also in advanced screens, Eclipse is showing an A/V navigation unit with a digital screen that can process the signal for digital media without analog circuitry for a clearer picture in the AVN726E.
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