By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Sony is joining the short list of suppliers who are adopting Bluetooth not just for hands-free calling, but for streaming music from a cellular phone.
As more cellular phones are offered with built-in music capability and Bluetooth, it creates a potential market of consumers who will want to stream their music wirelessly from the cellphone to their car stereo system, just as people want to connect their iPods to the car sound system, said suppliers.
Pioneer, Alpine, Scosche and now Sony are offering new Bluetooth-ready car-stereo head units and receivers with this capability. Parrot, which makes a Bluetooth car head unit, said it will also offer a stereo version for streaming music in the fourth quarter.
The Yankee Group, Boston, estimates that up to 25 million people will use cellphones as their primary music device by 2009, accounting for about 20 percent of the portable digital audio player market.
Sony will deliver later this month the MEX-BT5000 plays back music stored on the phone through the car stereo system. Users press a button on the front panel to launch either Bluetooth hands-free dialing or music streaming
For users with music-enabled cellular phones, the BT5000 shows song titles on its display and controls music searches directly from the car CD player.
For speakerphone capability, the unit has a built-in microphone and it lets the user transfer up to 50 phone book contacts directly to the head unit.
The MEX-BT5000 also offers MP3, WMA and ATRAC capability at a suggested retail price of $399.
Sony claims its new Bluetooth receiver is part of the company's strategy to create products that “free you from the limits of what you can do with your music,” according to Brennan Mullin GM for mobile.
Also new from Scosche is a DIN kit that turns its BlueLife Bluetooth receiver (with stereo music streaming capability) into a head unit. Called the BlueLife IUBCKH, the receiver also comes with a separate transmitter that can mount on the back of an iPod or MP3 player that is not Bluetooth ready. The unit then transmits songs by Bluetooth from the cellphone or MP3 player to the car stereo sound system. The IUBCKH receiver began shipping late last year at $199 suggested retail price and the DIN kit for in-dash installation just began shipping at $20.50.
According to Scosche, the receiver and kit can replace a CD receiver (but it does not provide a radio). “A lot of people with iPods only want to listen to their own music in the car. We see it as a great fit for off-road vehicles or RVs or 4x4s. You get skipping with traditional CDs, and this eliminates that,” said a spokeswoman.
This spring Pioneer began offering two stereo Bluetooth-ready head units, and in June Alpine shipped a stereo Bluetooth adapter that works with seven of its head units and the Vehicle Hub Pro.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.