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Sony Steps Up Smartphone Connections In Car CD Receivers At $160+

8/15/2012 04:46:09 AM Eastern

San Diego – Five new single-DIN in-dash car CD receivers unveiled by Sony include several models that communicate with Bluetooth-connected Android smartphones and USB-connected iPhones via a free app that delivers multiple new features in the car, including more robust wireless Bluetooth control of music stored on Android phones.

Two of the five new head units are the company’s first two heads in years to be sold only through car audio specialists. One new model brings embedded HD Radio down in price to an everyday $150, from $160.

Sony’s app is called App Remote, available in an Android version and an iPhone version. The apps turn connected Android phones and iPhones into touchscreen remotes to select sources such as AM/FM, CD, USB and aux-in.

More importantly, the Android version of the app also

  • converts 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; more robust Bluetooth control of Android-stored music hasn’t been unavailable from any aftermarket supplier until now, Sony believes; 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 worked with the developers of music-streaming apps to ensure compatibility, said Sony mobile electronics business manager Taka Noguchi.

 Both the Android and iPhone apps deliver gesture control, so when the phone is flicked horizontally, the next or previous track is selected, and a vertical flick selects the next or previous album. They also turn a connected Android and iPhone smartphone into a supplemental music display, enabling the smartphones to 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 “connected to device” or similar wording, said Noguchi.“With App Remote, the smartphone becomes a supplemental display of the music source,” he explained. “A one-DIN display, typically one line, can show only so much music information.”

  The apps will be available in September from the Google Play and Apple App stores. 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.

 The three head units compatible with the Android and iPhone versions of App Remote are the $160-everyday MEX-BT4100P, $190 MEX-BT3100P and $250 MEX-GS600BT, all with embedded Bluetooth. They will be available in November.

 The $250 GS600BT will be available exclusively through specialty dealers, including mom-and-pop stores and regional mobile-specialty chains, said Noguchi.

A fourth head unit, the $200 CDX-GS500R, will also be available only through mobile specialists, but it will be compatible only with the iPhone version of App Remote, not with the Android version. The GS500R will be available in October.

 Both specialist-dedicated heads will offer such exclusive features as a three-year versus two-year warranty and 5-volt preamp outputs compared to the more common 2- and 4-volt preouts, Noguchi said.

 “We are reinvesting in the specialty channel,” Noguchi said.

 A fifth head unit, due in November, is the $150 CDX-GT710HD, which brings the opening price for an HD Radio-equipped head down from $160.

All five models connect to an outboard SiriusXM SXV200V1 satellite-radio tuner, which receives the satellite company’s expanded channel lineup. The introductions bring the feature to three more Sony head units.

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