The iPod is now a key component of car audio, but as new generations of iPods keep arriving, they pose some challenges in working with older (legacy) head units — even those designed to be iPod compatible.
Apple's newest iPods, introduced earlier this month, cannot be charged by the old FireWire cables found on many head units. Another glitch is that the newer iPods cannot pass through video.
It is also possible that some head units may no longer display song title and artist information, said some industry members, while others did not believe this was a problem. Many were still testing head units against the newest iPods that launched Sept. 10.
The good news is the new iPods will still play audio through legacy head units. Receivers with USB iPod connections will still charge the new iPods, which include fourth-generation Nanos (called Nano-chromatic) and second-generation iPod Touch models, plus a new Classic and the iPhone 3G introduced in July.
The other good news is that starting in October, kit makers will ship adapters that restore charging or video capability or both. Such suppliers include Precision Interface Electronics (PIE), Peripheral, Scosche, Pacific Accessory (PAC) and Blitzsafe.
In total, iPod integration saw increased sales by 20 percent to 35 percent during the first half over the same period last year, said suppliers. Connector kit sales to dealers (the great majority of which are iPod/MP3 connectors) from January to July totaled $7.2 million, or 553,000 units, said the Consumer Electronics Association. These figures include cassette and miscellaneous adapters, but do not include Bluetooth or HD Radio adapters. For the second half, sales estimates are tamer due to the jittery economy, with predictions ranging from flat to a 15 percent rise on iPod car kits.
Peripheral noted it is seeing a slowdown in sales at present but expects sales to pick up due to an awareness campaign it is launching for its iSimple line of iPod kits aimed at consumers.
Peripheral will offer this fall an adapter for charging and pass-through video on newer iPods paired with older head units. Shipping in early November, the kit connects to most head units through RCA jacks. An adapter will also be available for the company's Gateway modular adapter system.
PIE said it will be first to market with a kit for charging and sending video from new iPods to legacy radios and monitors. The AV-iPD has a built-in video authentication chip as well as a 12 volt-to 5-volt conversion circuit to allow iPod charging for newer iPods. The AV-iPD is an upgrade to the previous PIE AV-POD. It connects to most aftermarket radios through auxiliary inputs via RCA connectors and to OEM radios (with extra interface in some cases). It will ship in mid-October at a $59.95 suggested retail.
Scosche will ship Oct. 1 a charging adaptor called the PassPort IFWA FireWire to USB adapter. It attaches to any in-car iPod integration system to allow charging of the iPhone 3G and newer iPods. It will be offered through Apple stores and at Scosche.com at $24.99, and a home solution will be available at $39.99.
Blitzsafe is including authentication chips in all its iPhone and iPod interfaces in a running change over the next 30 to 45 days. The line allows USB charging, text and audio control for the newest iPods, and comes in three versions, including a kit that can be added to any iPod or iPhone (the user snaps it into the iPod or iPhone FireWire cable to convert it to USB), and a kit that lets all iPods/iPhones work with all existing Blitzsafe legacy interfaces via a cable into the back of the head unit (professionally installed). A total of three kits carry suggested retails from $30 to $120.
PAC will also offer kits for the newest iPods by the mid-fourth quarter that will restore both video and charging. It will also offer a running change update for its uPAC modular connector kit, to make it fully compatible with the iPhone as of Oct. 1.