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Aftermarket Car Audio To Step Up Smartphone Connectivity At CES

LAS VEGAS – Aftermarket autosound suppliers going to International CES will continue to focus on upgrading head-unit connectivity with smartphones, in some cases at the expense of built-in HD Radio tuners and connectivity to outboard SiriusXM tuners.

Dealers will find more suppliers offering more touchscreen-equipped multimedia and navigation head units with HDMI inputs incorporating Mobile High-definition Link (MHL) technology. These head units deliver in-dash display and control of smartphone apps running on an iPhone 5, 5s and 5c and on MHL-equipped Android phones. One supplier will turn to MHL-enabled HDMI inputs to mirror the displays of the Apple and Android smartphones onto the head units’ touchscreen displays but not provide touchscreen control of phone apps.

In at least one case, HDMI-connected Android phones will deliver in-dash touchscreen display and control of almost any Android app running on MHL-enabled Android smartphones. Apps include calendar, contacts, and email, though such apps as contacts, calendar, video playback and the like will be displayed and controlled only when the emergency brake is on. Other apps such as a phone’s music library, navigation and music-streaming apps will be available when the vehicle is in motion. These heads use Bluetooth’s Human Interface Device (HID) profile to control the apps on compatible Android phones.

For the iPhone 5, 5c and 5s, these HDMIequipped heads will enable the display of all iPhone apps – including calendar, contacts and video – but because Apple phones support Bluetooth’s more limited serial port profile instead of Bluetooth’s more robust HID profile, the touchscreens won’t control most iPhone apps, except for such apps as navigation and music playback. Many apps, including video apps, will be displayed only when the emergency brake is on.

Almost 90 phones worldwide featured MHL as of mid-2013, including multiple Samsung, HTC and LG models available in the U.S., one company said.

To bolster their heads’ smartphone-connectivity features while maintaining price points, at least one supplier is scaling back its selection of HD Radio head units, and at least two suppliers will scale back their selection of heads that control hide-away SiriusXM black-box tuners. At least one company, however, will expand its selection of heads with SiriusXM control and HD Radio.

In other smartphone-connectivity development:

• Control of the iHeartRadio app on USB-connected iPhones and Bluetooth- connected Android phones will expand to more head units.

• The control of Pandora on USB-connected iPhones and Bluetooth-connected Android phones will expand to more head units.

• The streaming of the AptX codec over Bluetooth will come to aftermarket head units for the first time. Meanwhile, hands-free Bluetooth control of an iPhone’s Siri voice-control function will expand to more models.

And USB Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) will appear in more head units. MTP lets users control basic musicplayback functions on Android 4.0 and later smartphones, including play, pause, fast-forward, rewind, random and repeat. The head units also enable search by song title and artist name.