Alpine Tunes Into Smartphones, Apps, Social Media

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LAS VEGAS — Alpine is making more connections with smartphones at International CES, shrinking the size of amplifiers, and launching a smartphone app that lets consumers optimize sound systems for a particular vehicle’s acoustics.

The iOS and Android app, called TuneIt, lets users download recommended settings that tailor sound output for a particular vehicle, then sends the settings to select Alpine head units via USB. The app adjusts such head-unit parameters as time correction, parametric EQ, and crossover points.

The app also displays Facebook notifications on the USB-connected heads and, with a planned update, uses text-to-speech conversion to read Facebook messages through the head.

In other product plans, the company is adding control of the Aha app for the first time to a head unit, launching its first head unit with MirrorLink connectivity, and expanding its selection of Perfect FIT (Factory Integration Technology) install kits to fit more vehicle models.

Details of the Aha and MirrorLink developments were unavailable at press time, but the install kits are designed for use with Alpine’s INE-Z928HD in-dash navigation system with 8-inch screen. Kits were available in 2012 for 10 vehicle platforms, accounting for more than 2 million new car sales each year.

The kits feature vehicle-specific wiring harnesses and installation accessories for direct plug-and-play connection to factory wiring and have dash panels designed to match the shape, color and texture of a specific vehicle’s dash.

In smartphone connectivity, the company is expanding App mode to more head units, enabling basic control of a variety of apps running on a USB-connected iPhone and the head-unit display of app metadata. The feature will be available in all new 2013 single-DIN CD receivers and new 2013 double-DIN A/V-navigation systems.

Also to appeal to smartphone users, the company is expanding its selection of head units with what it calls Bluetooth Plus, a set of Bluetooth technologies that includes Bluetooth’s serial port profile (SPP) to control many of the functions of a Pandora app running on a Bluetooth-connected Android phone. Bluetooth Plus will be expanded to all single-DIN CD receivers but one in 2013.

All single- and double-DIN Alpine head units continue to control Pandora on a USB-connected iPhone.

Other Bluetooth Plus features include secure simple pairing; DSP-tuned audio for streaming on select models; sound maximizer for clearer phone call reception; a separate, external hands-free microphone; and display of phone battery level, cellular-signal level, received-message icon and call waiting.

For use with three head units, Alpine plans March availability of a free TuneIt app, whose swipe-and-pinch interface lets users manipulate the head units’ sound settings, including time correction, parametric EQ, crossover selection, Media XPander and level settings. The app also lets users tune a system to a particular vehicle’s interior acoustics and works even if non-Alpine amps and speakers are part of the audio system.

To optimize sound quality, users plug in their vehicle’s make, model and speaker locations. The app then accesses the Cloud to download the best settings for the vehicle.

Consumers can create a user profile containing details about their vehicle and sound system, saving up to 100 sound settings in their account, including a combination of self-made sound tuning settings, downloaded sound tuning settings from other users, and downloaded sound tuning settings from Alpine. Users can also rate the settings, and positive user ratings result in higher ranking “status” within the app’s community.

Separate settings can be created based on music genre, allowing multiple settings for the same vehicle.

When connected to the select Alpine head units via USB, the TuneIt app also notifies users of incoming Facebook messages, wall posts, friend requests, friend confirmations and photo tags. This notification is shown by a blinking blue LED glass key on the head unit and a message alert on the display.

A summer 2013 TuneIt update will let users push the glass key to accept the message, and the TuneIt app will then read the message via text-to-speech through the sound system.

When the vehicle is parked, the Facebook friend’s profile picture is also displayed on the smartphone screen.

New head units include the $249-everyday CDE-HD- 148BT CD receiver with TuneIt compatibility, built-in Bluetooth Plus, HD Radio with iTunes tagging, iPhone App mode, and ability to control Pandora on a USB-connected iPhone or Bluetooth-connected Android phone. It also connects to the universal SiriusXM SXV200 2.0 tuner.

The CDE-HD148BT, shipping in March, features rear USB input, front 3.5mm aux input, and two-line display to show such metadata as artist and song name. Each audio and information source has its own identifying icon when users scroll through sources.

In amplifiers, the company is replacing its V series of digital amps, giving the new models a 40 percent smaller footprint and adding such features as audio-signal-sensing turn-on and compatibility with an optional remote bass knob.


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