CES 2011: Pioneer Takes Pandora Mainstream, Adds Apple App Mode


Las Vegas - Internet radio services and Apple's iPods and iPhones are playing key roles in the 2011 product plans of Pioneer's car electronics division.


The division came to CES to expand its selection of head units that control an iPhone's Pandora app to nine models from two at much more affordable prices starting at a suggested $150. The division also launched its first GPS cradle for iPhones and iPod Touches and launched its first seven head units with App Mode, which enables head units with larger displays to play the video of USB-connected iPhone and iPod Touch apps with Apple's iPod Out feature enabled, said marketing director Ted Cardenas. The head units play video only when the parking brake is on.

App Mode appears in two mech-less "digital media receiver" head units at a suggested $270 and $330, three A/V receivers priced from $450 to $700, and the company's two 2011 A/V-navigation heads at $800 and $1,200.

As for Internet radio, the company launched its first Pandora-controlling head units last year in two A/V-navigation units at a suggested $1,599 and $1,099. This year, the feature will appear throughout the company's line from two low-priced CD receivers starting at a suggested $150 to the two new navigation units priced up to $1,200.

Besides expanding Pandora control, the division is also bringing another Internet radio service -- Aha Radio -- to its lineup for the first time. Control of Aha's iPhone app appears in the company's two new navigation systems to deliver audible versions of Facebook and Twitter, podcast streams, audible reports of nearby traffic conditions, and ability to hear nearby points-of-interest (POI) information.

For vehicles without navigation systems, the company is launching the GPS-equipped Smart Cradle, which improves the accuracy of an iPhone's GPS-enabled location-based services and navigation apps. The cradle features an embedded GPS receiver that's more sensitive than an iPhone's GPS chip, and it comes with external GPS antenna. Combined with a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope to track speed and direction, the cradle enables an iPhone's navigation app to stay in touch with GPS satellites in weak-signal areas and show the vehicle's true position when buildings or tunnels block GPS reception, said Karen Rubin, director of product planning for navigation.

 The cradle also features embedded amplified speaker, hands-free Bluetooth, ability to rotate the Apple device into portrait or landscape mode, and A/V output to display the device's video on OEM or aftermarket displays. Pricing and availability weren't announced.

In other line changes, the company is:

-- adopting Clear Channel's RDS-delivered Total Traffic Network (TTN) traffic information service in its two A/V-navigation units to replace MSN Direct, which Microsoft is

turning off

on Jan. 1, 2012.

--expanding embedded HD Radio to three models from two at prices starting at around $150 from $200. One of the three is the company's first A/V-navigation unit with embedded HD Radio. Two of the three feature iTunes tagging, though all have iPod USB inputs.

--bringing down the opening price of head units with iPod USB inputs to $100 from $130 but not expanding the selection of heads with the feature.

--expanding its selection of head units with stereo Bluetooth and Bluetooth AVRCP (audio video remote control profile) to an additional SKU. The two Bluetooth features enable the head units to stream music from smartphones and control limited functions of smartphone apps if the smartphones are also equipped with stereo Bluetooth and AVRCP.

The company is also demonstrating its Network Vision Heads Up Display concept, which projects the display of a linked smartphone onto the driver's side windshield to display such items as caller ID and navigation directions.

In other changes, the company said it is improving its touch slide feature on A/V receivers and navigation systems. The interface reduces the need for multiple layers of menus to quickly navigate the user interface by touching and dragging the text on the screen. This feature lets users navigate through large media lists and search and sort by artist, album, song and genre.

The company is also launching new speakers and a subwoofer.

 Pioneer has no plans this year to adopt Sirius XM's new universal black-box satellite-radio tuner, Cardenas said. The company also isn't launching head units with dual iPod-USB ports.


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