CES 2012: Alpine Builds More Bridges To Smartphones - Twice

CES 2012: Alpine Builds More Bridges To Smartphones

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Las Vegas - Alpine is building more bridges between its aftermarket car head units and smartphones, including Android and BlackBerry smartphones.

The advances come on top of an expanded selection of OE-look A/V-navigation systems, the latest of which features the first aftermarket nav system with 8-inch screen.  The $1,499-MAP nav system is packaged with Perfect FIT (Factory Integration Technology) installation kits that include dash panels to deliver an OE-look installation in 10 vehicle platforms.

To improve connectivity to smartphones, the company is offering its first six head units to combine Bluetooth's serial port profile (SPP) and Pandora's communications protocol to wirelessly control a Pandora Internet radio app running on a BlackBerry or Android smartphone. Via Bluetooth SPP, the head controls such Pandora functions as play/pause, skip, thumbs up/down, channel selection, and station creation. The feature starts at $189 MAP.

 To go with the feature, Alpine has added stereo Bluetooth to 10 head units this year, having not offered that feature at all in the 2011 line.

In another change, the company added USB 2.0 technology to all of its USB-equipped head units, enabling head-unit navigation of music stored on USB-connected Android phones by song, artist, album, playlist, genre and composer. In previous Alpine heads, consumers were able to navigate Android phone-stored music only by file folder and song up/down, said product promotion manager Steve Brown.

In August, Alpine will offer updates to its A/V-multimedia head units and A/V-navigation units to enable head-unit control of such iPhone-stored apps as Netflix, Stitcher, YouTube and more, Brown added.

Other changes coming to the 2012 line include the expansion of embedded HD Radio tuners to six head units from last year's one, all with iTunes Tagging. The A/V and A/V-nav units will display cover art, album information and other graphics transmitted by HD Radio stations that transmit the information.  The head units also feature proprietary Smart Reception Management, which locks onto an HD2 or HD 3 channels so that, when the digital signal is lost momentarily, the radio won't switch automatically to the station's main HD channels, Brown said. As with satellite radio, consumers would hear silence until the HD2 or HD3 signal is picked up again.

In other enhancements, the company expanded its selection of head units with dedicated port for connecting SiriusXM's hideaway universal tuner to five from two. The port will work with SiriusXM's planned second-generation universal tuner, the $79-suggested SXV200 SiriusXM Connect Vehicle Tuner. The tuner, due in the spring, adds the expanded channel lineup of the broadcaster's 2.0 satellite service.

Like the original SiriusXM universal tuner, the new tuner allows for a standardized one-cable connection to head units from multiple suppliers, simplifying installation and thus driving down the consumer's cost of acquisition. Previously, installations required add-on adapters for different brands of heads and multiple wiring connections.

In another line change, Alpine improved its Bluetooth implementation to allow for Secure Simple Pairing, enabling one-touch first-time pairing with a cellphone, making it unnecessary to input a PIN code. The company has also added enhancements to improve Bluetooth hands-free and stereo streaming sound qualit

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