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Kenwood’s Smartphone Connections Proliferate

LAS VEGAS — Kenwood is connecting better with smartphones, smartphone apps and Cloud-based services in its 2014 car audio lineup.

Here at International CES, the company is launching 56 new products, excluding accessories, up from 44 at last year’s show.

Eight new head units are the company’s first head units with HDMI inputs, which let the heads’ touchscreens mirror the display of Apple and MHL-enabled Android smartphones, display their apps, and deliver various levels of app control. The eight consist of five new in-dash multimedia/navigation receivers and three of eight new multimedia receivers, which lack GPS navigation.

The HDMI inputs, in combination with adapter cables, deliver in-dash touchscreen display and control of almost all apps running on more than 120 MHL-enabled Android smartphones, including Netflix, YouTube and Waze navigation. Some app, such as video playback and contacts, are displayed and controlled only when the emergency brake is on. Other apps, such as a phone’s music library, navigation and music streaming, are available when the vehicle is in motion and the user agrees to a cautionary warning statement on the screen. The heads use Bluetooth’s Human Interface Device (HID) profile to control the apps on compatible Android phones.

For the iPhone 5, 5c and 5s, the HDMI-equipped heads and adapter cables will enable the display of all iPhone apps 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 apps, except for such apps as navigation and music apps. Many apps, including video apps, will be displayed only when the emergency brake is on.

The HDMI heads also feature composite-video inputs for iPhone 4/4S display and control at the same levels as HDMI-connected iPhone 5 and newer phones. In the past, the touchscreens of Kenwood heads with composite-video inputs displayed controlled the Garmin, Aha and Pandora apps on iPhone 4/4S phones.

In other advances, Kenwood is offering 32 head units, up from last year’s 30, with full control of the Pandora app running on a USB-connected iPhone and on a Bluetooth-connected Android phone. The number of heads offering full control of iHeartRadio goes to 25 from 13.

The company is also launching a second-generation connected in-dash navigation/receiver, the DNN991HD. Like its predecessor, the head unit uses Wi-Fi to connect to Kenwood’s Cloud server via a smartphone or portable cellular hot spot. The head unit pulls Inrix data such as real-time traffic, weather, parking, speed-camera and travel-advisory information. It also pulls Facebook and Twitter updates, RSS feeds, and personal email for playback using text-tospeech conversion. Replies can be made via speechto- text conversion.

The new model adds the ability to use an optional Verizon 4G LTE dongle instead of the included Wi-Fi dongle to access the Cloud. Also new is the ability to track the vehicle’s location.

Other new DNN991HD features include HDMI port and capacitive touchscreen, which replaces a resistive touchscreen.

Like before, the connected head performs cross-platform media searches for A/V content stored on a smartphone, hard drive or flash drive as well as on select cloud services, but additional sources can now be searched.

A second Cloud-connected multimedia/nav receiver, the DNN770HD, will be carried over into 2014. It retails for $1,300.

In other advances, the company is:

• enabling most Excelon-series heads with stereo Bluetooth to stream the AptX codec over Bluetooth for the first time;

• expanding the number of receivers with HD Radio to 17, up from 12 in 2013, and expanding the number of models that display transmitted album art (Artist Experience) and station logos;

• expanding the number of heads with SiriusXM port to 30 models and expanding the number with channel-art display to nine; all support the outboard SiriusXM tuner’s various capabilities, including TuneStart, TuneScan and the like.

• expanding the marine head-unit selection to five models from three; including a new marine digital media receiver (DMR);

• adding dedicated ports for the iDataLink Maestro RR OEM-interface modules to eight multimedia and navigation models, up from five SKUs; and

• introducing three new DMRs, including the marine DMR. All play WAV and Flac files. All three also feature short chassis for shallow dashes in such vehicles as ATVs and UTVs. In 2013, the company offered one short-chassis DMR.

The modules enable retention of OEM features in Ford Sync systems and GM infotainment systems. Only Kenwood head units are compatible with the ADS modules.

Here’s a breakout of what’s coming in select segments:

In the in-dash nav category, six new models include the Excelon DNN991HD connected receiver and the DNX- 570TR with truck and RV routing.

All models feature Garmin nav technology, a Kenwood exclusive in the in-dash aftermarket. Garmin features include photo-realistic junction view. All integrate with Ford Sync and GM bus systems via iDataLink modules.

In multimedia receivers, eight new models connect to an outboard SiriusXM tuner and offer control of the Garmin Street Pilot nav app running on a USB-connected iPhone 4 or 4S. The top three models add HDMI/MHL input, and four models feature iDataLink OEM interface. All but one have Bluetooth.

They feature either a 6.1- or 6.95-inch WVGA touchscreen. Some feature a new GUI with easier-to-see graphics.

Fourteen new CD-receivers include Kenwood’s new Drive EQ to compensate for road noise in a car. Five feature front and rear USB inputs. Select models come with a CD door to keep dust and debris out. The flagship KDC-X998 CD receiver features HD Radio and full control of Pandora, iHeart- Radio and Aha apps on Android phones and iPhones.