Pioneer Ships $399 AppRadio For iPhone

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New York - Pioneer finalized the pricing and availability of its much-touted AppRadio automotive head unit and announced features not previously disclosed.

The double-DIN AM/FM RDS head unit, which lacks a CD player but controls select iPhone apps via its capacitive touchscreen, is the first car entertainment system -- OEM or aftermarket -- to use the iPhone as its primary source of content, Pioneer said. It's also intended to expand the aftermarket customer base to smartphone power users who use their phone for multiple purposes throughout the day and wouldn't otherwise consider replacing a factory head unit, the company said.

The product is available for an expected everyday retail of $399 at Best Buy, Crutchfield.com, Amazon.com and other select authorized retailers, Pioneer announced here at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) Line Show.

AppRadio is the aftermarket's first head unit with a capacitive, rather than resistive, LCD touchscreen to enable iPhone-like gesture control of apps, Pioneer said. The only hard buttons are power on/off and volume.

Using the touchscreen, users can access music and video stored on a USB-connected iPhone or iPod Touch. The touchscreen also controls selected apps, including Pandora Radio and a Cloud-based navigation service, equipped with a Pioneer API to display their user interface and content on the device's 6.1-inch WVGA display.

When AppRadio was previewed earlier this year, Pioneer revealed five iPhone apps that would be available with its API. They were Pandora Internet Radio, the Motion X GPS Drive Cloud-based navigation service, Inrix's real-time traffic app, and Rdio, an on-demand music subscription service with social-network functions. The fifth was Google Maps local search, enabling users to find destinations and view route-direction lists to those locations. These apps can be used while a car is in motion.

For location-based services, AppRadio comes with an external GPS antenna whose embedded GPS receiver overrides the iPhone's GPS receiver to deliver more accurate location information. The antenna also turns the iPod Touch into a navigation device.

Since the preview, Pioneer added access to the iPhone's contacts, calendar and photos apps. The contacts function provides direct access from the head unit to stored contacts for hands-free calling via Bluetooth, routing via Google Maps, and sending the user's GPS location via e-mail.

With the vehicle parked and the parking brake fully engaged, calendar displays stored calendar and event items, and photos provides onscreen viewing of the user's photos, slide shows, geotagged photos and videos taken with an iPhone 4.

As previously announced, video-related iPhone and Touch apps, such as YouTube and Netflix, display their video on the screen only when the parking brake is released.

AppRadio enables direct access to the latest iPod functions, such as custom playlists and Genius Mixes, which let users automatically create playlists of similar songs from songs in their music library.

The head unit, designed for use with the of the fourth-generation iPhone and iPod Touch, also features hands-free Bluetooth with included microphone (but not stereo Bluetooth) for use with the iPhone and other cellphones, 4x50-watt amplifier, backup-camera input, connection to steering-wheel-control adapters, one set of preamp outputs, and upgradable OS and firmware -- via MicroSD card slot -- to potentially connect to future Apple products.

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