Pioneer Wants AppRadio To Fuel Aftermarket Sales


San Francisco - Pioneer wants to expand the car audio aftermarket's customer base with the launch of a head unit that can control and display some iPhone and iPod Touch apps.

AppRadio, a double-DIN AM/FM RDS head unit, is scheduled to ship at the end of June at a suggested retail of less than $500. Its capacitive touchscreen can be used to control and display selected apps, including Pandora Radio and a cloud-based navigation service.

The device, which was demonstrated at a press event, here on Wednesday, will be the first car audio head unit of its kind in the aftermarket or from automakers, the company said. It's also the first aftermarket head unit with capacitive, rather than resistive, LCD touchsreen to enable iPhone-like gesture control of apps, Pioneer said. The only hard buttons are power on/off and volume. The unit lacks a CD player.

AppRadio was designed to enable drivers to safely control selected apps on the  iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod Touchrunning iOS 4.2 or later through a large 6.1-inch WVGA (800 x 480) capacitive touchscreen, and it's targeted to appeal to smartphone "power users" who "use their smartphone in practically every area of their life" and wouldn't otherwise consider replacing their factory radio, said marketing director Ted Cardenas.


These power users use the apps on their iPhone or Touch for many of their activities throughout the day, and to reach them, Pioneer will expands its advertising efforts to men's lifestyle magazines, media appealing to Apple enthusiasts, and social media to reach the potential new customer base, said Larry Rougas, senior VP of marketing, product planning and sales planning. The promotion effort launches July 1.

As for the product's distribution strategy, details will be announced in late June, Pioneer added.

When AppRadio ships, upgraded versions of multiple iPhone/Touch apps will be available with Pioneer's API to display their user interface and content reformatted for the in-dash touchscreen. The five apps announced to date are 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 is Google Maps local search, enabling users to find destinations and view route-direction lists to those locations.

Additional compatible apps will be announced at the end of June.

These apps can be used while a car is in motion. Other video-related iPhone and Touch apps, such as You Tube and NetFlix, will display their video on the screen, but the video will black out when the vehicle's parking-brake is released.

 In addition, 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.

Cardenas called AppRadio the first car product "to use the iPhone and apps as the primary source" of content in the car.

The head unit 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, said Cardenas.

For users of the $2.99/month Motion X turn-by-turn navigation service, the AppRadio comes with an external GPS antenna whose embedded GPS receiver overrides the iPhone's GPS receiver to deliver more accurate location information.

Thought the Motion X service provides navigation on a head unit costing significantly less than in-dash AV-navigation head units, Pioneer sees the AppRadio appealing to consumers who wouldn't likely buy an in-dash navigation system.

Pioneer also sees its target customers connecting the AppRadio to their factory speakers.

AppRadio connects to iPads but doesn't charge them, and only select functions of the AppRadio apps might be controllable from the touchscreen, the company noted.


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