LAS VEGAS – Eight aftermarket head units are being launched by Sony during International CES, including what it claims are the first six Bluetooth-equipped models with nearfield communications (NFC) and the industry’s first smartphone-cradle/receiver that turns multiple brands of smartphones into in-dash touchscreen controllers.
The cradle/receiver differs from cradle/receivers available from lesser- known car audio brands that have developed similar products intended only for use with Apple’s iPhones.
Sony’s mobile electronics division is also launching its first head unit with HDMI port to mirror the display of the Lightning-equipped iPhone 5, 5s and 5c and Android smartphones equipped with Mobile Highdefinition Link (MHL) output.
And it is adding one MirrorLink-equipped multimedia head unit, replacing an existing model while holding the MirrorLink assortment to two multimedia heads.
There are three speakers and two subwoofers in the limited-distribution to specialty channels as premium GS series being added, as well as an expanded selection of heads compatible with its App Remote app for iPhones and Android phones to eight heads from five.
Among many other things, the App Remote app turns Bluetooth-connected Android phones and USBconnected Apple phones into supplemental music displays and head-unit controllers. The app also enables the head units to launch and control any Android app and launch and control more than 70 iPhone apps that Apple allows to be controlled by the app.
Sony promotes NFC pairing as offering convenience to household members who share a vehicle by making it unnecessary for each user, when they enter the car, to go through their phone’s menu to pair their phone.
The new smartphone cradle receiver is the double- DIN XSP-N1BT CD receiver, shipping in May at an everyday $249. It features a clamping system to hold most smartphones with screen sizes up to 5.3 inches securely in the dash. With AppRemote ver.2 installed on a phone, the phone’s touchscreen controls all head-unit functions via Bluetooth from an Android phone and via USB from an iPhone. All Android smartphone apps and the select iPhone apps can also be accessed from the docked smartphone, which can be paired with the receiver via NFC.
The head unit’s tuner, CD player and USB port can be controlled without a docked smartphone, thanks to an IR remote, five front-panel hard buttons, and a one-line display that would be hidden behind a docked smartphone. Android smartphones charge when docked via an included 4.9-inch USBto- MicroUSB cable, which can he ticked behind the smartphone. Sony’s Xperia Android smartphones charge without a cable via a magnetic connector.
A short iPhone charging cable, which can also be hidden behind the smartphone, isn’t included because the company is targeting Android users who will benefit from additional AppRemote ver.2 features that Apple did not allow for use with its phones. Those features include voice control over basic headunit functions and Android apps, including as navigation and music apps. AppRemote ver.2 also reads out an Android phone’s incoming emails, text messages, RSS feeds, calendar notifications and the like. Users can reply to messages via voice-to-text conversion.
There are five new single-DIN CD receivers that get both NFC and App Remote ver.2 compatibility in the line.
The five include the MEX-N4000BT at an everyday $119 and shipping in May; the $129 NEX-N5000BT, shipping in March with included mic; and the $189 MEX-N6000BH, which adds HD Radio and ships in summer. The other two units compatible with App Remote ver.2 and NFC are in the specialist-targeted GS series. They are the $179 MEX-GS- 610BT with dual USB, due in March, and the $239 MEX-GS810BH, which adds HD Radio and ships in summer.
And in A/V multimedia receivers there are two new models: the entry-level $249-everyday XAV-65 and the $749 XAV-712HD. The XAV-65 is a basic USB A/V receiver with no Bluetooth. The XAV-712HD adds Bluetooth but lacks NFC. The latter also adds HDMI/ MHL port, MirrorLink and AppRemote ver.2 compatibility. Both ship in January.
With HDMI/MHL port, the $749 model displays, but doesn’t control, all apps running on an MHL-equipped Android phone or on a Lightning-equipped iPhone 5, 5c and 5s.
It ships with included MicroUSB-to- MHL cable for Android phones. For iPhone, an HDMI cable is included but users have to buy Apple’s Lightning-to- HDMI adapter.
The XAV-712HD also features composite- video input to display all of the apps running on earlier-model iPhones with 30-pin connector.