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Top Brands To Launch Car Internet Radio

Internet Radio streamed from an iPhone may be the next key feature to sweep car audio, according to several suppliers showing the technology here.

Streaming Pandora and other apps from an iPhone provide a free pipeline into Internet radio and its endless supply of radio channels, thus removing the need for recurring monthly fees for a wireless connection (provided the user already owns an iPhone with a data plan).

“If people can find a way to get the music they want in their car for free, they are going to do that,” said Chad Vogelsong, JVC general manager, marketing. “Sirius and XM still offer specialized content like Howard Stern and Opie and Anthony, but looking at the studies, the fact of the matter is people are tired of paying monthly fees.”

At CES, for the first time, suppliers Pioneer, Alpine and Jensen are unveiling car radios that can control and display Pandora Internet radio functions so users may create tailor-made radio stations as they drive.

In addition, JVC, Alpine and Sony are allowing “app streaming” from numerous applications residing on an iPhone. Some will let drivers listen to YouTube video soundtracks, for example. Alpine also lets the driver watch video from these apps when the car is stationary.

“Alpine sees Pandora as the next big way to listen to customizable music in the car. We’ve had the proliferation of HD Radio. Satellite radio’s been popular for a while. The Pandora app is being downloaded 20,000 times a day,” said Steve Brown, Alpine product promotion manager.

Pioneer’s flagship A/V-navigation model AVIC-X920BT lets users control Pandora functions such as skip track, bookmark, “thumbs up/down” and station changing, while streaming music and displaying album art.

The double-DIN unit has a 6.1-inch WVGA screen with touch control, enhanced voice recognition, built-in Bluetooth with audio streaming and USB iPod/iPhone control. It also offers new high-speed scrolling through iPod music. Shipping is expected in March at a street price of $1,200.

Alpine’s CD-less radio, the iDA-X305S, is a single-DIN unit with a USB slot and a 2.2-inch color display. Users plug the iPhone into the USB jack to stream Pandora. The radio provides access to pre-programmed Pandora stations, and lets the user bookmark songs, rate tracks good or bad, and view album artwork on the radio’s display.

The iDA-X305S also offers Pandora control via an iPod Touch when the car is parked near a Wi-Fi hot spot. In both cases, Pandora comes up a as “source,” just like a CD player or USB drive, said Brown. The iDA-X305S will ship in February at an expected price of $400.

Jensen also said it will offer a firmware update shortly after it ships two A/V-navigation radios in May to permit Pandora streaming from an iPhone.

Another means of providing Internet radio in the car is by app streaming of general apps from an iPhone or iPod Touch (although the radio won’t necessarily control all these apps).

Alpine permits general app streaming from an iPhone on all its 2010 and 2009 radios for both audio and video.

JVC offers general app streaming of audio (but not video) from both an iPhone and iPod Touch in three CD receivers: the JVC KD-R810, KD-R710 and KW-XR810. These also offer dual USB ports, Bluetooth capability and a new demo mode that lets consumers determine if their phone can pair with the radio before it is installed.

Sony said its stereo A2DP Bluetooth head units can already stream Pandora or Slacker over Bluetooth.

Other suppliers, including Kenwood and Clarion, said they are investigating app streaming or Internet radio.