Car Internet Radio To Go Mainstream At CES

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Internet radio will go mainstream in the mobile electronics aftermarket at International CES, where multiple suppliers will launch their first in-dash head units that control select Internet radio apps on USB-connected iPhones.

Other suppliers are expected to expand their selection of head units with Internet-radio controls, and prices of such head units will start well below the current opening price point of a suggested $380 for a current Alpine model.

In other major developments, at least one supplier will launch head-unit control of Pandora apps on smartphones other than iPhones. Suppliers will also expand the selection of Internet-content apps that can be controlled from a head unit beyond the Pandora and Jensen apps. And dual iPod/iPhone USB inputs in select head units will appear down to about a suggested $179.

Heads with both a front-panel and back-panel USB/iPod input enable consumers to keep an iPod tucked away in the glove box like a CD changer while they plug in their iPhone or friends’ iPods through a front-panel input.

There will also be embedded HD Radio in a few more head units, an expansion of the selection of OE-look radios, and a slightly expanded selection of A/V multimedia head units.

Also at the show Dual will unveil its first products intended to strengthen its commitment to 12-volt specialists, Audiovox will show its first car Blu-ray player, and the first HD Radio-equipped head units will appear with the ability to display Artist Experience images transmitted by select stations.

At least one more supplier will launch its first DSPequipped head unit that automatically tailors response to a particular vehicle without requiring the use of test tones and a microphone.

In Internet radio developments, Alpine and Pioneer in 2010 launched the first head units that control Pandora Internet-radio apps on a USB-connected iPhone, and Jensen launched the first head units that control a Jensen-provided iPhone app that accesses more than 35,000 Internet radio stations.

In 2011, the selection of Pandora-controlling head units will expand dramatically, and head-unit control of at least two other Internet radio apps for iPhones will debut.

At CES, Kenwood will launch its first nine automotive head units with Pandora Internet radio control at the show. Kenwood will also offer the feature in all five of its new in-dash multimedia/nav systems, in two upper-end CD receivers, and in its two mech-less digital media receivers, which lack CD player but connect to a wide variety of alternate music sources.

Also to bring Internet radio and other music sources into car audio systems, suppliers will expand the selection of head units supporting stereo Bluetooth. Many of these models, like some current models, will support the Bluetooth AVRCP (audio video remote control profile), which allows for wireless control from the head unit and steeringwheel controls of basic smartphone-app functions, such as track up/down and play/pause, depending on the app, suppliers said.

Heads with stereo Bluetooth and the AVRCP will appear at prices down to a suggested $179.

Some of the new stereo Bluetooth head units, however, will lack AVRCP, requiring users to control Internet radio apps from the smartphone itself.

Unlike tethered connections to an iPhone, the Bluetooth profiles do not enable head units to display artist/song metadata or album art, nor do they enable front-panel browsing of different playlists or head-unit-control of Pandora’s thumbs up/down function, the company said.


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