CarPlay, Android Auto Spread & Prices Drop

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Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will play a more prominent role in the car audio aftermarket this year thanks to expanded product selections and price points that will drop to as low as $399.

In the coming months, Dual will enter the space with the planned second-half launch of four Jensen-brand CarPlay head units at $399 and $499. JVC plans March availability of its first CarPlay head unit, which costs a suggested $599.

And in launching its first aftermarket head unit in decades, JBL plans March shipments of the $399 double-DIN Legend CP100, marking its the lowest price head announced to date for a combined CarPlay/Android Auto head unit.

For its part, Kenwood is expanding its selection of head units incorporating both CarPlay and Android Auto to four from two. The number of Kenwood CarPlay-only head units also goes to four from two.

With CarPlay and Android Auto, head-unit touchscreens display a driver-friendly UI that controls key apps on USB-connected Android and Apple smartphones. Apps include a phone’s music library, navigation apps, and select music-streaming apps.

“Apple CarPlay is just now beginning to gain momentum in the marketplace,” said JVC mobile marketing manager Hazim Jainoor.

Some new head units incorporate just CarPlay, but others feature both Android Auto and Car Play, in part because Apple requires a minimum of a 6.2-inch screen CarPlay while Google requires a minimum 6.5 inches, one supplier said.

Another reason is the cost and complexity of adding both technologies to one head unit, another supplier contended. It’s also easier to get head units certified as CarPlay-capable because Apple provides standardized procedures for approval, whereas multiple brands of Android phones make Android Auto “more complex to implement,” the company added.

For its part, Alpine noted that its second CarPlay head unit is designed specifically for use in Jeep Wranglers from model years 2011 and up and that Wrangler owners are primarily iPhone owners. “That is why we prioritized Apple CarPlay for this system,” a spokesperson said.

Here’s what the companies have announced:

Alpine: The i109-WRA with 9-inch touchscreen is part of the Restyle series of head units intended for specific trucks and SUVs. It’s promoted as offering the largest touchscreen in an aftermarket CarPlay head unit The new model is intended for Jeep Wranglers from model years 2011 and later. It lacks built-in navigation, available in other Restyle heads, but uses a connected iPhone’s navigation feature through CarPlay.

It’s said to be the first CarPlay head unit in the aftermarket with dedicated hard buttons for CarPlay features.

It ships in the spring at an unannounced price, but it will be priced higher than the currently available $800 iLX-007 CarPlay head unit with 7-inch touchscreen. It was the aftermarket’s first CarPlay head unit when it shipped in October 2014.

JBL: The brand’s first aftermarket head unit in decades is the double-DIN $399 Legend CP100, which is the lowest priced head unit announced to date incorporating both Android Auto and CarPlay.

The company is able to achieve that price point because it is leveraging parent Harman’s economies of scale in making head units for automakers, said JBL’s Chris Dragon.

The mechless head unit features 6.75-inch capacitive touchscreen, Bluetooth 3.0 for hands-free phone use and stereo streaming, steering-wheel remote interface, rear-camera input, rear USB input and AM/ FM.

Jensen: The Dual-owned brand’s first four CarPlay heads, due in the second half, are priced from $399 to $499 in single- and double-DIN configurations. The two $499 models are multimedia/navigation head units. One of the nav units is a double-DIN model with 6.2-inch motorized touchscreen that emerges from the dash for use. The other nav unit is a single-DIN model with fixed 7-inch touchscreen.

The two $399 head units lack navigation and feature a fixed 6.2-inch screen and a motorized 7-inch screen.

All four models feature HDMI/MHL mirroring to mirror the screens of Android and Apple smartphones. The head units also use Bluetooth’s HID profile to control all Android apps from the head-unit touchscreen.

JVC: The brand’s new flagship is the $599-suggested KW-V820BT with CarPlay, 6.8-inch touchscreen, and playback of high-res audio in FLAC and Wav up to 192kHz/24 bits. It ships at the end of March. High-res audio plays from CD, DVD and USB media.

Kenwood: Four heads incorporating both Car- Play and Android Auto are due in March and April at suggested retails from $1,000 to $1,500. Four CarPlay-only head units, also due March and April, are priced at suggested $800 to $1,100. All but the two $800 and $850 models feature HDMI input to mirror the displays of Android and Apple phones and, via Bluetooth, control all Android apps and a few iPhone apps.

Pioneer: The company is refreshing its line of top-end Networked Entertainment eXperience (NEX) in-dash multimedia/navigation receivers. Four feature built-in navigation, and one connects to an optional navigation add-on module. All feature Car Play and the company’s AppRadio platform. Three also feature Android Auto.

The new models are priced like last year, with two CarPlay-only models with 6.2-inch screens at $750 and $900. The models with CarPlay and Android Auto are 7-inch models at $700, $1,200 and $1,400.

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