Smartphone Influence To Grow In Car Aftermarket

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NEW YORK —

Smartphone connectivity with aftermarket car audio systems will widen and deepen at next month’s ICES, where select suppliers will expand and improve connectivity to Android phones in a reflection of Android’s growing market share.

Dealers will also find an expanded selection of OEM navigation systems designed as factory-fit, factory-look replacements for OEM navigation systems, and more of the systems will be targeted to aftermarket dealers, not just to expediters.

Also at the show, Kenwood will unveil its first five head units incorporating software that simplifies and reduces the cost of integrating with a Ford Sync OEM infotainment system. The five head units will connect to a third-party integration module that bridges Kenwood heads with Ford Sync systems.

In expanding and improving connectivity to iPhones and iPod Touches:

* At least two more suppliers will make it possible to display maps from a navigation app running on an iPhone, joining JVC and Pioneer in offering this feature. At least one of the newcomers will enable control of the nav app from the head unit, as Pioneer’s AppRadio head unit does.

* Head-unit control of Pandora Internet radio on a USB-connected iPhone will expand to more head units, with at least three suppliers expanding their selection, and at least one adding the feature for the first time.

• At least one supplier will adopt what it called an advanced external mode to control most functions of select compatible apps running on a USB-connected iPhone, including navigation and traffic apps as well as select Internet radio apps. Pioneer’s AppRadio already controls select iPhone apps, including traffic and navigation.

• At least one supplier will adopt Mirror Link technology, the industry-standardized technology that enables compatible aftermarket and OEM head units to display the user interface, apps, and content of Mirror Link-compatible smartphones, the first of which is expected to become available in 2012 in the U.S. Mirror Link will be available on select Android and Symbian phones.

With MirrorLink, consumers will use their head unit’s touchscreen to control smartphone apps and functions in the same way that they would use the smartphone’s touchscreen to control apps and functions.

• At least one supplier could become the first aftermarket supplier in the U.S. to adopt iPod Out mode, which enables multimedia head units’ larger screens to display a user interface transferred from a connected iPod/iPhone. The feature has also begun to appear in OEM head units.

With iPod Out, head-unit control of iPods and iPhones operates faster compared with a head unit supplier’s proprietary iPod interface, one supplier said. The iPod Out menu appearing on the JVC head’s screen look like iPod Classic interfaces.

With iPod Out, head units can also display album art in a larger format than album art appearing on other iPodcontrolling A/V head units.

In expanding and improving connectivity to Android and BlackBerry phones, at least four suppliers will combine Pandora software and Bluetooth’s serial port profile (SPP) to enable wireless head-unit control of almost every function of a Pandora app running on a BlackBerry or Android smartphone. The functions include play/pause, track skip, thumbs up/down, station-list menu for channel selection, and bookmark-list menu. On some heads, users will also be able to create Pandora stations.

With AVRCP, head-unit control of Pandora is limited to track skip and play/pause.

And at least two suppliers will upgrade their USB ports to control the selection of music stored on Android phones by title, artist, and album. One supplier will also enable selection by mood, and the other will enable selection by playlist, genre and composer when the phone is placed in mass-storage mode. From the phones, music streams over USB cable in native MP3, WMA and AAC format for decoding.

Some head units from Alpine already select music stored on USB-connected Android phones by folder and song title when the phone is switched to USB mass-storage mode. Songs are then streamed in native compressed-music formats for decoding by the head units.

At least one more supplier will add head-unit selection of music on a USB-connected Android phone when the phone is placed in mass-storage mode, joining Alpine in enabling selection by file folder and song title.

Also at the show a minimum of three more suppliers will incorporate a port that connects to the new Sirius XM universal tuner. Other suppliers are expected to expand their selection.

And there will be at least one more manufacturer that will launch its first mech-less head units, or digital media receivers, which lack CD player but will connect via USB to such sources as iPods/iPhones and USB memory sticks. They’ll also stream music via Bluetooth from smartphones, use SPP to wirelessly control an expanded selection of Pandora app functions on an Android phone.

With Kenwood’s Sync-compatible heads, installers will be able to replace factory head units and retain the Sync systems voice control over such factory features as connected media players plugged into the factory’s USB connection, outboard satellite-radio tuners, Bluetooth hands-free, and Bluetooth audio streaming. The install will also enable the Kenwood heads to display metadata from MP3 players connected to the factory USB port, and drivers will be able to use Sync’s voice control to control the Kenwood head’s source switching.

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