In-Vehicle Internet Radio Going Mainstream At CES

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

JVC, Kenwood, and Sony will join Alpine and Pioneer in offering head units that control the Pandora Internet radio app on a connected iPhone, while Alpine and Pioneer will dramatically expand their selection.

Prices on head units that control the Pandora app on iPhones will drop dramatically to $180 in CD-receivers offered by Alpine and JVC. The feature was previously available on a $399-suggested mechless head unit from Alpine and on two A/V-navigation systems from Pioneer at $1,599 and $1,099. Two Jensen head units launched last year at $469 and $479 connect to a Jensen-supplied iPhone app that streams thousands of Internet radio stations.

In other Internet-radio developments:

• Sony will launch head-unit control of all Pandora app functions on BlackBerry and Android smartphones via Bluetooth.

• JVC and Pioneer will launch head-unit control of iPhone-loaded Internet radio apps other than the Pandora app, with JVC offering Clear Channel’s iHeart Radio on navigation units and Pioneer adding Aha Radio to select navigation units. Previously, only Pandora and a Jensen-supplied Internet radio app could be controlled from select head units.

And in other major mobile developments:

• Sony and Alpine are announcing plans for 2011 shipment of some of the industry’s first head units with new Sirius XM universal connector, which connects to a new hideaway XM tuner. The universal connector also makes it unnecessary to install a separate translator and a separate power wire to the tuner.

• Embedded HD Radio is spreading to a few more head units, with the technology appearing in six JVC head units, up from last year’s four; in two Kenwood models, up from one; and in a single Clarion head unit for the first time.

• Sony and Audiovox will show their first car Blu-ray players.

• Alpine and Kenwood suppliers are adding dual iPod/iPhone USB inputs to one head unit apiece for the first time, one on the front and one on the back.

• And JVC is launching its first two HD Radioequipped head units that display Artist Experience images transmitted by select stations.

In Internet radio developments, Kenwood, JVC, and Sony are launching their first head units that control Pandora on a USB-connected iPhone. Kenwood is bringing Pandora control to nine head units priced from a suggested $380 to $2,000. JVC is adding Pandora control to four CD-receivers priced from $180 to $270. And Sony is bringing Pandora control to two as-yet-unpriced CD-less head units that incorporate the company’s iPod/iPhoneholding Tune Tray.

Alpine is expanding its selection of Pandora-controlling head units to four models from one starting at a suggested $180, and Pioneer is bringing its Pandora portfolio to nine head units, including CD-receivers, from two A/V-navigation units launched last year at a suggested $1,599 and $1,099.

Sony, JVC, and Pioneer, however, aren’t content to limit their Internet radio experiences to those of their competitors. Sony is expanding Pandora control in its two head units to Blackberry and Android smartphones via Bluetooth. And JVC is launching its first two head units -- both in-dash A/V navigation units — that control Clear Channel’s iHeart Radio iPhone app to stream content from Clear Channel’s 750 terrestrial radio stations as well as from Internet-only stations.

For its part, Pioneer is bringing Aha Radio to two navigation units to stream audible versions of Facebook and Twitter, podcasts, audible reports of nearby traffic conditions, and audible nearby points-of-interest (POI) information.

Although Clarion isn’t launching head units that control Internet radio apps on a USB-connected iPhone, the company said all of its Bluetoothequipped heads this year will support the Bluetooth A2DP/ AVRCP profiles, and price points will be lower. The A2DP profile enables Bluetooth stereo streaming, and the AVRCP profile allows for wireless control of basic smartphone-app functions from the head unit and steeringwheel controls. The basic functions include track up/down and play/pause, depending on the app, the company said.

Stereo Bluetooth with AVRCP will be available in Clarion’s CZ501 CD-receiver at a suggested $229, down from its predecessor’s $249, and in the FZ501 mech-less digital media receiver at a suggested $199, down from the $349 price of a previous mech-less head unit.

Unlike USB connections to an iPhone, stereo Bluetooth and AVRCP do not display artist/ song metadata or album art on a head unit, nor do they enable front-panel browsing of different playlists or head-unit-control of Pandora’s thumbs up/down function, Clarion said.

For its part, JVC said it will continue to support the Bluetooth A2DP/AVRCP profiles in all of its Bluetooth-equipped head units.


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