First look: Pioneer firmware update brings CarPlay to Australia

Jonathan Stewart
15 October, 2014
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Pioneer, CarPlay, iPhone, macworld australiaPioneer has brought CarPlay to three of its in-car infotainment systems thanks to a firmware update in October, making Apple’s new auto interface available to all owners of the AVIC-F60DAB, AVIC-F960DAB and AVH-X8650BT headunits.

While Ferrari rolled-out CarPlay in September to an unknown buyer, the three Pioneer systems are the first systems with the technology to be available to all car owners in Australia.

Officially announced at the Geneva Motor Show in March, CarPlay allows drivers to interactive with their headunits, via Siri’s voice-recognition solution, to make and answer phone calls, seek directions to points of interests and locations, send and receive messages and control their music.

With all interactions utilising Siri, the technology aims to minimise distractions for drivers by keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.

Pioneer has released the firmware update as an additional extra for users of the current 2-din systems, available for free via the company’s support website. Users will need to load the update to a USB device and connect it to their compatible Pioneer receiver via its USB cable input.

CarPlay is expected to launch in a number of cars in 2015, ranging in price points from manufacturers such as Ford and Jaguar, which will install the system in variety of styles.

Drivers, with one of the Pioneer solutions installed, can interact with their headunit with Siri or the touch display. Ferrari’s system works in the same way, but some car manufacturers, such as Mercedes-Benz, have avoided using a touch display, preferring the use of physical knobs and buttons.

The current apps available for CarPlay are Phone, Music, Maps, Messages, Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher, but more are likely to appear in the coming months. CarPlay is also restricted to iPhone 5 models or later.

The three Pioneer systems with CarPlay currently available are the AVIC-F60DAB ($1999), the AVIC-F960DAB ($1699) and the AVH-X8650BT ($1149).

Alongside CarPlay, the 7in touchscreen-equipped AVIC-F60DAB and the 6.1in touchscreen-equipped AVIC-F960DAB offer a DAB digital radio, GPS navigation, Bluetooth for hands-free calls, AppRadio Mode and dual reverse camera inputs.

The AVH-X8650BT offers a 7in touchscreen, Bluetooth, DVD receiver, AppRadio Mode and MirrorLink.

Hands on

Product shot AVIC-F60DAB

We were lucky enough to get a chance to play with the new CarPlay technology on a Pioneer AVIC-F60DAB unit this week and it is an impressive setup.

Rather than battling with the Settings on your iPhone to connect to Bluetooth or even swiping up to turn Bluetooth on in the Control Center, connecting to the Pioneer systems requires you to simply plug the iPhone into a supplied Lightning cable.

Once the cable is connected, the iPhone’s screen will display the CarPlay logo and the Pioneer unit will automatically switch to the CarPlay mode. Users are not stuck in CarPlay mode when an iPhone is docked, but with the ability to control the Phone, Music, Maps, Messages, Podcasts and Spotify apps via your voice make it perfect for iPhone users.

The home button appears in either the bottom left or right hand-side of the display depending on your preference and acts just like the home button on your device. One press and you head back the menu screen with the available apps laid out in front of you, while a press and hold will bring up Siri. The central button on the Pioneer AVIC-F60DAB unit also works as a home button.

Siri is the key to this system; drivers can ask to send a message, make a phone call, seek directions to the local coffee shop, play a certain track, ask what their calendar looks like for the coming day or even check the weather for the week.

The apps appear as they would on your iPhone or iPad. The Music app offers all of your audio choices in the same format and layout, making navigation instantly obvious. The information displayed is large and sparse, perfect for driving.

The Maps app allows users to ask for directions, choose routes and find local points of interests. All of the necessary data is available on the display and the Maps app will run in the background, should you wish to use your iPhone for another task.

Messages can be sent as you would with Siri on an iPhone, but the neat trick is the way you receive the messages. Siri will dictate them to you on request, enabling you to keep your eyes on the road ahead and away from your phone or dashboard. From our testing, Siri performed her messaging tasks quickly and efficiently.

Phone calls can also be made and answered with the help of Siri, but your contacts, recents and favourites are also available on the display and selectable via touch.

In terms of performance, the system occasionally took a few seconds to respond, but this was nothing we haven’t experienced with Siri in the past. When you’re driving, this will hardly be noticed.

CarPlay is exciting. It is the next step in in-car entertainment systems and Pioneer has brought it to Australia in a great, useable package. Plus, it charges your iPhone.

To watch how the system functions, check out the video from Pioneer below.

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