Pioneer App Radio Mode

Macworld Australia Staff
15 June, 2013
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Pioneer App Radio Mode



Safely integrates your apps into your car AV system


Not all the apps you want to use may be available



There’s a good reason why we shouldn’t use our iPhone apps in the car, and why in-car system manufacturers haven’t integrated Apple’s iOS into their headunits – it’s just too dangerous.

There have been some attempts made, but these have been deemed too unsafe for the Australian market.

However, Pioneer has now hit on a solution. Its App Radio Mode uses the AppRadio app as a portal between your iPhone and compatible Pioneer in-car AV systems. It allows you to download and use iOS apps – from navigation and internet radio to contacts and calendars – which have been redesigned to allow in-car use with minimal distraction.

App Radio Mode needs a touchscreen Pioneer headunit to operate and is currently available on the top-of-the-line AVIC navigation systems and the AVH-X range of AV Tuners.

We headed down to Pioneer Australia HQ in Melbourne to get a demonstration from Product Marketing Manager Daniele Mariani, who showed us App Radio Mode working on a variety of products:

  • AVH-X3500DAB ($699) – 6.1in screen with DAB+ digital radio.
  • AVH-X5550BT ($899) – 7in screen.
  • AVH-X8550BT ($1199) – Same as 5550 but adds Android App Radio Mode and an SD card port.
  • AVH-X7550BT ($999) – Same as the 5550 but, while all the others are Double DIN (square units where the screen is always visible), this one is a rectangular Single DIN with a flip-up screen.

All the above have Parrot Bluetooth capability and act as ‘normal’ AV systems with radio tuners and CD/ DVD and USB drives.

We connected an iPhone 5 to the 8550 using an optional Pioneer App Radio Mode kit. To do this, you’ll need to supply your own Apple Lightning to USB cable ($25) and Lightning Digital AV Adapter ($59).

The HDMI cable only carries the AV signals, however, so to get app control you need to connect via Bluetooth as well.

While the AVIC units have built-in navigation, the AVH-Xs don’t. But this is where you start to see the beauty of App Radio Mode, as there’s a plethora of choice when it comes to compatible navigation apps.

Apple Maps is available to see your position, but its navigation functionality has been disabled. Instead, you’d have to use an app like the $79 NavGate Drive, which is a full- featured offline navigation app from Pioneer (developed by NNG).

There’s also Navfree, which is a free app delivering OSM map data collected from drivers like yourself. It’s pretty awesome as it includes Google search and Street View, shows your speed on the phone screen, and allows you to easily add your own data to the mix.

Internet radio is represented by Aupeo, TuneIn Radio, Rdio and more. Besides Maps, native Apple apps include Calendar, Contacts and Photos. You can even browse the web using the Opera-developed CarBrowser.

“This all seems simple as we’re used to the iPhone now,” Mariani says, “but this is the first time you can do this in a car.”

Bottom line.

As Mariani said, using App Radio Mode is simple as we’re all now used to using smartphone and tablet apps. We found that most of the apps rewritten for Pioneer were definitely safer to use on the road. We have our reservations about a couple – particularly Car Browser – but if you don’t bypass the laws regarding not being able to watch video or access certain apps unless your handbrake is on, you won’t have a problem.

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