TechHive: High-tech hope for older cars: Pioneer NEX's touchscreen and app integration

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thumbnail High-tech hope for older cars: Pioneer NEX's touchscreen and app integration
Jan 10th 2014, 14:00, by Melissa Riofrio

LAS VEGAS—It's not that your car is old. It's just that unless it was purchased in the last few years, it probably lacks the infotainment, connectivity, and other tech that are fast becoming the norm on new cars. Most of the cars on the road in the United States, in fact, are similarly underdressed. Pioneer's new NEX infotainment products, announced Monday during CES 2014, offer a boost into the present day with 7-inch touchscreens (in 2-DIN, or double-height, form factors), customizable displays, and smartphone app integration. Available starting in the spring, we got a chance to check out the flagship AVIC-8000NEX at CES.

We slid into a sci-fi-styled mock cockpit, where the AVIC-8000NEX ($1400 SRP) was installed in a center stack. It offers the same capacitive touchscreen technology that you'd find on a smartphone (the four other, less expensive, NEX products have resistive touchscreens). While the icons for summoning the menus and returning to the home screen are static, some aspects of the display are customizable, including background images and the order of some icons.

App integration is the biggest news. Using Pioneer's AppRadio app, iOS and compatible Android devices can be connected to the system (a data-specific USB cable is required—most smartphones already use such a cable) and use compatible apps on the touchscreen. The app selection—currently, 15 are available for Android, and 20 for iPhone—includes music apps such as Pandora, and Rdio, as well as parking, maps, and location apps including Glympse and Parkopedia.

This doesn't sound like a lot of apps, but even the big automakers are taking it slowly with developing apps for cars because everyone is worried about driver distraction. While Ford's SYNC AppLink offers a few dozen apps and counting, Chrysler's Uconnect system had just two apps when we looked at it in December. Pioneer is actively seeking more app developers.

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