LAS VEGAS--Regular readers of the CNET Car Tech Blog will likely be familiar with the Alpine iDA-X305, one of our favorite car stereos for iPod users that distinguishes itself by completely omitting a CD drive. Besides adding an "S" to the end of its model name, the new iDA-X305S is a real evolution of the previous model, adding Pandora Internet Radio support to the mix.
The iDA-X305S is able to control the Pandora app on a connected iPhone 3G or 3GS, streaming your user-created radio stations over a 3G data connection and out of your vehicle's speakers. Users should be able to log in and access all of the Pandora app's functions using the X305S' 2.2-inch color display and double-action rotary encoder knob, including viewing album artwork and tracking metadata, changing stations, skipping tracks, giving a song the thumbs up and down, and bookmarking songs for later access.
Using the iPhone's 3G connection is a clever way to deliver in-car Internet radio, but it simultaneously leaves non-iPhone users out of the Pandora party. In a perfect world, we'd like to see support for the Android and Blackberry versions of the Pandora app, as well. However, given the iPhone's reasonable market share and the iDA series' heavy emphasis on iPod-iPhone compatibility, we don't really see that as too much of a stumbling block for Alpine--at least, for now.
iPhone users who are also Pandora users will be able to get a taste of Internet radio during their commutes when the Alpine iDA-X305S is released later this year. We don't have pricing or an exact release date yet, but we can't imagine it costing too much more than the previous unit's MSRP of about $350. Stay tuned for more details as they emerge.