Pioneer joins the all-too-short list of car audio manufacturers to support media playback and browsing on Android phones with the announcement and launch of its 2014 lineup of CD receivers: the DEH-X6600BS, DEH-X6600BT, DEH-X5600HD, DEH-X4600BT, DEH-X3600S, DEH-X3600UI, DEH-X2600UI, and FH-X500UI.
All eight models in the new 2014 lineup of Pioneer single-DIN DEH receivers (and the double-DIN FX-X500UI) are able to browse media stored on a USB-connected Android phone with the aid of the media transfer protocol (MTP), which has been adopted by the Android operating system as of version 4.0 to handle all file transfers. (Older Androids made use of the same mass-storage protocol that USB drives do.) Once connected, the receivers will be able to browse and play back digital audio files stored locally.
If the system works like I expect it will, users may end up having to browse the sometimes confusingly organized Android storage structure to locate the audio files, but Pioneer may have implemented some sort of scanning to automatically locate and organize the media by artist, album, genre, and so on the way that iPod connectivity has for years. I'll have to wait until one of these units crosses my desk to find out.
Speaking of iPods, in addition to the new Android compatibility, the receivers still boast full compatibility with iPhone and iPod media playback.
Other features peppered throughout the 2014 car stereo lineup include Pandora Internet Radio app controls across the line and compatibility with Pioneer's own Mixtrax virtual DJ software. Automatically pairing Bluetooth connectivity is supported on the DEH-X6600BS, DEH-X6600BT and DEH-X4600BT models, as well as Siri Eyes Free voice control when connected to an iPhone 4S or 5. The DEH-X5600HD also features integrated HD Radio tuning for lovers of terrestrial radio.
The addition of MTP controls is a nice feather in Pioneer's cap following up on itsadding more and more Android functionality with each generation, putting the new line of CD receivers on the radar for Android users who would like to access their music without fiddling with their handsets. Previously, the only car stereos that I've tested that supported the MTP via Android were the most recent BMW OEM systems.
However, with the proliferation of Bluetooth A2DP audio streaming and all-you-can-eat streaming services such as Spotify and Google Play All Access, my personal music consumption habits have moved away from the playback of locally stored MP3s. My personal usage habits make me wonder if this move to support Android users comes too little, too late and I'd be curious to hear your opinions in the comments.
The 2014 lineup of Pioneer CD receivers is available now through online retailers with prices ranging from $90 for the Pioneer DEH-X2600UI to $140 for the Pioneer DEH-X6600BS.