Apple CarPlay comes to Pioneer NEX car stereos via firmware update

Pioneer is the first aftermarket car stereo manufacturer to offer Apple CarPlay software thanks to updated firmware for the Pioneer's NEX multimedia car receivers.

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Current and new owners of Pioneer's NEX multimedia receivers can add Apple's latest software via a free update. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

First announced way back in May, Pioneer is finally bringing Apple CarPlay to a dashboard near you via an update for its 2014 NEX series of multimedia receivers. The new software makes Pioneer the first to the aftermarket with a CarPlay compatible receiver and, so far, the only way to get the technology short of buying a new Ferrari FF.

Current NEX owners will be able to download the new firmware and flash it via the receiver's USB input with the aid of a portable memory device. Compatible receivers in the US are the AVIC series 8000NEX, 7000NEX, 6000NEX, and 5000NEX and the AVH series 4000NEX -- ranging from $700 to $1,400. (Check this Pioneer page for models available outside of the US.) Users who aren't comfortable with doing it themselves can bring their car to an authorized Pioneer dealer -- for example, Best Buy's Geek Squad -- to have the CarPlay firmware to updated for them by a professional installer.

Updated receivers will be able to connect via USB to lightning cable to an iPhone 5 or later, including the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, running the latest version of iOS to display and interact with the Apple CarPlay interface on the NEX receiver's large color touchscreen. CarPlay also includes access to Siri voice control for calls, text messaging, Apple Maps navigation, and access to music libraries, podcasts and iTunes Radio.

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Users will be able to transition seamlessly between the Pioneer NEX's onboard software and their iPhone's CarPlay software. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

"CarPlay enriches the iPhone experience in the vehicle by providing a safer way to access the iPhone features they want to use most while driving," said Ted Cardenas, vice president of marketing for the Car Electronics Division of Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. "With Pioneer's implementation, CarPlay can now be integrated into millions of vehicles already on the road."

No official announcement has been made regarding whether we'll eventually see an update to support Google's similar and upcoming Android Auto mode for Android phones, but Android devices (as well as iPhones predating the iPhone 5) will still retain compatibility with the AVIC and AVH NEX receivers via the old App Mode app mirroring system.

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