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AppRadio 4 will support Apple CarPlay, lossless FLAC media

Pioneer's AppRadio 4 smartphone-centric multimedia receiver debuts with new features and, surprisingly, a smaller screen.

The fourth-generation model uses a smaller 6.2-inch screen.

The fourth generation of Pioneer's smartphone-centric AppRadio line of car multimedia receivers has been announced and is coming soon.

AppRadio 4 isn't much different from the previous 3 generations. It is mechless, which means that the receiver lacks a CD/DVD drive or moving parts. Instead, the 4 relies primarily on the App Mode that debuted with original AppRadio way back in 2011, enabling screen mirroring and touchscreen control for over 35 smartphone apps for Android smartphones and the iPhone 4 or newer running iOS 7.1.2. Apps range from audio streaming services to navigation software to vehicle diagnostics interfaces.

With the aid of an adapter, AppRadio 4 is also able to control MirrorLink enabled devices, expanding its list of compatible devices and apps.

The recent update to iOS 8 broke AppRadio support for about a dozen compatible apps. AppRadio 4 offers, as an alternative, support for Apple's CarPlay hands-free interface -- a feature borrowed from the manufacturer's NEX line. New for this generation, the CarPlay support displays a car-specific interface that is generated by a connected iPhone 5 or newer (including the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus ) running the latest version of iOS 8. Part of the allure of CarPlay is hands-free Siri voice command for Apple Maps navigation, phone calls, text messaging, and music and podcasts.

The fourth-generation model uses a smaller 6.2-inch screen. Pioneer

On the hardware front, the fourth-generation AppRadio features a 6.2-inch capacitive color touchscreen, an odd move down from the 7-inch display of the previous generation . Resolution remains the same WVGA 800 x 480 pixels. Meanwhile, the capacitive controls for home, volume, and skip move from the lower bezel to the left edge.

The feature set now includes support for lossless FLAC digital audio files stored on USB, and the receiver now has a new 13-band graphic equalizer (up from 5 bands) and three 4-volt preamp outputs (up from two 2V outputs) to give listeners more control over audio quality.

The new Pioneer AppRadio 4 SPH-DA120 will retail for $600, about $200 more than the outgoing mechless AppRadio 3. This generation doesn't appear to offer a version with a CD/DVD drive; the AppMode and CarPlay compatible AVH-4000NEX now fills that gap.