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Pioneer NEX receivers will make any car iOS CarPlay-compatible

A firmware update for Pioneer's NEX series car stereos will add Apple CarPlay compatibility to their already impressive feature set.

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Adding iOS CarPlay compatibility to any car will soon be as simple as swapping your stereo. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

We've seen Apple's iOS CarPlay demonstrated by OEMs from Hyundai to Mercedes-Benz to Ferrari in new cars that should be arriving later this year, but with Pioneer's latest announcement, the car that you already own could be the first to experience Apple's smartphone integration software.

The aftermarket car-stereo giant recently announced that five models in its current lineup of NEX series car multimedia receivers will get a firmware update early this summer to add full, one-wire iOS CarPlay compatibility when connected to an iPhone 5, 5S, or 5C running iOS version 7.1 or better.

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Apple Maps, iTunes Radio, and Siri-commanded voice calls and text messages are all handled via CarPlay. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Current NEX owners will be able to download the update from Pioneer's website, load the new software onto a USB drive, and update their NEX receiver while parked in the garage or driveway. Pioneer NEX owners who've had their receiver installed at a Best Buy can even return to the store to have the update done for them, thanks to a partnership between Pioneer and the Geek Squad.

When the update goes live, Pioneer will also be loading the new CarPlay-compatible firmware onto every new NEX model going forward, and Geek Squad installers will be updating the firmware on all new installs. By mid-to-late summer, the receivers will be compatible out of the box.

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Users will be able to jump between the NEX and CarPlay interfaces at the touch of a virtual button. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

At the top of the line of NEX receivers that will support CarPlay is the flagship AVIC-8000NEX. This $1,400 receiver features a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen, navigation powered by Navteq/Nokia's Here software, and a full complement of digital and analog audio/video inputs, outputs, and media sources. That's on top of iOS CarPlay, Siri Eyes Free compatibility (for those iPhone 4/4S users who can't use CarPlay), Android MTP compatibility, Pioneer's AppRadio Mode support, and MirrorLink support.

There are four more NEX models beneath the flagship, scaling their feature set to match different budgets. Stepping down to the $1,200 AVIC-7000NEX also steps down to a noncapacitive, 7-inch touchscreen, but retains most of the flagship's feature set. The $900 AVIC-6000NEX reduces the display size to 6.1 inches. For $750, the AVIC-5000NEX loses traffic data for the Here maps and scuttles the HDMI digital video input and HD radio tuning. Finally, the $700 AVH-4000NEX ditches onboard navigation altogether, but steps back up to a 7-inch noncapacitive touchscreen, making it the best deal for drivers who are only interested in using Apple Maps via CarPlay. All five NEX series models are available now.

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Additionally, the NEX series retains compatibilty with Pioneer's AppRadio mode, Aha integration, MirrorLink compatibility, and more smartphone connectivity options. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Pioneer's representative stated that the app-centric AppRadio 3 SPH-DA210 and SPH-DA110 will not be updated to support iOS CarPlay, which is a shame because the lower $400-to-$500 price point of these models makes them even more appealing for users who are all about the apps. Pioneer declined to comment on whether we'll ever see an AppRadio 4 with the new functionality.