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Unlock full Android app mirroring on your dashboard with this AppRadio hack

AppRadio Unchained is a fan-built app for Android that unlocks the ability to mirror and control any app with the in-dash receiver's 7-inch display.

Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
  • North American Car, Truck and SUV of the Year (NACTOY) Awards Juror
Antuan Goodwin
3 min read
Antuan Goodwin/CNET

With the help of a modified app, we were able to open AppRadio mirroring of the entire Android interface. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The Pioneer AppRadio is one of our favorite car stereos thanks to its ability to display and control certain car-centric apps with its 7-inch touch screen in your dashboard. While the list of supported apps is long, it's far from all-inclusive. The AppRadio app on your smartphone powers the on-screen interface for the car stereo and acts as the gatekeeper, deciding what apps on your phone can be displayed. But what if you want to use a navigation app that isn't on the supported list? If you're an Android user and don't mind tinkering with your phone's software, you're in luck.

AppRadio Unchained is a modified version of the default app that throws that gate wide open and (for better or worse) allows users to access any app on the paired phone via the AppRadio's touch-screen controls, greatly increasing the usefulness and user-friendliness of this already great hardware.

Beware, here be dragons: The steps described below involve installing modified software on your handset to unlock questionably legal and unsupported operation of the Pioneer AppRadio hardware. Exercise caution before proceeding at your own risk.

Here's what you'll need:

Find the latest AppRadio Unchained beta release .apk from the developer's thread on the XDA Developers forum and download it to your phone.

AppRadio Unchained requires all of the same permissions as the stock AppRadio app, plus superuser permission on rooted phones. Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/CNET

If you've already been using your AppRadio hardware as prescribed, you probably already have the standard AppRadio app installed on your phone, which you'll now need to uninstall. In its place, install AppRadio Unchained by launching the .apk file from your Downloads list. During the installation, you may be prompted to enable installation from unknown sources. You'll also be prompted to give the app superuser permission. AppRadio Unchained can't work its magic without that permission, so if your phone isn't rooted (or if you have no idea what I'm talking about) just stop now and reinstall the standard AppRadio app.

Once installed, launch AppRadio Unchained and follow the instructions. You'll see that on the surface it looks and behaves identically to the stock app, and you'll be prompted to download the Pioneer's Car Keyboard app (if it's not already installed) to enable touch-screen communication between the phone and the in-dash hardware.

The AppRadio Unchained interface is identical to the stock app, until you tap the Home button on the screen's edge. Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/CNET

If you haven't already, pair your compatible handset with the AppRadio hardware via Bluetooth, then make the physical video connection via HDMI, MHL, or MirrorLink. Again, just follow the instructions that came with your AppRadio for your particular handset. Now, just fire up the AppRadio hardware's mirroring as you normally would by pressing the Apps button on the receiver's main menu. You'll be presented with the standard AppRadio interface with shortcuts to the launch and install the officially supported Android apps.

However, if you now tap the Home button on the screen's edge, you'll be presented with your phone's home screen in a landscape orientation, rather than the standard "unsupported video source" warning screen. From there, one may guess that you'll then be able to pop into the app menu and launch, mirror, and control pretty much any app on your phone via the AppRadio's touch screen.

Running unsupported apps from a phone that's also not officially supported? What blasphemy is this!? Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Now, you'll be able to use unsupported audio apps like Spotify, Doggcatcher, or Audible. Unsupported navigation apps such as Google Maps Navigation, Scout, or CoPilot will be at your fingertips. I noticed that unsupported audio apps aren't able to prevent the screen from locking unlike officially supported ones, so you'll want to set your phone's screen timeout to "never" when connected to the AppRadio 3. Unsupported GPS apps aren't able to take advantage of the AppRadio's more accurate external GPS antenna and will have to rely on the phone's internal A-GPS receiver. However, installing the developer's ARUnchained GPS Injector companion app, which is available in the Google Play Store for about $7, fixes this last hiccup.

Now, I'm able to launch, for example, a podcast player from the AppRadio's touch screen. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

However, because this mod unlocks unrestricted app mirroring, you'll also be tempted to display Netflix videos, play Minecraft PE, or flick through your Twitter feed. Don't. At best, you're risking a ticket; at worst, you're risking your life and the lives of others on the road. Wield this great power with great responsibility.