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CNET First Look
Pioneer AppRadioThe Pioneer AppRadio is the first car stereo that uses iPhone apps for all of its major functions, but as with all first-generation hardware, there are a few rough interface bits.
These days, smartphones pretty much do everything, so why do you need a fancy car stereo? That's the question that Pioneer aimed to answer with its new AppRadio, the first car stereo to be almost completely powered by your iPhone. I'm Antoine Goodwin. Let's take a first look at this one of a kind device. The Pioneer's AppRadio is aimed squarely at those of you who are absolutely addicted to your Iphones. Now, by itself, it's a little more than an AM/FM radio tuner, a Bluetooth hands-free system and a kind of fancy, kind of sexy 7-inch capacitive touch screen. Now if you don't actually have an iPhone, that's about all you can expect from this AppRadio; pretty disappointing, huh? However, connect an iPhone to the included 30-pin dock connector and the rest of AppRadio's functionality spring to life thanks to a set of apps that are installed on this connected iDevice. Users are able to browse Google Maps, search for points of interest and give directions. However, like the Maps app on the iPhone itself, these directions aren't live-updating; so you wanna get a passenger to advance those instructions and probably read the directions aloud for you. Users who want the real deal for turn-by-turn instructions will wanna install the MotionX-GPS Drive app on your iPhone which does exactly that. It gives you those turn-by-turn directions. MotionX is a free app for the first 30 days; after downloading, though, it's gonna cost you about $3 per month thereafter. Users can also add traffic data at an additional cost or you can just install the INRIX traffic app on your iPhone to gain access to free traffic reports, incidents and flow data. While you're on the road, you can access your locally-stored iPod media or stream audio from the internet with the Pandora internet radio or Rdio apps on the iPhone. All of which are very cool ways to keep your head nodding on your next long drive. There's also calendar integration and a contact manager which lets you initiate hands-free calls or even email at your current GPS location to anyone on your contacts list. Even better, Pioneer's actively working with even more app developers to add more choices to the list of supported apps. However, AppRadio is about as first generation as hard work comes, so there are some odd interface quirks that you'll need to be aware of before you pull the trigger on this guy. 1st you'll notice that every app looks a little bit different which is fine on a handset, but it can be difficult when you're just trying to skip tracks while you're driving. Next, none of the apps are connected to one another, and they run at separate processes on your phone so that INRIX traffic data I talked about isn't actually gonna factor into your Google Maps or MotionX-GPS Drive directions. More importantly, none of these apps have a back button built into them; so if you actually wanna switch between the apps, for example you're tired of Rdio and you wanna listen to Pandora, you'll have to physically touch your phone to switch between the apps using the touch screen, which means you can't really just hide the phone away in a glove compartment and control it with the AppRadio, which sort of defeats the purpose of actually using the AppRadio. Again, Pioneer promises that it is making strides towards continuously updating the AppRadio and the apps that it supports, but for now it feels like it should probably be called AppRadio beta. For you, iPhone addicts and early adopters, that may not be such a bad thing, but I think I'd wait for AppRadio to bake for a bit longer before taking the plunge. Well, there you have it. For more of my thoughts on this one of a kind car radio receiver, and I've got plenty of them, look for the full review on CNET.com, which is also where you can find more cool first look videos. I'm Antoine Goodwin giving you a first look at the Pioneer AppRadio.