Clarion Corporation of America announced today at CTIA 2012 a new way to connect your iPhone to your car: the Next Gate.
Clarion's Next Gate is a 7-inch WVGA touch display that mounts on your vehicle's windshield with a suction cup, much like a portable navigation device. (However, at 7 inches, its size is only rivaled by the largest of PNDs, such as Magellan's RoadMate 9055-LM.) The Next Gate features a cable connection to the iPhone 4's or iPhone 4S' 30-pin dock connector for data and charging; meanwhile the Clarion unit itself is powered by a 12-volt power adapter. The Next Gate also has a Bluetooth wireless connection for hands-free calling, a microSD slot, a built-in speaker and an auxiliary audio output for those who would rather use their car's speakers (and who wouldn't?), and a few blue LED buttons and and indicators.
So that's what the Next Gate is, now what does it do? Essentially, it acts as an iPhone controller giving drivers command over audio playback and hands-free calling via its much larger display and vehicle-optimized interface. Bluetooth integration will enable the driver to use the iPhone's voice activation and dialing functions. Additionally, Clarion has partnered with a selection of developers of apps that are optimized for in-vehicle use to enable capabilities such as "navigation, Internet radio, social networking, and voice control/text readout for select functions," according to the manufacturer's press release.
If I'm understanding correctly, what the Next Gate is is Pioneer's AppRadio, but without the radio and without the in-dash installation, making it ideal for owners of multiple cars and members of car-sharing services such as ZipCar.
For now those app partners are TuneIn, Pandora, Vlingo, Inrix Traffic, and InfoGation, but Clarion states that users will be able to download additional applications in the future via its new Smart Access Cloud Telematics Service and possibly unlock other vehicle-approved functions.
You may recognize most of the current list of approved apps. Pandora has been a huge player in the Internet radio sphere for years now, providing access to customized streaming-audio channels. Pandora's was one of the first apps to be integrated into both OEM and aftermarket car audio systems, so I'm not surprised to see it here. TuneIn, an app that I only recently became familiar with via the Parrot Asteroid, provides over 50,000 live, local, and global radio stations. TuneIn is great for those who just want a clearer reception of their favorite local public radio station or who have a favorite DJ who broadcasts on the other side of the globe. Inrix Traffic gives users access to what it describes as one of the most comprehesive traffic-monitoring networks available today, with the goal of helping plan the quickest, least frustrating, and most fuel-efficient route from where you are to where you want to be. InfoGation is navigation software that offers turn-by-turn directions along the way. Finally, I've gone into great detail about and heaped much praise upon Vlingo's voice recognition software previously.
Additionally, Next Gate will offer limited integration with Facebook, Twitter, and news applications via the text-to-speech and voice command functions provided by Vlingo and iOS, so drivers can use their voice and ears to stay connected while keeping their eyes on the road.
Expect to see the Clarion Next Gate popping up at Best Buy, Crutchfield, and Amazon.com as early as June 1 at an MSRP of $269.99.