What’s NEX(t) in 12V Aftermarket Head Units
The 12V head unit category has two exciting new additions dealers and consumers have been talking about. The first is a revolutionary idea by Soundstream by Epsilon Electronics that uses two screens. Some automakers, such as Honda and Nissan, have used two segregated screens for navigation and infotainment – and some consumers love it! For navigation, the driver just needs to look at the upper display. For adjusting the music, the consumer looks at the lower display. In fact, the unit proved so revolutionary that it created a controversy at CES, when it was introduced earlier this year. Seven prototypes of the units were stolen from the company’s booth in what was purported to be a case of corporate espionage. The company offered a $10,000 reward, but the case has not been solved as of yet.
In the meantime, orders for the VRN-DD7HB source unit will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last. “We have had overwhelming response to this first-of-its-kind unit,” said Paul Goldberg, vice president, sales and marketing for Epsilon Electronics. “The accolades have come from the press, social media and consumer inquiries alike.” Concurrent operating systems running allow the user to operate the two different platforms simultaneously. The user has the option to control the included iGO powered GPS system on the upper display, or Android PhoneLink which mirrors the screen of the enabled smart device. The second operating system allows for the usage of typical features of a car multimedia system: DVD, Bluetooth connectivity, audio/video media playback by USB, FM receiver, rear view camera, etc.
Epsilon Electronics took its time in engineering the head unit. The motorized mechanism was especially considered for reliability in the field. I am sure technicians have used lower-priced units that refused to motorize open or shut when a plastic gear breaks. “Extensive details were considered for the build of this unique application,” Goldberg said. “Each high-resolution TFT-LCD display includes a capacitive touch screen panel, mimicking the interaction and experience of today’s smart devices. In an effort to ensure mechanical reliabilities, the independent motorization mechanisms use alloy steel gearing and high-torque drive motors, capable of standing up to the abuse of today’s road conditions.”
Attention to quality of the user’s interaction was considered in the design phase of the dual display’s user interface. “Large-format, easy-to-read info-data and icons were drawn to improve the ease of use,” he said. “The user interface was designed to include solutions to reduce driver distraction and improve operator awareness. The VRN-DD7HB features GPS turn-by-turn navigation for all 50 states, powered by iGo Primo. Set your destination to one of nearly 17 million available points of interest, or your own unique location. Follow the on-screen directions or audible text-to-speech commands, including lane-departure guidance. Additional features include favorites list, programmable home destination, destination fuel estimates, multi-lingual, multi-gender voices, speed limit warnings, and more.” Map updates are available from www.naviextras.com.
For those customers with Android-powered smartphones, the unit uses a mirroring function known as Android PhoneLink. PhoneLink enables complete control of select Android smartphones and tablets by the Aptix operating system. The end user can conveniently launch any application, post social media updates, or play their videos embedded on their mobile device. The smart device display is mirrored to the head unit’s larger LCD screen via a simple USB connection.
The VRN-DD7HB also features 2-amp adaptive fast charging to bring devices back to life quickly after their batteries have been depleted. According the Epsilon, the technology can recharge enabled mobile device batteries from zero to up to 50 percent in about 30 minutes. Additionally, Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity increases data transfer rate enhances wireless MP3 audio playback and gives fast access to phone book transfers.
Pioneer NEX Lineup Forging Ahead
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have proved wildly popular with consumers. As such, the Pioneer lineup of NEX receivers has been doing well. Pioneer recently introduced the MVH-2300NEX, a double-DIN 7-inch LCD digital media receiver designed to complement the connected consumer’s lifestyle with a price point of $400. To save money, the unit is a mechless head - but that will not matter to Millennials, who hardly ever use media. What does look great is the screen: the receiver is built with a clear resistive touchscreen and 24-bit true-color LCD panel, making it more responsive than traditional resistive touchscreens, with increased color depth for brighter colors and more vibrant images. It is easy to add a back-up camera. The model also features a redesigned UI with large source and system settings icons for easy accessibility and operation. The CD-free design is ideal for drivers who use music streaming apps such as Spotify and Pandora, or listen to music stored on their smartphones. The new receiver is built for popular automotive-specific smartphone interfaces and apps and has a consumer-friendly suggested retail price, making the MVH-2300NEX Pioneer’s most affordable entry with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
This summer, Pioneer is featuring the MVH-2300NEX in its Upgrade Your Car Tour. The event is traveling across America with stops in California, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Illinois and other states. Local dealers should look at www.pioneerelectronics.com/upgradetour to make sure they can capitalize on the event by offering further in-store demos and personal consultations to those excited about upgrading their systems. The tour also features the newest NEX units introduced in May 2017: the double-DIN 7-inch LCD AVH-2330NEX and AVH-2300NEX, double-DIN 6.2-inch LCD AVH-1330NEX and AVH-1300NEX, and single-DIN 7-inch flipout LCD AVH-3300NEX.
The MVH-2300NEX carries some really nice features for the price. Consumers are able to pre-register up to five smartphones with the receiver. This enables hands-free calling and streaming music from any of the five previously paired phones, eliminating the need to pair and unpair devices. That can be really fun for a group of friends on a road trip who can easily swap phones for different playlists.
For users with an Android smartphone, Android Auto integration works seamlessly. Smartphones running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) or newer operating systems offer Android Auto. Navigation is on board, but customers can also use Waze. However, to access Waze, customers need to access the AppRadio Mode+. (At least it is in there, for those addicted to Waze.) We imagine customers will use the Android/Google navigation feature for local jaunts and the Waze app when they know traffic will be a problem.
CarPlay is also on board, so most consumers across the board will be covered in one unit. For Spotify users, content from the Spotify app for iPhone and Android devices becomes a dedicated source on the receiver. Customers can play, pause and skip tracks using the Pioneer controls. Premium2 users get higher-quality music without ads. They can download music and listen offline with no Internet connection - a nice feature when driving through the desert.
Pandora is also on board. The new Pandora Station Creation feature allows users to create new stations while the app is in use. For example, pressing and holding a button on the MVH-2300NEX allows the user to create a new station from the current song or artist. Pandora enables listeners to store their personalized stations on six presets for easy access on the receiver. SiriusXM can be added with a SXV300 Vehicle Connect Tuner.
For sound quality, there is a built-in 13 band graphic EQ, built-in crossovers, and automatic time alignment that can be set up by the techs for optimum performance. Pioneer says the unit features audiophile-grade capacitors. The unit is even capable of playing high-resolution audio files.
For techs looking to take the unit to the next level, it can be integrated with an iDataLink Maestro for additional integration features. For those customers with poor cellular reception or expensive data plans, the Pioneer AVIC-U280 outboard navigation system can be added.
What a great time it is to be able to sell top-notch head units under $500. It is becoming tougher to decide between OEM integration or aftermarket replacement. Either way, good retailers will choose the method that will deliver the best experience for their customers.