Pioneer pulls the wraps off of the third generation of of its app-powered series of car stereos this week with the announcement of the AppRadio 3. The new model adds a surprising new feature and a few others that I feel the line of receivers should have had all along.
AppRadio 3's biggest new party trick is the addition of the MirrorLink connectivity standard to its feature set. When connected to supported phones via USB, MirrorLink allows AppRadio to mirror the phone's display with touch sensitivity, putting the apps on the device at the user's fingertips. More specifically, MirrorLink puts a subset of driver-friendly, car-centric apps at your fingertips.
Right now, MirrorLink only supports a few Android phones -- most notably the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2, but also the Sony Xperia Z and ZL. The standard is also supported by a respectable list of Symbian-powered Nokia phones. Hopefully, we'll see that list grow.
When paired with a iPhone 4S or 5, AppRadio 3 gains the ability to interface with Siri Eyes Free via Bluetooth, giving the driver control of the voice assistant app with the AppRadio's microphone and playing back its responses through your car's speakers. Android users gain similar control of and access to Google's Voice Search app on their handsets as well.
Speaking of Bluetooth, AppRadio 3 finally gains Bluetooth A2DP audio streaming with AVRCP controls and metadata display. I know, it seems weird that that the first two AppRadio generations didn't support this fairly standard audio playback mode. Pioneer instead has been counting on users to make use of its app mode. The addition of Bluetooth audio streaming finally allows users to listen to audio from applications that haven't yet partnered with Pioneer for app mode compatibility.
Pioneer's AppRadio receivers have always been mechless -- that is, lacking moving parts, such as CD transport -- but that changes today. The manufacturer is offering two versions of the AppRadio 3. The SPH-DA210 hides a CD/DVD player behind its 7-inch capacitive touch screen, which tilts and rotates out of the way on motorized hinges. The SPH-DA110 remains the mechless type.
Both of the new AppRadio 3 units will be available in July. The mechless SPH-DA110 has an MSRP of $399, while the CD/DVD playing SPH-DA210 comes with a $499 price tag. Interestingly, Pioneer doesn't include any phone connection cables with this generation -- the previous two models came with 30-pin iPhone connectivity kits -- so you'll have to add around $30 to $60 to those prices.