Event Coverage

Hands-on with Pioneer’s Apple CarPlay compatible in-car multimedia receiver

By Kenny Yeo - 7 Oct 2014

Hands-on with Pioneer’s Apple CarPlay compatible in-car multimedia receiver

Pioneer is the first aftermarket in-car entertainment manufacturer to offer Apple CarPlay compatibility.

Earlier this year, Apple announced that CarPlay - formerly known as “iOS in the Car” - will be coming to selected car manufacturers including Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, BMW, Toyota, Honda and many more. And in the past months we have seen demos of the systems by these car manufacturers. But what if you already have a car? Does that mean you need a new one to get CarPlay to work? Fortunately not, because Pioneer is the first aftermarket in-car entertainment manufacturer to offer Apple CarPlay compatibility.

To be clear, Pioneer actually spoke about a firmware update supporting Apple CarPlay as early as May this year for its in-car multimedia receivers, but unforeseen hiccups caused this firmware to be released later than expected. No matter what, it is finally here.

But first, let’s clear up some confusion surrounding Apple CarPlay and what you need to get CarPlay on your car. It is not an app that you download off the App Store, it is built into iOS 7.1 and above, which means so long as you have the right version of iOS on your phone, CarPlay is already there. However, CarPlay will currently only work on the iPhone 5 and above, which means the iPhone 5C and 5S and both the new iPhone 6 and iPhone Plus are the only models that will support CarPlay. And finally, you also need a compatible in-car multimedia receiver.

The Pioneer AVH-X8650BT that was launched just earlier this year supports Apple CarPlay.

Currently, Pioneer is the only aftermarket in-car entertainment manufacturer to have Apple CarPlay compatible in-car multimedia receivers and for this region, the receiver in question that supports CarPlay is the AVH-X8650BT that we covered earlier this year at the Bangkok Motor Show. This is Pioneer’s current flagship in-car multimedia receiver and it is a double-din unit that boasts of a 7-inch touchscreen display and tons of other nifty features including playback of Full-HD videos and also support for high-definition music files such as 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution FLAC.

Plug your phone in and launch Apple CarPlay and you are greeted by a menu that is instantly recognizable. The home menu features large icons that offer quick access to your phone, messages, music, maps and more. Each function is intuitive to use and anyone who has ever used an iPhone or iPad will feel right at home. One thing to note is that CarPlay will only display compatible apps, meaning not all of your apps can be used in CarPlay. So for navigation, you are stuck with Apple's own Maps app - no Google Maps nor Waze. Right now, Spotify is the only third-party app that is supported by CarPlay.

The icons are large, especially on the AVH-X8650BT's 7-inch display.

Use Apple's Maps app to navigate on CarPlay.

CarPlay also lets you play music from your iPhone in your car.

The primary mode of input in Apple CarPlay is Siri. Presumably, voice recognition coupled with the large icons will make CarPlay easier and safer to use. That sounds good on paper, but in practice, we all know that not all cars have whisper quiet interiors and drivers and passengers are often subjected to a myriad of noises from the engine, road, tires and even wind. So it will be interesting to see if Siri is good enough to accurately decipher drivers’ commands in real-world driving conditions.

Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay is not yet available in Singapore, despite Pioneer’s AVH-X8650BT being long available here. The reason, we are told, is that this is because of two things, Siri and Apple Maps. Apple needs Siri to support the spoken languages in the country, and while Siri does support English, it does have a bit of a problem picking up on our accent. Additionally, Apple wants its Maps app to be thoroughly optimized for the country too.

Fortunately, at the event, which also hosted distributors and dealers from around the region, we spoke to a dealer who informed us that owners can actually enable CarPlay on their own as long as they have the right Pioneer in-car receiver - in this case the AVH-X8650BT. Simply download and install the firmware update from regions that do officially support CarPlay - such as Australia. So if you happen to be using the Pioneer AVH-X8650BT in your car, simply head over to Pioneer Australia to get the firmware update, update your receiver and you should be able to use CarPlay.

Neither Apple nor Pioneer can say when CarPlay will be officially available in Singapore.

Join HWZ's Telegram channel here and catch all the latest tech news!
Our articles may contain affiliate links. If you buy through these links, we may earn a small commission.