As a birthday present to myself I picked up the Pioneer Appradio a couple weeks ago. I recently purchased a 2003 GMC Yukon and was disappointed to find no easy way of integrating my iPod library into the unit. After some research I stumbled upon Pioneer’s Appradio – a double din sized unit that leverages your iPod/iPhone apps to the big screen.
I liked the idea of having navigation in my truck, but the small screen of the iPhone isn’t very helpful while I’m driving. Considering that most stereos that feature GPS navigation start in the $700-1000 range, the Appradio at $399 ($299 at Best Buy) not to mention Pioneer’s $50 mail-in rebate was a no-brainer.
The Appradio is the first of its kind in terms of leveraging your iOS device against an in-dash stereo. Others have come along like the Devium Dash which is a double-din housing with a volume knob that you simply plug your iPhone into. It looks neat, but why would you want to use the small screen of the iPhone on your dash? I think Pioneer has the right idea.
As far as implementation goes I think Pioneer has nailed it, although the UI needs work. There’s some obvious missing features like multitasking and the ability to scoll through your phone book with your finger, while you’re free to swipe on the home screen. It’s an early adopter device for sure, but the idea is genius, and the updates have been fairly steady. The interface is simple. You install the radio, download the free Appradio app, then whatever supported apps you want to use.
There are nine in all, up from the four offered on launch day. Some are free like Pandora, and others like MotionX GPS cost only 99 cents. Then there’s Dash Command that connects to your vehicle’s computer to monitor everything from air/fuel mixture to piston compression. This beauty costs $49 plus the OBD II interface that connects to your car’s computer! Obviously I have passed on this one.
MotionX shines on Appradio. It places a full screen map replete with pinch zoom on the radio, and keeps the less essential info on the iPhone screen. It’s voice turn and live guidance for traffic are amazing. Even with all the premium features purchased this is by far the most accurate GPS you’ll ever own, and all for under $30!
The appradio is capable of playing the nine supported apps like Inrix car traffic, Aupeo and Rdio interest radios as well as Pandora, but it also has a dedicated radio, phone and IPod function. I don’t care for the iPod interface as it requires you to click a scroll button while you were just allowed to finger swipe on the home screen. Clearly this is a UI flaw. Netflix or any other video app is capable of playing on the appradio as well, but Netflix is a little buggy as its not Appradio optimized. If anything interferes with playback, Netflix is likely to crash. Now on to the install.
Siri is a good workaround to the phone book problem. I simply tell Siri who to call, and once the call is connected the appradio pulls it onscreen and through my car speakers. Now if Siri would allow me to use it’s maps function to pull the map to the radio screen it would be awesome.
The unboxing of the unit reveals a mass of different wires. From left to right clockwise: user manuals, GPS receiver (to aid the iPhone’s GPS), hands free mic for iPhone, USB interface cable, mounting screws, speaker and power wire harnesses, parking break/steering wheel control harness, and finally the other half of the iPhone interface harness.
Now in most cases when you want to replace the stock stereo with an aftermarket kit you’ll need a custom wiring harness that connects the stock wires with the aftermarket stereo wires. These harnesses not only allow you to replace your aftermarket radio with the stock unit (if you sell you’re truck and want to put the stock radio back in) by simply unplugging a couple connections, but in my case it was necessary to maintain my Bose speaker system and OnStar as well as steering wheel controls for the radio. Below is my specific harness:
Wiring was simple enough since the colors on my radio matched the harness I needed to wire. The hardest part of the install was routing the massive ball of wires into the dash to allow room for the radio! It took some rearranging but it finally worked.
I routed my GPS antenna from my driver-side dash through a defrost vent, then behind the instrument cluster to the radio:
You can mount the antenna on the roof as it is magnetic, but in my case it was too much trouble removing weather stripping around the door and routing the wire down my A-pillar. This location allows for a good view of the sky. I used the included 3M tape to secure it on the dash.
I’m especially pleased with the hands-free mic. Included with the kit is a clip that mounts the mic to your visor, or 3M tape to stick it to the steering column. Neither location did much for folks hearing me, so I got creative. I opted to run the wire behind the dash, up the A-pillar, and underneath the headliner to my sunroof. Once the molding was back in place the mic is almost unnoticeable, and it sits right over my head. I’ve had no complaints with sound quality:
Pioneer is serious about you being parked before it will let you use any advanced features of its radios. It’s a pain in Appradio as well. While many manufacturers require you apply and release the parking break to prove you’re in park before accessing things like Pandora or GPS, Appradio wants you to prove you’re worthy by applying, releasing, then reapplying the break. In other words they want you stationary for some things like entering an address in the GPS. That’s all good and well but what if I have a co-pilot to enter input for me? Being from the South I have a bigger than average authority complex, so this edict from big brother wouldn’t do!
I’m in Alabama where cops don’t care about radios, but this is against the law in other locales. It’s your call. I don’t espouse watching the Lincoln Lawyer while driving, but I do think I should be able to access all the power of my radio. Act responsibly.
I installed a painfully simple hack to fool the radio into thinking I’m a good little soldier. Take a simple toggle switch with a ground, load, and power input on the back, and attach a ground wire to ground. Then find a suitable location to ground the wire:
Then attach the parking brake wire from the appradio. This is key. Do not attach the parking brake wire to the factory harness or else this step will fail. So no wiring to the car itself, just the switch. Attach the parking brake wire to the “load” input on the toggle. Install the switch in an inconspicuous space.
Now when I get hounded about applying the parking break I flip the switch one way, then back, then away again. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s cheap and it works. A relay, as many installers and salesman will tell you, won’t work. Most relays only flip one time – you need a double flip. And those that do that flip when the unit powers up, which is too early. Trust me this is the best and easiest method!
Here’s the finished install below:
As for mounting your iPhone I’ll leave that to your particular car and desires, but I chose a ProClip dash mount. It’s the priciest thing that has ever cradled my iPhone, but it looks great! It comes with a bracket that uses 3M tape and a clip to stick to the dash, then a cradle for your phone bolts to it. It allows the phone to swivel 360 degrees, and in the case of my particular cradle it allows the iPhone cable from Appradio to plug into the cradle, then pass that connection on to the iPhone. This allows me to avoid damaging the stereo cable by constantly movi it around and unplugging my phone.
All in all, as an early adopter by nature, I’ve been very pleased with this radio. It has Internet radio capability, GPS navigation, video file support, as well as Bluetooth hands-free calling. All those features on another double-din stereo will cost nearly $1000. I’ve got it all in a unique setup for under $300!