Automakers like Chevrolet, Buick, and Hyundai have committed to offering Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity in their production vehicles, but there’s still a big aftermarket community clamoring for smartphone functionality.
Pioneer was the first aftermarket company to offer head units with Android Auto and CarPlay existing side by side, but rival brand Kenwood is hot on its heels. The Japanese firm has just announced that its DDX9702S and DDX9902S receivers are headed to retailers now, both of which offer the competing systems on a 6.95-inch touchscreen.
The Kenwood duo isn’t just an alternative to Pioneer’s products though, the infotainment interfaces actually have a leg up on the competition in some ways. Mainly, Kenwood’s options allow the driver to switch between CarPlay and Android Auto without having to manually change settings or reset the unit, something that Pioneer’s merchandise can not say.
The Kenwood devices are cheaper as well, as the DDX9702S runs $900 and the DDX9902S costs $950, compared to $1,200 for Pioneer’s AVIC-7100NEX and $1,400 for the AVIC-8100NEX. In fairness, the AVIC-8100NEX features a capacitive touchscreen instead of a resistive one, which generally means a clearer, brighter, and more sensitive display.
Originally unveiled at CES 2015, the DDX9702S and DDX9902S are part of Kenwood’s Excelon series and feature built-in HD Radio, an HDMI input with MHL support, DVD playback, and are SiriusXM ready.
Apple CarPlay allows iPhone owners to integrate smartphone functions into their vehicle’s infotainment suites by reading texts, facilitating calls, playing music, and accessing navigation controls in a snap. By using Siri, drivers can access nearly all of these functions with simple voice controls.
Android Auto employs voice commands as well, while also offering Google Maps navigation and Google Now, an intelligent personal assistant that helps the user organize their schedule with simple category cards.
“We are excited to have these units available to consumers in time for summer,” said Tony Mercado, marketing manager for Kenwood’s Car Electronics Division. “Smartphone users have heard about Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in the media, and how as many as 40 models of 2016 and 2017 vehicles will come equipped with one or the other. Today we are delivering both in a single chassis, well before most automakers. Combined with our years of automotive electronics know-how, we are delivering a premium, safe smartphone experience in the vehicle.”
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