Toyota

Toyota makes touchscreen in-dash entertainment system standard across Scion line

Friday, August 16, 2013 - 12:15pm

Toyota will offer a touchscreen in-dash audio entertainment system standard across its entire Scion line, making it the first carmaker to do so.

The standard Scion set-up includes a 6.1-inch touchscreen, HD Radio, CD player, and an auxiliary input to feed audio from a mobile device. Throw in an extra twelve-hundred bucks, and you get the Scion BeSpoke Premium Audio system, powered by Harman’s Aha Radio dashboard platform with access to 30-thousand free streaming radio stations (including AccuRadio).

Read Inside Radio's coverage here, or AutoBlog here.

RAIN "test drives" variety on in-car web radio setups at the Chicago Auto Show

Friday, February 17, 2012 - 10:00am

Chicago Auto ShowNearly a third of motorists in the U.S. want streaming media in their cars, according to the Gartner consultancy. And a Deloitte survey found that 72% of car buyers age 19-31 want smartphone app compatibility, and 59% said car connectivity is the most important aspect of a car's interior. So how is the auto industry responding to such demands?

Yesterday RAIN braved the crowds at the Chicago Auto Show to find out. After stopping back at least half a dozen auto-makers, we were struck by the variety of ways drivers can now listen to nearly any web radio service through their car speakers.

Indeed, though some manufacturers offer slick touchscreens that display album art and now playing info, these systems really only make it easier to do what most new models can already do through Bluetooth, USB or audio-jack connections. Most of the basic systems even allow control of web radio streams (using play, pause, and skip buttons on the steering wheel or dashboard). 

Pandora on MyLink in a Chevy MalibuGM's MyLink system (pictured left, playing Pandora) appeared to be one of the easiest systems to use. We tested the set-up in a 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco, which featured a touchscreen filled with iPad-like icons.

It offered options for Pandora and Stitcher, though it could stream any web radio or music content via Bluetooth or USB. MyLink supports Andriod and iPhone. Its available in the 2012 Verano, LaCrosse, Regal and Enclave -- according to the representative we spoke to, MyLink will be offered standard in most of those models by the end of the year. (Note: MyLink for Buick and GMC is confusingly dubbed IntelliLink).

Audi's in-car web set-up (pictured right, playing Pandora) was the most advanced and differed from others in not needing a smartphone for some web tasks. Instead, the car connects to the web itself using T-Mobile's network. Alas, the setup -- called Audi Connect -- doesn't include streaming web radio, which still requires a Bluetooth-connected iPhone or Android. However, you can connect to the Audi's in-car Wi-Fi and not drain your monthly data plan.

Audi Connect playing Pandora from a connected iPhoneAudi offered another nice touch: even though there's no in-dash web radio "app," per se, the dashboard screen does offer now playing metadata from web radio services.

BMW's system wasn't on display, but reps said it supported Pandora and MOG (though only through iPhones). Again, their cars include Bluetooth and USB support for playing any web radio or audio content.

The same was true of Volvo and Infiniti, though neither had in-dash support for apps like other manufacturers.

The most confusing system by far was Ford's MyFord Touch, which offered a mind-boggling interface that was nearly impossible for us to use. Much better was Ford's "basic" Sync system (pictured below left, in the process of creating a new Pandora station), which relies on voice commands rather than a touch screen. Those commands can control Slacker, iHeartRadio, Pandora or Stitcher (through a connected smartphone). You can even thumbs-up songs on Pandora or start new stations using voice commands.

Ford's basic Sync system

Toyota's EnTune system was strangely not available for a "test drive," even though it was prominently featured throughout their floorspace. EnTune supports iHeartRadio and Pandora (again, it requires a connected smartphone).

Both Toyota and Ford can stream any audio or web radio content via Bluetooth, USB or aux-in ports, which appeared to be available in most models.

In the end, it was clear that car manufacturers' "support" for certain apps like Pandora or iHeartRadio -- while most certainly helpful, both to drivers and the services -- isn't really necessary to listen to Internet radio while driving. All you need for that is a smartphone, web radio app and Bluetooh, a USB cord or an auxiliary audio cable.

Other observations from the Auto Show:

  • In-car hard drives for music (and video!) were common. BMW, for example, offers a built-in 12GB hard drive in some models, while Audi offers two SD card slots in the dashboard. As one BMW rep told us, "Why worry about your iPod or iPhone when your car is basically an iPod?"
     
  • Most models listed support for SiriusXM and even HD radio, but these felt almost expected, like having cup holders. Pandora and smartphone support appeared to be promoted more on banner and displays.
     
  • That said, some car reps were on shaky ground when discussing Internet radio support (though, in all fairness, they were probably expecting more questions about transmissions than the capabilities of Bluetooth audio streaming).
     
  • One Toyota rep told us he uses Bluetooth support in his own Toyota car to listen to YouTube music videos while driving. That stuck me as a fascinating insight into how consumers listen to music (as well as yet another reason to be cautious while driving).

Plenty of web radio-sporting models to be found in Chicago Tribune's "must-see" list for Chicago Auto Show

Thursday, February 9, 2012 - 12:45pm

Toyota's NS4 concept carThe Chicago Tribune's thorough list of "vehicles not to miss" at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show includes quite a few models that support Internet radio.

There's the 2013 Acura ILX, for one, which will be debuted at the auto show and includes in-dash Pandora support. And the 2013 Ford Fusion will include the web radio-friendly SYNC system standard.

The Code 130R and Tru 140S concept cars from Chevy apparently boast built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, while Toyota's NS4 hybrid concept (pictured) includes an in-dash multi-touch screen to control everything from music to A/C.

The Tribune also recommends checking out the 2013 Buick Encore, 2013 Cadillac ATS, 2013 Ford Escape and the Toyota Prius c -- all of which can stream Internet radio in some way. You can find the Tribune's article here.

In-dash system supports Pandora and iHeartRadio, will be offered for 2012 Tacoma, Camry and Prius V

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 11:00am

Toyota's Entune system, with Pandora and iHeartRadio picturedToyota's Entune in-car Internet radio system will be offered with the 2012 Tacoma, Camry and Prius V. The announcement marks yet another major car manufacturer bringing web radio to consumers' dashboards. Toyota is promoting its Entune system, along with the new Prius V, on a nationwide tour that runs though December.

"At launch, [Entune] will include more apps than other automakers' systems," writes CNet (here). The system supports Pandora and iHeartRadio -- along with various other apps -- via a Bluetooth-connected iPhone, Android or BlackBerry device. Toyota says (here) the system will also support general Bluetooth streaming (presumably allowing users to listen to any Net radio app through a Bluetooth-ready mobile device), USB connectivity, satellite and HD radio.

Like Ford's Sync system (which supports also Pandora and iHeartRadio), drivers will be able to control playback with voice commands. Otherwise, the system uses an in-dash touchscreen display. Engadget reported earlier this year (here) that Entune will be free for the at least the first three years (the cost will reportedly be "included with the factory navigation option," at least in the Prius V). 

Toyota debuted Entune in January during CES (RAIN coverage here). It then won CNET's "Best of CES" and Popular Mechanics "Editor's Choice" awards.

Ford, BMW, Mini, Mercedes, GM, Smart and other car-makers also offer in-car web radio features. You can find our in-car Internet radio round-up here.

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