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Pioneer's 9-inch touchscreens soup up cars for the digital age

The Japanese company rides a trend for large touchscreens to add digital features to analogue cars.

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The Pioneer systems come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which let them control a phone legally with the car's touchscreen.

BT_20200619_PIONEERO26L_4149788.jpg
The Pioneer systems come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which let them control a phone legally with the car's touchscreen.

Singapore

IT MIGHT not be possible to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can give an old car new features. That's one idea behind the touchscreen infotainment systems that Pioneer Corporation launched here yesterday, which can add big LED screens and digital connectivity to any car still stuck in the analogue age.

Pioneer says that while its Z-Series head units can beef up the sound quality in a car, what drivers increasingly want from an entertainment system has more to do with being connected to the digital world than blasting a favourite tune.

"Drivers today are deeply connected with technology and demand higher quality experiences," Ronald Lee, general manager of Sales and Marketing Division, Pioneer Electronics Asia Centre, said in a press release.

The Z-Series starts at S$1,099 for the DMH-Z6350BT (the price includes GST but not installation fees), which has a 6.8-inch capacitive touchscreen. But in you case you consider that size too modest, the DMH-ZS9350BT and DMH-ZF9350BT come with a 9-inch screen, for S$1,699 and S$1,799 respectively.

The jumbo units are more or less identical, but the more expensive DMH-ZF9350BT has a floating screen design that lets the user tilt and slide the display, whereas the cheaper unit is fixed in place. Another difference: the pricier version fits into the standard DIN slot for car stereos that measures 180mm x 50 mm, whereas the other models need a double-DIN space.

Putting a 9-inch touchscreen on the market is in line with ongoing size inflation. Displays on smartphones and new cars have grown with time, and aftermarket sound systems have kept up. (An aftermarket system is one installed in an existing car by the owner, replacing the one that the factory put in when the car was new.)

Only last year Pioneer launched what was then its biggest touchscreen system, with a 7-inch display. Earlier this year it began to market the SPH-T20BT, essentially an 8-inch tablet that docks with an in-car receiver.

But the new Z-Series models are about more than big screens. The head units come with various features that just happen to be easier or more pleasant to use with a bigger display.

Some of these make driving itself easier, like the ability to connect front and rear cameras for a video feed that makes parking less challenging.

But online features are what set new sound systems from traditional ones. The head units have a built-in web browser, for example, which drivers in countries with gridlocked traffic must find a boon.

Drivers here are likely to find it more useful to pair the head units with a smartphone, which might have the one screen we look at more than any other.

The Pioneer systems come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which let them control a phone legally with the car's touchscreen. The Apple system doesn't even need a messy cable; CarPlay works wirelessly with the Pioneer head units.

Both Android Auto and Apple Carplay let your phone do the heavy lifting. They enable voice control, satellite navigation, access to cloud-based music or podcast collections and so on. And neither is unlikely to feature in a car, unless it's one that rolled out of the showroom within the last three years or so. Even if a given car isn't quite an old dog yet, there are aftermarket tricks it could stand to learn.

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