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Apple CarPlay review - hands-on with the Pioneer AVIC-F60DAB

Andrew Unsworth
15 Oct 2014
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Use Apple CarPlay today thanks to Pioneer; some Pioneer car audio head units simply need a firmware update

Pioneer has a solid reputation and pedigree in the car audio industry, and now it’s the first company to produce CarPlay-compatible head units. Indeed, the firmware of some existing units can be upgraded to allow use with CarPlay, so check out the Pioneer website to see if your model is compatible.

To use Apple CarPlay you simply need to connect your iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6 or 6 Plus to the unit via USB. Once connected, the normal Pioneer interface is replaced by the CarPlay interface, and CarPlay is ready to be used. Pioneer demoed its CarPlay connectivity to us on an AVIC-F60DAB head unit.

The CarPlay home screen is fairly spartan, as there is only a small selection of apps that are currently CarPlay compatible, with the only third-party CarPlay app currently available being a Spotify app. However, the use of large icons to represent the phone, message and navigation apps means that you can see and press them easily while driving, minimising any distraction. A further aid is the well-incorporated use of Siri to control CarPlay by voice. During our demo, Siri was able to play a track stored on the connected iPhone, give us a list of local coffee shops and navigate to our local Royal China restaurant without having to be asked more than once.

Sadly, Apple has not included the ability to play videos, as it could prove distracting. We’re also concerned about using Apple Maps for navigation, but Pioneer said that it will use the built-in GPS system of your head unit, if it has one. In our brief demo, we asked Apple Maps to navigate from Regent’s Park to our Cleveland St office, expecting it to give us the obvious, but slower route. Instead, it took us the way we’d choose to drive ourselves. One thing we weren’t too happy with was the way that much of the map was obscured by a navigation arrow, which made it harder to anticipate the correct turn. Apparently, you can semi-customise the screen to remove the arrow, so the app does allow some customisation.

Using the phone was a doddle, and Siri was able to read a message and then send a dictated response easily. We’re fairly impressed with CarPlay’s ease of use, but it wasn’t as quick in operation as we’d like it to be. It wasn’t face-punchingly slow, but we would like it to be much faster to take and execute commands.

If you have an iOS device and would like to use CarPlay, you should browse the Pioneer website for a head unit that suits your budget. The AVIC-F60DAB is Pioneer's flagship unit, and costs around £900, however the new SPH-DA120 is available for around £350.

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