Parrot offers app-ready, Internet-connected aftermarket car stereo

Consumer Reports News: September 16, 2011 08:53 PM

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The age of the connected cars has arrived, with automakers rapidly rolling out new infotainment systems that can put Internet power in the dashboard. Now, Parrot offers an Android-based in-dash receiver for the aftermarket that is equipped with Internet connectivity and GPS navigation.

We found the Parrot Asteroid at the Holiday Spectacular industry event this week in New York City, where we were struck by its combination of small size and big function. What really made it stand out is the ability to interface with Android applications.

At launch in October, Parrot says there will be six applications available:

  • Maps - Locates nearby points of interest.

  • Roadtrip - Plans visits to tourist sites, with photos and localized weather information.

  • Wikango - Speed camera warnings.

  • Weather - Forecasts weather in current location and for trips.

  • TextFriendly - Read and compose emails or text messages via voice.

  • TuneIn - Access to 50,000 Internet radio stations.

Parrot-Asteroid-in-dash.jpgFor traditional stereo functions, the Asteroid can play music via flash drive, smart phone, iPod, SD card, Bluetooth, and its own Internet radio functionality. No CD playback is offered, as that is decidedly old school.

The Bluetooth connectivity enables hands-free calling, and voice recognition allows the driver to search music and perform various other operations.

Asteroid has a 3.2-inch screen, which may be small for some functions, such as reading a map. Compared to a dashtop GPS navigator or mounted smartphone, the Asteroid will likely be positioned well away from the driver’s view of the road. This is offset by the voice recognition abilities, but it is a concern for navigation.

With a retail price of $350, the Asteroid can catapult an older vehicle to the state-of-the-art. But it won’t fit all vehicles. In recent years, cars have increasingly used model-specific factory systems that are more difficult to replace with aftermarket units. Many use a taller double-DIN shape that could be adapted with a faceplate, but wouldn’t have quite a factory finish.

This is the first of what may be several such units, as the connected car becomes mainstream.

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Jeff Bartlett

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