Review and photos by Justin Pritchard

Pioneer Appradio 3
Pioneer Appradio 3. Click image to enlarge

Ever see someone starting intently downwards, possibly smiling, while driving? Not to unleash any surprises here, but the motorist in question isn’t inspecting or grinning at the appearance of their crotch. They’re using their smartphone.

Of course, doing so is dangerous, naughty, and increasingly likely to result in a pricey texty-driving ticket.

As a result, carmakers the world over are releasing new smartphone integration technologies in their latest rides that aim to let drivers operate select handset functionalities in as distraction-free a manner as possible.

Not in the new-car market? Fret not – even for your older ride, numerous mobile electronics manufacturers are offering aftermarket solutions to stay entertained, informed and in touch on the go, and all without the risk of earning yourself a distraction-related ticket from the local constabulary.

One such manufacturer is Pioneer, and their latest Appradio 3 in-dash system aims to deliver integrated smartphone functionality, including developer-driven apps, to the dashboard of virtually any ride.

Here’s the gist. Like your phone, the Appradio 3 touchscreen unit has a few hard buttons for tactile maneuvering between common menus, and a big, vivid touch screen for everything else.

Out of the box, Appradio 3 delivers a healthy list of features and functionalities. The latest Bluetooth integration for hands-free calling and audio streaming, a built-in radio tuner, available CD, iPod integration and more are all fitted. All functions, communication and otherwise, are accessed and manipulated easily on that big bright touchscreen – not the little one on your smartphone, which needs to be held towards your lap so nearby police don’t spot you using it. You use the same slide, swipe, pinch and flick gestures as your phone, so the Appradio 3 interface becomes second nature in a jiff.

Pioneer Appradio 3
Pioneer Appradio 3. Click image to enlarge

Bluetooth pairing took your technologically challenged writer no more than 20 seconds on a variety of different phones. This is a one-time procedure, after which point your phone and the Appradio head unit automatically make nice with one another when you start the car.

With just that simple Bluetooth connection, the Appradio 3 works just like some of the best new-car infotainment systems out there. Using the Bluetooth connection in my trusty 2008 Honda Fit, your writer was pleased with the ability to stream his internet radio stations, place, accept and dismiss phone calls, and easily browse his phone’s playlist, while said phone was gobbling up delicious electrons recharging in the glovebox.

For a modestly practiced user of in-car electronics, this will all prove plenty slick and functional – but, of course, there’s more to it.

Got an iPhone? Once Bluetooth pairing is complete, drivers benefit from integrated voice-command functionality as Siri is migrated into the Appradio 3 unit. Hold the centre button on the unit down for a second, and a chime prompts you ask Siri to read your incoming text messages, to dial your favourite pizza place, or to see what she’s wearing today. Voice command is supported on Android devices, too. This eyes-free, hands-free voice-command stuff was a welcome bonus that’s not common in new rides – these typically make you use their own clumsier and more rigid voice interface.

Advanced users will enjoy further enhanced functionalities enabled by plugging the smartphone in question into the head-unit via a cable. The cable can be mounted in the glovebox, centre console, or some other location decided upon between you and the installer.

Pioneer Appradio 3
Pioneer Appradio 3. Click image to enlarge

With iPhone 5, a single adapter connects the phone to the unit. Android phones, because of numerous possible configurations, may require additional adapters.

The purpose of the cable? Quick transmission of large amounts of data and graphics between the devices that can’t be handled by Bluetooth. Connected thusly, drivers can swipe through their phone’s photo gallery, access their calendar, or call up their native mapping program onscreen.

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