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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Next Generation HondaLink Connectivity Announced, Very AppRadio-esque [Video]

As scheduled, Honda announced its next generation HondaLink connectivity system earlier today. Honda made the announcement via a Google Hangout. The new HondaLink puts a smartphone-like interface inside the car, with the ability to run a few apps off of your smartphone. Sounds a lot like AppRadio technology from Pioneer which was launched back in 2011.

Currently, only the 2014 Honda Civic will have the next generation HondaLink system. The 2015 Honda Fit will be the next car to include the system.

Today's announcement has plenty of details. I have included links to the complete press release from Honda along with a few highlights about today's announcement. There is also the whole Google Hangout video you can watch below (26 minutes).


- Honda today introduced two technologies: Honda Display Audio and Next Generation HondaLink.

- Display Audio refers to the new 7-inch touchscreen which will debut in the 2014 Honda Civic (EX models and above) followed by the 2015 Honda Fit. It allows pinch, swipe and tap functionality to access audio, phonebook, media, vehicle information and navigation features.

- Next Generation HondaLink "allows the customer's digital lifestyle to seamlessly integrate with the car and provides access to a world of cloud based information". There are four HondaLink apps you can download to your smartphone: Connect, Navigation, Aha and Launcher.

- Connect App: Provides access to location searches, local weather, messaging, maintenance alerts, service scheduling and owner's guide.

- Navigation App: This is a cloud-based navigation app which has to be purchased ($59.99 in the App Store) and includes 3D mapping and traffic information. Mapping data is provided by HERE, which is a Nokia product.

- Aha App: Gives access to a variety of audio content across multiple genres. Includes internet radio stations, podcasts, audiobooks, news, Twitter and Facebook updates and location listings for nearby POIs.

- Launcher App: Finds and organizes Honda-approved 3rd party apps so they can be quickly integrated into the Display Audio system.

- Siri Eyes Free will now be a factory installed product (previously dealer installed accessory). Owners will now be able to perform various functions by clicking one button like sending texts or emails, reading incoming messages, setting up calendar alerts or alarms, checking weather conditions, turn-by-turn voice navigation, sports scores and stock quotes.

- Pandora is built-in.


Ok. After reading through the press release, watching the video below and reading the initial feedback from a few comments made by consumers, there are plenty of things that need to be mentioned.

1. Compatibility: HondaLink will only be compatible with the iPhone 5, 5S and 5C to start with. No Android compatibility at the moment. Honda does mention that they're working on integrating MirrorLink compatibility soon. Also, next generation MirrorLink connectivity is required to work with HondaLink which is not available in any of the current Android smartphones.

2. Navigation: The navigation app has to be purchased for $60. Also, the maps are provided by Nokia, not Google or Apple maps which come stock on smartphones these days.

There is no in-built navigation anymore which means if you're in a place with no cell phone reception you are lost. Granted, if you have already mapped your route to your final destination the navigation system will take you there even if you lose signal along the way. But, if you are in a place with no cell phone reception and want directions, good luck!

No such issues arise with in-built navigation systems which work like GPS devices and are very reliable in most areas.

3. Third-party apps: With the Launcher app, you will be able to run "Honda-approved" third-party apps on your Display Audio touchscreen. It was mentioned during the announcement that Honda is working with a couple of premium app partners to bring more apps to Launcher. There are no plans currently to make this project open-source, where app developers would be able to submit apps for approval to Honda. Much like how Pioneer does it these days.

4. Backwards Compatibility: It is still unclear if older Honda car models will get firmware updates to include these new features. Customers seem to be interested in getting these updates but there's no official word from Honda yet.

5. iOS in the Car: This is not "iOS in the Car". It is close to what "iOS in the Car" is going to offer in terms of functionality. It is also a continuos bridging of the gap between smartphones and car entertainment. From what Apple announced about "iOS in the Car" earlier this year, we still haven't seen an interface like the one they showed back then. So the wait continues.

To end, just a quick note about AppRadio Mode. AppRadio 3 costs under $350 and has over 30 compatible apps. Although some issues exist with the technology, it is worth noting that it has been around for over two years now and is constantly evolving. AppRadio 3 is also compatible with both iOS and Android.

More information about the new HondaLink will be available as 2014 Honda Civics reach customers. Stay tuned for the latest.

The link to today's press release from Honda is here.

Watch the Google Hangout video below.

Source: Honda

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