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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pioneer AppRadio Mode Is A Mess In iOS 9; Old Issues May Be Back

Pop-ups, pop-ups and more pop-ups. Pioneer AppRadio Mode users are definitely familiar with pop-ups by now. Those annoying little alerts have the ability to make your AppRadio Mode experience a living nightmare.

Most pop-up alerts were done away with in iOS 8 and partly by Pioneer adding a few new improvements to its AppRadio app. But with iOS 9 being released just a few days ago, a variety of pop-ups and issues, both old and new, have cropped up again.

With iOS 9 bringing new challenges to AppRadio Mode, the interface is as good as unusable at the moment. I gave it a try and this is what I found...

Pioneer AppRadio Mode and iOS 9

To be fair, you can't expect an existing software like Pioneer AppRadio Mode to work flawlessly with each release of iOS. As it always happens, new iOS versions always 'break' AppRadio Mode by introducing issues that make the interface difficult to use.

I tested AppRadio Mode with my iPhone 6 running iOS 9 and Pioneer AppRadio 4 (SPH-DA120). I also used AppRadio Mode on the Pioneer AVH-4100NEX and had the issues show up there too. The current iOS version of the Pioneer AppRadio App is 2.8.5.

1. AppRadio Mode Launch Alert

When you first click on 'Apps' on your Pioneer AppRadio Mode enabled head unit, this pop-up shows up. It shows up on your iPhone and asks you to 'Ignore' or 'Allow' the AppRadio app to communicate with the Pioneer Display Unit. You have to tap 'Allow' and the app will launch.

2. App Launch Pop-up Alert

The most common and annoying pop-up in AppRadio Mode at the moment is when launching apps. In iOS 9, you have to grant permission for an app to be launched on the iPhone each time your head unit tries to do so. This happens every time you try to switch or launch apps.

These pop-ups show up on the iPhone with no option to allow app launch on the head unit. All the head unit displays is this message telling you to "Please launch Pioneer AppRadio App or other compatible app from your phone"...

Issues like these make you touch and handle your phone while driving, which is a big no-no. It is both, illegal and unsafe to handle your phone while driving. Currently, the only way to get rid of the pop-up alert and launch the app you want is to tap 'Open' on your iPhone.

Each time a pop-up alert is displayed, the head unit screen goes blank and interrupts AppRadio Mode. Annoying!

This issue makes me miss AppRadio Extensions even more. Remember that jailbreak tweak that was developed by Mike DeCaro a few years ago? AppEx, as it was later called, allowed you to disable app launch alerts on your iPhone. This meant switching and launching apps from AppRadio Mode only took one tap from the head unit.

Development of AppEx was abandoned however, mainly after CarPlay was announced.

3. Screen Resizing

Yes! That annoying issue of the AppRadio Mode interface getting resized to a smaller resolution is back! The issue was fixed in iOS 8 by Apple but seems like iOS 9 has brought it back.

I saw my screen resolution resizing when I switched apps and launched AppRadioLIVE. After I disconnected my iPhone and rebooted AppRadio Mode the issue didn't recur though. This issue was fixed in iOS 8 but had come back in iOS 8.3 even though it didn't happen that often.

I tried recreating the issue so I could grab a snapshot but haven't been able to so far. But it definitely occurred the first time I tested AppRadio Mode with iOS 9. Unfortunately I don't have a picture to share here but take my word for it. Here's an old screenshot from iOS 8.1 showing the resized display...

4. App Crashes

Certain third-party apps crash when launched in AppRadio Mode. This is a common issue when a new version of iOS releases. This issues often has to be fixed by individual third-party app developers by updating their apps for iOS 9.

In previous versions of iOS, the infamous crashing issue arose due to a faulty keyboard problem. But that issue got fixed with developers being forced to use third-party keyboards for their apps.

It is NOT Pioneer's fault

Let me defend Pioneer for a moment. To be clear, I'm not getting paid to do this. It turns out that most issues often need to get fixed by Apple, but some are up to Pioneer. An update to the AppRadio app may be a start which may come in the next few days.

Pioneer was the first manufacturer to integrate smartphone apps into the car dashboard through AppRadio Mode. A truly pioneering effort, pardon the pun! With Apple CarPlay and Google's Android Auto gaining popularity these days, it is easy to forget that it was Pioneer that first birthed the concept of smartphone app integration on the scale that they did.

Even to this day, AppRadio Mode offers way more third-party apps which can be run on compatible head units. They even have apps that allow video playback when the vehicle is not in motion, something CarPlay and Android Auto may never get. Even smartphone mirroring is possible.

AppRadio Mode works on both iOS and Android. The issues mentioned here are only present for iOS users. Android users, historically, have been immune to many issues in AppRadio Mode, reinforcing the fact that iOS may be responsible for most headaches.

Possible Fixes

Where most customers have a beef with AppRadio Mode is the rate at which issues get fixed. AppRadio Mode users have lived through months of issues in the past. Let's see how long the iOS 9 problems last.

Hopefully Pioneer will try to fix as many issues as they can by updating, either the head unit firmware or the AppRadio app or both. One thing we need to keep in mind is, with CarPlay and Android Auto hogging all the attention these days (and Pioneer makes hardware that support both platforms), AppRadio Mode may have been put on the back burner.

The truth is that there are a ton of Pioneer customers who don't have CarPlay or Android Auto access and only use AppRadio Mode. For the sake of those valuable customers and every one else, fixes will have to be released sooner than later.

As far as Apple fixing issues goes, it's anyone's guess on whether at all that will happen or not.


  1. I have not gone as indepth as you have here with finding issues. But one issue I did come across, is my OBD-2 to wifi Dongle does not work with DashCommand anymore. Have tried it a few times, even "Forgot" the network. and nothing Dashcommand does not recognize it ever since the iOS9 update.

  2. The alerts asking for permission to open the app are due to a change to URL Scheme support in iOS 9. Apps will now need to whitelist the AppRadio launchers until an updated SDK is provided by Pioneer (expected late September).


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