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Review: Apple CarPlay on Pioneer AVIC - F970BT

Review: Apple CarPlay on Pioneer AVIC - F970BT


- Handsfree functionality
- Easy to use

- Third party apps support

 Last year, Apple launched CarPlay, a hardware and software solution built into a car or entertainment system that lets drivers use their iPhones without getting distracted. 

While car makers are yet to roll out CarPlay-enabled models in India, audio-video equipment maker Pioneer has launched AVIC - F970BT, an Apple CarPlay-enabled touch-screen car entertainment system. We got a chance to experience the system for some time and try to find out if it makes sense to invest in it just for Apple CarPlay. We'll only focus on the Apple CarPlay feature of the entertainment system. 

Pioneer AVIC - F970BT is a 6.2-inch touchscreen-enabled system with the main menu or dashboard offering access to Apple CarPlay, MapMyIndia's navigation system and other audio and video sources. Just a tap on the CarPlay icon takes you to the home screen.


At the moment, CarPlay only supports wired connections so you'll need to connect your iPhone with the system through a lightning cable. The homescreen displays the time, network strength and type at the left corner along with a virtual Home button. It instantly displayed the icons for CarPlay-enabled apps from our iPhone 6 including the Phone, Music, Messages, Podcasts, and TuneIn Radio. While all apps are optimized for the bigger display and accessible via touch-enabled navigation, Siri, Apple's voice based assistant plays a key role since the intent is to give the user hands-free access to the iPhone. 

You can fire up Siri and access contacts, make calls, open apps and return missed calls via voice commands. A microphone is installed with the system near the dashboard for the same purpose.


When incoming messages or notifications arrive, Siri can respond to requests through voice commands, and can read your messages. It also lets you dictate responses or make a call. You can bypass Siri and use the optimised versions of CarPlay apps as well. 

We found that Siri was able to recognize our voice for common commands and apps but struggled while recognizing Indian names. Also, Siri takes a long time to process requests but that could be related to our Airtel 3G connection. 

Interface of CarPlay apps is designed keeping in mind a car entertainment system display with big, white coloured text on black background but is visually coherent with iOS. Navigation buttons are also relatively large enabling easy access. The system's display panel offers good visibility under sunlight.


It was easy navigating through music playlists and browsing contact names within the Phone app. The Phone app offers access to the keypad and all contacts but there's no keyboard so you can't type in names. the Music app offers playlists support, and lets you browse your music by Artist, Albums and songs. Messaging app also has Siri integration and reads all your messages. Scrolling and navigating within and across apps was more or less smooth with minor lag at certain times. 

One thing that we'd like to clarify here is that the CarPlay system mirrors your phone (Even screenshots are mirrored but we're not featuring them here). So don't expect to use the phone's camera while you're checking a message. Unlike some car entertainment systems that only let you interact with the menu while the car is stationary this one doesn't impose this limitation. Also, you can't use the feature while your iPhone is locked.


A major feature missing on the CarPlay interface in India is support for Maps. It's understandable since Apple Maps don't offer directions and Points of Interest information for the country. Pioneer offers MapMyIndia's offline GPS navigation which has much better local maps and POI information. But you'll need to exit CarPlay for using it. 

Should you buy the Pioneer AVIC - F970BT system just for CarPlay? At Rs 39,990, it is definitely a feature-rich in car entertainment system. Apple CarPlay adds extra hands-free functionality for your iPhone but the experience is limited to making calls, sending and receiving messages and listening to music. These are the three most commonly performed phone tasks while driving and while CarPlay doesn't disappoint, Siri, which is the soul of the system is still evolving (keeping in context the India experience).

Siri has received support for Indian English voice recognition with the recent iOS update and is much better at understanding and executing commands. However, support for Indian names is still tricky and command execution is delayed due to slow connections. Until these issues are ironed out, we'd recommend waiting if you're planning to upgrade your existing system. If you're in the market for a new system (and an iPhone loyalist), the Pioneer AVIC - F970BT is a great option if you can do with the reflective screen. 

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