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Clarion’s NextGate: The In-Vehicle iPhone Solution

Sections: Aftermarket, Car Audio, Infotainment, Navigation, Telematics

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After the explosion of the iPhone’s popularity, there have been a number of ways to try and get the functionality of the iPhone to work with your car.  But perhaps the most comprehensive add-on for your current vehicle is from Clarion.

In order to keep it simple, Clarion has come up with the NextGATE in-vehicle iPhone controller.  This is the gateway for Clarion’s Smart Access Cloud Telematics Service.  It bridges the gap from the typical person who wants more than a phone mount but not go all-out for an all-out solution such as an iPad Mini or Pioneer AppRadio in the dash.  You know- most of us!  In fact, it really is better than an iPad Mini because of cloud connectivity, and safety is not an afterthought.

According to Frank Pierce, Vice President of Clarion “The introduction of these exclusive apps displays Clarion’s dedication to further enhancing the capability of this revolutionary in-vehicle device.  We are committed to launching numerous apps near-term to expand functionality, making the user experience in the vehicle seamless and more convenient to keep the focus on driving.”  Although the unit could be installed by the end user, the smart user will get a professional installation by a certified installation technician.   We all hate any type of installation that takes up a precious cigarette lighter socket.  Or necessitates that goofy-looking splitter adaptor.

I had the opportunity to ride around with the NextGate hooked up to my ye olde iPhone 4.  About the only annoyance you will have is hooking up to the Apple connector when you enter the vehicle (don’t you wish everything worked like A2DP so you could leave your device in your pocket?).  Then it is just a matter of downloading the Clarion Smart Access app and you have the convenience of using the NextGATE’s 7” touchscreen rather than looking at the untethered phone and plowing into oncoming traffic.  The voice recognition system, powered by Vlingo, works well and finally allows textaholics to text while driving safely.  Facebook and Twitter apps are also available for those customer who are jonesing their social media fix.

One very cool app for the performance-minded customer is the DashCommand App- it allows users to receive real-time feedback on vehicle performance including fuel economy, horsepower and torque, g-force measurements, and even can be used as a scan tool to read and clear OBD-II trouble codes that trigger the ‘check engine’ light.  The additional hardware runs $189 MSRP, but it opens up the NextGATE as an entire auxiliary gauge cluster for newer vehicles.  Without the hassle of trying to reinvent the wheel by hooking up thousands of connections to an auxiliary AutoMeter array.

The unit can be installed with a windshield mount that is well engineered, but smart customers will seek out creative installers that can figure out a way to permanently mount the unit without doing too much permanent cosmetic screw hole damage.  I liked this way to fly- you have the ability to tap into all of the capabilities of your iPhone with good fidelity using an AUX in.  But you still can use your factory volume knob, steering wheel controls, and avoid a lot of the headaches of going ‘All-In.’

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