Links Harvested On May 29th, 2015

The Quirks of Apple CarPlay and the Pioneer AVH-NEX4000 Head Unit

I’ve recently gone from working mostly out of my house to working daily at an office anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour away depending on traffic. Shortly after that transition, I decided to upgrade my in-car experience. I’m a huge Sirius/XM fan, and a Waze user, a needer of bluetooth, and an Apple user, and I also figured it was time to see what Apple CarPlay was all about. After a bunch of research, it looked like no one really handles Waze integration well yet. There are middleware platforms that will display it on your head unit but not let you control it, and that sucks. Pioneer has a car app experience (AppRadio) that includes Waze, but everything I read about it says it’s laggy and buggy enough to be unfun and, again, you’re not entirely controlling it from the head unit. So I figured I’d do pass-through audio on the Waze and go with what looked like the best CarPlay head unit for my price range – the Pioneer AVH-NEX4000. I’ve been using it for several months now, and given the current state of the industry I’m happy with it on balance. But I’m ready to start rounding up my observations on its quirks, whether they’re specific to CarPlay or just to the Pioneer tech. This will be fun to read in a couple of years, I hope, after CarPlay becomes a much more supported and evolved platform.

  • Unintentional source switching: The scenario is that I have my iPhone connected via CarPlay, and for whatever reason decide to look at Facebook on my phone. Well any time I switch the phone to an app that the head unit probably interprets as having audio, the head unit switches out of whatever it’s doing (playing Sirius XM, for example) and goes in to iPhone audio mode. This immediately takes me out of whatever I’m enjoying and harshes the multitasking mellow. What’s more, sometimes it happens without actually switching the source control on the head unit, so it says “Sirius XM” but no sound is coming out. When that happens I have to manually switch to some other input source and then switch back.
  • Using Waze with audio alerts kills the ability to do anything else simultaneously: Similar problem to the above, but not identical. If I choose to use Waze on my phone and have the audio come through the system via Bluetooth, any time an audio alert or direction comes through, it immediately switches the head unit away from Sirius XM, the FM tuner, or the DVD player in to Bluetooth audio mode. This makes it impossible to use navigation and listen to music, reasonably, at the same time. And that’s not cool, especially when I have Vlade Divac chosen in Waze so his droll voice kills my music.
  • Relative and absolute volume quirks: This probably isn’t all that specific to this head unit – it’s a real UX challenge. Audio levels for the various sources is controlled in a nested menu as increased or decreased relative to the level of the terrestrial radio receiver. So if I want the Sirius to be “louder,” in this menu I dial it up +2 over the loudness of the radio, and that’s how it’s expressed, as a relative number like “+2” or “-1.” Now when I’m in any particular input source, it has its own audio level control, but there’s no global audio control, so I’m constantly fiddling with levels, especially as I go from city to highway and then pull in to work. I’ve developed a tic where every time I exit the car, I dial down the audio level significantly to make sure my ears aren’t blasted out next time I get in.
  • Apple Maps Fights Your Rerouting: This one is specific to Apple Maps, not CarPlay or Pioneer. It seems like Apple Maps is really stubborn about its chosen route, and will often fight hard to continue to route me back “on track” even though I’m obviously making progress towards my destination and have chosen to go a different way. Since car nav is completely impressive and awesome to me, I hesitate to say “obviously” – I have no idea how it’s obvious to the GPS in other cases – but dynamic rerouting is a feature Waze has down cold so it’s always jarring when I decide to go with the CarPlay preferred Apple Maps app and it lets me down like this.
  • No Wifi Capability, Hence No Wireless CarPlay: I guess in its most recent update Apple unlocked the ability for CarPlay to work wirelessly instead of through a lightning cable. But since the Pioneer deck doesn’t have a Wifi card (or so I’ve read) this isn’t a feature that’s now available to me. The lightning cable is not a huge deal, but that’s still a bummer.

There will be more quirk reporting as I remember/think about more quirks.

Linkblog 5-10-15

Back in the day, many of us would share slightly annotated lists of useful or thoughtful links we’d found. Then Del.icio.us came along and made a community out of that. Then Del.icio.us got swallowed up and disappeared. There were others for a while. Pinboard.in is fantastic, but deliberately not social like Delicious was. I’ve always hoped that Tumblr would evolve into something that could be a visual and persistent (and well structured) archive of finds, but that doesn’t look like it’s in the cards. The closest thing around today is Pinterest, but that’s really not about well structured archives of useful information – the ever growing Costanza wallet. So until I figure out how to get that in 2015, I’m going back to sharing lists of links with some annotation around them. If I can get this going, maybe I’ll also go back to my curated “heh” lists.

All I’ll say about the type and selection and curation sensibility here is: if you’re in to some of the same things I’m in to, professionally and personally, then you’ll find some value here from time to time.

  • Why Paying For Social Is Better Than Doing Social – A provocative take (and accompanying thought experiment) on what the social media tactical landscape looks like for brands in 2015, and why amassing organic followers by playing the day-to-day game should not be taken as the de facto baseline strategy. Here’s a healthy snippet to think about:

    For businesses that want social media clicks: At current rates, a brand that has fewer than 1 million followers on Facebook or Twitter is better off paying to promote its best content via sponsored updates than it is paying someone to post social content all day long. And it probably won’t pay off the cost of acquiring followers it already sunk, versus paying just for clicks. As organic reach continues to decline, it will soon be unprofitable for brands with more than a million followers to feed their followings.

    Nate Elliott, principal analyst at Forrester, writes:

    “It’s clear that Facebook and Twitter don’t offer the relationships that marketing leaders crave … Yet most brands still use these sites as the centerpiece of their social efforts—thereby wasting significant financial, technological, and human resources.”

  • Embracing Content, Intimacy and Collaboration – On the flipside, if feeding the daily beast and playing Facebook’s algorithm games isn’t the right approach, perhaps a better one could be thinking about the individuals and groups that matter to you and how you can earn their attention by doing things that are valuable to them.
  • Dog Trails Shoppers Around A Mall On Its Billboards, Hoping To Be Adopted – Just a major golf clap for this. It makes me happy to see simple, smart execution.
  • Machine Learning For Emoji Trends – The Instagram team devises some ways to look at the semantic patterns around Emoji.