Kenwood reveals two new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible models at CES 2015 – DDX9902s and DDX9702s
My first stop at CES 2015 was over at the Kenwood booth in the North Hall and my timing couldn’t have been better. I wandered into the unattended room which was displaying the DDX9902s and DDX9702s, Kenwood’s new Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible models. I would later find out this room was normally closed off to attendees and only accessible via supervised demonstration by appointment. Luckily I snuck in before their first appointment of the day and I was able to sit in on the demonstration and ask questions.
Kenwood has two versions of this stereo. The regular Kenwood model is the DDX9702s and the Kenwood eXcelon model is the DDX9902s. The stereo menu and user interface is essentially the same as last year’s DDX8901. I was concerned about processing speed as it was always lagging a bit on the DDX8901, Kenwood was unsure at this time whether or not the processor has been upgraded over last year. For what it’s worth, I did not see any lag time in any operations in either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
The DDX9902s will include the standard Kenwood eXcelon 13 band EQ, digital time alignment, built in crossvers, 5 volt preouts, high quality digital to analog convertor. The regular Kenwood version, the DDX9702s will still have 4 volt preouts and most likely come with a more basic EQ like what we saw in last year’s DDX771. The exact details of the EQ are still to be determined.
You have to keep in mind, these models are prototypes. Often what vendors display at CES are products they are still developing that are about to go into production. Because these products are still being developed and they are not finished samples off the production line, there were some questions I had that were left with open ended answers and flat out, “We don’t know yet” responses.
Here is what I do know about the DDX9902s and DDX9702s
- Compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but not at the same time.
- Both models include a separate GPS antenna designed to work with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto devices. The stereo takes information from both the external GPS antenna and the information from the phone for the best GPS coverage.
- When using Android Auto – the phone is locked, everything must be accessed from the stereo (not the same for Apple CarPlay).
- You can access music from other sources such as HD Radio or SiriusXM while accessing Google Maps from Android Auto or Apple Maps from CarPlay. The audio prompts from the navigation are overlaid and reduce volume on whatever media source is playing.
- Android Auto relays traffic information when using Google Maps app.
- There is no on screen phonebook access – Android Auto really wants drivers to rely on Google Voice and this feature encourages them to keep their eyes on the road.
- Connection for Android Auto through USB to micro.
- Connection for CarPlay through USB to lightning.
- Probably will have two USB ports, but not positive at this time.
- Will have HDMI input and can use new optional Miracast adapter KCA-WL100 to wirelessly mirror audio and video from phone (kind of like Airplay from Apple)
- Will support iDatalink Maestro integration
- Samsung phones will still most likely need a tip adapter.
- Android Auto requires Lollipop 5.0 or higher.
- You still can’t have more than two phones paired at the same time for BOTH handsfree and audio – you can have one paired for music and one paired for phone calls, but that’s it.
- Estimated release date May 2015
Whether you’re using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, there is a huge push by developers to get drivers to rely on their smartphone’s voice control. Android Auto’s voice control function was impressive. Not only can you tell it what artist to play, but you can tell it which app to use to do so. In all verbal test commands, Android Auto obliged. See image below, this is from the command “Play artist Maroon 5 on Spotify”. It was spot on (LOL – I couldn’t resist).
What we don’t know and won’t know until we try it
I have concerns about Samsung devices running Android Auto. I have seen charging issues with the more popular Samsung devices such as the Galaxy S4, S5, and Note 3 running through a USB to micro while running navigation apps, music apps, making and receiving phone calls and received social media and email alerts. Usually the charge supplied by standard car stereo USB (like Pioneer, Kenwood or Sony) is usually not enough to keep up with the phone. Kenwood’s technical rep stated that charging is .5 amp on their USB while their white display board shows 1 amp charging.
Kenwood was running their Android Auto display with a Nexus phone and the stereo alone was maintaining the phone’s battery over the course of CES 2015. When asked about what we could expect to see with the more popular Samsung devices, their guess was as good as mine. It hasn’t been tested, so they simply don’t know at this point nor do they have plans to test every Android phone model and relay to consumers the efficiency or lack of efficiency a particular phone has.
It amazes me how car stereo is really moving into sort of a software and hardware industry. Kenwood has built Android Auto compatibility and hardware into their products and cell phone manufacturers build phones that support Android operating systems. Cell phone manufacturers still build their own cell phones. Some cell phones charge more efficiently than others. The stereo is just a portal at this point so we really don’t know how any one particular phone will respond until we try it.
Other new Kenwood models revealed at CES 2015
Aside from the DDX9902s and DDX9702s, Kenwood revealed an overwhelming amount of new stereo models, many that look a lot like last year’s models with subtle differences. One model worth mentioning is their new flip out 7″ touch screen model, the KVT-7012BT. Kenwood had discontinued their flip out style touch screen a couple years ago, but have brought back an option for those limited to a single din stereo opening.
The new Kenwood flip out DVD features:
- Three 5 volt preouts
- Bluetooth for handsfree and audio streaming
- 5 Band EQ
- Pandora, iHeart and Aupeo compatibility
- Waze compatibility – I’ll believe it when I see it. They did this last year – slapped a label on a product and then legitimized it by saying, well technically using an iPod 30 pin adapter to audio and video into the Kenwood’s A/V in you could mirror Waze on screen. The only Waze control I saw over at the Kenwood booth was on the JVC side and I wasn’t impressed. It was very laggy, unresponsive – it just didn’t work well. I did not see a Kenwood radio with this function set up for demo, but it’s possible I just missed it.
New Navigation Models
And after browsing through the menus and sources of these new Kenwood models they appeared to be exactly like their predecessors. Even their responsiveness which was a bit disappointing. I was hoping Kenwood had improved the processing speed in these models, but it really seemed exactly like last year’s models. Interestingly, their non navigation models did appear a LOT faster in processing.
I inquired if the Bluetooth handsfree profile had been upgraded over last year’s version as bluetooth handsfree sound quality has always been an issue for my customers on their non navigation and non eXcelon double din touch screen head units. I was told that it had not been upgraded. So even though processing has been upgraded and responsiveness has improved, handsfree call quality could still be an issue on Kenwood’s DDX372BT, DDX392, DDX492 and DDX672BH.
New single din Kenwood Excelon models
Kenwood introduced 3 new single din head unit models, the KDC-X399, KDC-X599 and KDC-X799 and they carried over two models from last year (the KDC-X898 and KDC-X998). The KDC-X399, KDC-X599 and KDC-X799 essentially look the same and have very similar features and a few subtle differences. Pictured below is the KDC-X599.
- AM/FM CD Player (open CD slot – no dust cover)
- Front USB/AUX
- Three 4 volt preouts
- 5 band EQ
- High pass and low pass filter starting at 100 Hz (kind of high I think)
- Variable color illumination
- Pandora compatible
- iHeart Radio compatible
- Adds dust cover
- Adds Bluetooth Audio and Handsfree Calling
- Adds SiriusXM Ready (requires SXV300 tuner)
- Adds HD Radio
Conclusion CES 2015 at the Kenwood booth
By far the most exciting additions to Kenwood’s line this year will be the DDX9902s and DDX9702s featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. However, we will have to be patient and wait another 5 months or so until they actually begin to ship. Estimated retail price on these models will be $700.