The Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5 may finally force the car audio industry into the digital age by creating a new class of in-dash products that use HDMI connections.
If Apple provides its licensees information on the iPhone 5’s new digital video format soon, it may lead to a new high end for car audio of iPhone 5-ready head units. The earliest we might see these would be at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, or several months later, said suppliers.
The radios would likely cost at least $100 more to end users, by one estimate, to pay for new circuitry and an HDMI connector.
Pioneer Director of Marketing for Car Electronics Ted Cardenas explained that with new iPhone 5 video-ready head units, “There will be a cost associated with adapting to the technology. You will see in 2013 a variety of products that support this. ” He confirmed it’s possible the products could appear at CES, but this would be the very earliest.
If these new radios also include HD screens, the cost to the consumer could go up even higher.
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Because the iPhone 5 has a new digital video output, car radio makers are waiting on Apple to outline the specifications of drawing video out of the phone. Such specifications include format, resolution and Digital Rights Management (DRM).
Some industry members believe Apple will provide special HDMI and VGA connectors that will allow the iPhone 5 to send video to many existing TVs and other products. But 95 percent of car radios use a composite video connection, and many say it’s unlikely that Apple will release a composite video adapter. So car audio suppliers may need to retool products to make them iPhone 5-video ready.
JVC Mobile, like other suppliers is waiting on Apple. GM of Marketing Chad Vogelsong said, “Everyone out there is in the same boat. If Apple does supply some information…and it requires our engineers to go in with more circuitry or code, yes, I’m sure there will be price premium. It’s all part of the engineering.”
But he noted, “If it’s a $30 adapter, then nothing changes. But no one knows.”
But maybe the iPhone 5 shift to all digital video will serve as a wakeup call to the car audio industry that it’s time to offer the same class of connections used in smartphones and TVs if it wants to avoid compatibility issues down the road.
Audiovox by DICE closely follows Apple technology issues. Executive VP Steve Witt says the smartphone is really dictating what kind of hardware you need. “In North America, we’re up to around 57 or 58 percent penetration for smartphones. So we’ve reached a tipping point. More than 50 percent of the market is now carrying a smartphone. Once you reach a tipping point in any market, everything begins to shift.”
He adds, “Automotive is not living in a world by itself.”
Sony didn’t want to comment specifically on the matter but said, “We realize the importance of HDMI for car stereo,” according to Yusuke Sakuraba, Product Manager for Mobile Electronics.