Pioneer AppRadio 4 Hands On Review – SPH-DA120 – I present to you the good, the bad and the quirky

When the UPS man arrived today I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning.  Pioneer’s AppRadio 4 arrived at our shop today.

AppRadio4 Arrives
AppRadio4 Arrives

I have to say, this is one of the greatest perks about owning and operating a car stereo store.  Every time a new product comes out, I get to tear open the box and check out the new goodies (okay – really, it’s gently and carefully open the box – every new stereo that goes on display inevitably reaches its day when it becomes an open box demo sale and I want that box in perfect condition).

Gently Unboxing AppRadio 4
Gently unboxing Pioneer AppRadio 4

I’ve been really excited about Pioneer’s AppRadio 4 and I have to say it’s pretty much exactly what I expected it to be.  In this AppRadio 4 review, I’m going to break it down for you between the good, the bad and the down right quirky.

Pioneer AppRadio 4 Review – The Good

  • Beautiful and Vibrant Screen
  • Quite Responsive (not really any lag time between pressing a button and seeing the appropriate response)
  • 13 Band EQ
  • Digital Time Alignment
  • Highly Adjustable Built in Crossovers
  • Dual USB Ports
  • HDMI Input
  • Easy to Use
  • CarPlay Compatible (and CarPlay works pretty well!)
  • Can easily and quickly switch between NEX mode and CarPlay mode or NEX mode and AppRadio Mode depending on which set up you are using
  • GPS antenna included for continued and reliable navigation even when your cell service drops out

Pioneer AppRadio 4 Review – The Bad

  • Trouble finding compatible navigation apps with IOS8 in AppRadio Mode
  • Weird tablet like rounded corners may leave gaps in many installation applications
  • Bulky cables still required for AppRadio Mode for iPhone 5 and up
  • Can’t easily switch between CarPlay and AppRadio Mode in iPhone 5 and up
  • Still not sure Capacitive is the way to go in a car due to glare – you can see me and my showroom reflected in many pictures on this post

Pioneer AppRadio 4 Review – The Quirky

  • Pandora will not play in CarPlay Mode unless you trick it in to doing so
  • Pandora will not play when in AppRadio Mode (Pioneer tech was unaware of this issue until I called them – sounds like something that might be resolved)
  • Keyboard a little quirky in CarPlay Mode
  • Issues with listed compatible navigation app crashing in AppRadio Mode
  • If timing not perfect when launching AppRadio Mode, you may have to close the AppRadio App on the phone, then re-open it in order to effectively launch AppRadio Mode
  • Still a lot of interacting with my phone to get interface working for either CarPlay or AppRadio Mode

In Depth Pioneer AppRadio 4 Review – The good

Sound quality and audio control has improved greatly in AppRadio 4 over previous AppRadio models

Pioneer has really stepped it up this year in their whole line of NEX style units and the AppRadio 4 is no exception.  Built on the same NEX platform as their double din navigation models, AppRadio 4 users can expect to find a familiar user friendly layout, ultra responsive touch screen and customizable display along with a variety of equalization features.

AppRadio 4 Review - NEX side
AppRadio 4 Review – NEX side

The equalization features and 4 volt pre amp in the AppRadio 4 are features I welcome with open arms.  These audio tools are features that greatly influenced my opinion of this stereo.  In the past, all previous AppRadio stereos were not the kind of stereos you’d want to build a car audio system with.  They all had a basic 2 volt pre-amp, flat/tinny DAC with basic equalization features.  You couldn’t build a high fidelity audio system with previous versions of the AppRadio.  With the new AppRadio 4, we finally have a chance!  You no longer have to sacrifice sound quality for App integration features.

AppRadio 4 Review - Adjusting Crossovers
AppRadio 4 Review – Adjusting Crossovers

Equalization tools include a 13 band EQ, Digital time alignment and highly adjustable crossovers – which I might add are all easily accessible from the audio menu and just as easy to adjust.  If these precision audio tools are beyond your scope of expertise, Pioneer still has their built in EQ with preset equalization options as well as preset listening positions for basic time alignment.

AppRadio 4 Review - Adjusting 13 Band EQ
AppRadio 4 Review – Adjusting 13 Band EQ

Awesome picture quality

The capacitive touch screen is sharp, vibrant and down right eye catching.  The colors are piercing compared to your typical resistive touch screen, yet I still have reservations and concern over possible glare issues in the vehicle.

You may notice the background glare from my showroom displays behind me in several of the pics in this post – or, if the lighting is right, you may simply be distracted by the stunning vibrancy and sharpness of the AppRadio 4 screen.  Check it out — that’s just a You Tube video.

AppRadio 4 Review - Vibrant Display
AppRadio 4 Review – Vibrant Display – from a You Tube video

Using a lightning to digital adapter and USB to lightning cable I can connect my iPhone 6 and select HDMI input as my source.  This allows me to view and hear any audio and video from my iPhone on the AppRadio 4 screen.

CarPlay works great with the AppRadio 4

AppRadio 4 Review - CarPlay - Siri in Action
AppRadio 4 Review – CarPlay – Siri in Action

Let’s talk about CarPlay.  CarPlay is pretty impressive technology and it works quite well in the AppRadio 4.  Using the navigation app, Siri will ask me where I want to go.  I don’t have to talk to Siri if I don’t want to.  There is a keyboard in the upper left hand corner, but Siri seems to understand me pretty well and quickly finds my desired destination.

AppRadio 4 Review - CarPlay - Navigation in Action
AppRadio 4 Review – CarPlay – Navigation in Action

I honestly don’t know what people have against the Apple navigation app.  Granted, I would prefer to use Waze, but Waze doesn’t really work at the moment.  In all my attempts to use the Apple Maps app, it worked quite well!  Maybe Siri just understands my voice better than others?  Or maybe I haven’t given it a difficult destination (whatever that is).  I’m not sure why people seem to dislike this app so much, but they do.  However with the AppRadio 4, running CarPlay, it seems to work quite well.

AppRadio 4 Review - CarPlay - Navigation Map
AppRadio 4 Review – CarPlay – Navigation Map

Despite only having 2 bars of service in my location at our showroom, the navigation app picked up our location accurately.

AppRadio 4 Review - CarPlay - Text Message
AppRadio 4 Review – CarPlay – Text Message

Apple CarPlay let me know I had a text message from my better half, whom I lovingly refer to as Wooshie.  Check it out, it even shows the little thumbnail picture of my Wooshie!

AppRadio 4 Review - CarPlay - Responding to Text Message
AppRadio 4 Review – CarPlay – Responding to Text Message

Siri then gave me the opportunity to reply.  She listened first and then steadfastly dictated my message back.  She had it correct on the first try – Send.  Success!  Too bad it isn’t all success and glory for the AppRadio 4.

In Depth Pioneer AppRadio 4 Review – The bad

I love Waze and I always loved that Waze worked with AppRadio Mode.  Too bad it doesn’t work with IOS8 and AppRadio 4.

AppRadio4 Review - IOS8 Quirks Waze
AppRadio4 Review – IOS8 Quirks Waze

Yeah, the phone is in the right orientation too.  It just doesn’t work right and Pioneer admits right on their website  there are a whole host of apps with issues since IOS8 has been released.

I decided to try one of the apps that was not on the list of known incompatibility since release of IOS8, Navfree GPS LIve, but it crashes as soon as the keyboard tries to load.  And I didn’t feel like plunking down $25 to try iGo GPS at the moment, but I may give it a shot and see how it behaves.  As of this writing, the only functioning GPS app I could use was through CarPlay – nothing through AppRadio Mode which I think it the main reason people want to buy the AppRadio 4 in the first place.

Update – 10/30/14 – I talked to Pioneer tech support and they unfortunately have no ETA on a fix as it seems to be an issue with IOS8 and keyboard interfacing.  Problems seem to occur with any app in app radio mode when using the in-app keyboard with iPhone.  Unfortunately the newest update from Apple (IOS8.1) did not have any improvement or effect on this issue.

You can’t have it all – it’s AppRadio Mode or CarPlay

The other thing to note is there is no easy/simple way to switch between AppRadio Mode and CarPlay.  When I show this radio to customers, I am going to encourage them to use one mode and stick to it.  To use AppRadio Mode you need a CD-IH202, an Apple Lightning to Digital Adapter and a Lightning to USB Cable.

AppRadio4 - iPhone 5/6
AppRadio4 – iPhone 5/6

The Lightning to USB Cable plugs into USB 1 and then to the Lightning to Digital adapter.  You also connect an HDMI cable from the back of the radio to the Lightning to Digital adapter.  To use AppRadio Mode, you are really connecting your phone to the pigtail of the Lightning to Digital Adapter.  You also need to tell the radio what kind of SmartPhone set up you are using.  When you use Lightning to Digital A/V for AppRadio Mode, you cannot use CarPlay.

To quickly switch over to CarPlay you have to disconnect the lighting to USB cable on the Lightning Digital A/V adapter, connect that USB to lightning directly to your phone, then go into the menu and turn on CarPlay and change your smart phone settings.

It’s doable, but not doable when you’re driving.  I should say it’s not safe to try and do while you’re driving.  Please don’t try that while you’re driving.

The other major drawback I see about this unit is it’s slightly rounded corners.  Granted this design helps give the impression there’s truly a tablet in your car dash, it’s simply not practical.  The rest of the chassis is standard double din and should mount no problem in most standard double din installation kits.  The issue is the slight and tiny gap you will see at each of the rounded corners.  This will take a bit of creativity to make it less noticeable and this extra installation step is somewhat irritating to me.

Pioneer AppRadio 4 Review – In depth – The quirky

Pandora doesn’t work in AppRadio Mode – although it looks like it should

There is a quirk with Pandora and I decided to call Pioneer tech support to see if it was me, a known issue or something else altogether.  Apparently I was the first person to bring this to their attention.

AppRadio 4 Review - Pandora Quirk
AppRadio 4 Review – Pandora Quirk

I had been playing Pandora on the NEX side of the head unit and decided to switch over to the AppRadio Mode.  I noticed the audio from Pandora dropped out as soon as I switched over to the AppRadio Mode.  Interestingly, there is a lower tab on the AppRadio Mode screen which displays what I was listening to on Pandora before switching over to AppRadio Mode.  Yet there is no audio on Pandora unless I switch back over to the NEX side.

It appears the mere act of switching over to AppRadio Mode disables or pauses Pandora.  Tech support was surprised to hear of the issue and slightly concerned.  They advised me they were going to call me back in a few hours after they had an AppRadio 4 set up in their department.  Sure enough several hours later I received a call from tech support confirming they had the same issue and they were unaware of the problem.  They informed me they would be contacting Pioneer’s engineers in Japan to see what they can do.

That would be a bummer if you couldn’t use Pandora and use a functioning/compatible GPS app at the same time in AppRadio Mode.  It appears Pandora is a separate source at the moment which can only be operated from the NEX side of things.

AppRadio 4 Review - Pandora works on NEX side
AppRadio 4 Review – Pandora works on NEX side

I like Pandora, I use it all the time.  I was able to get Pandora to work in CarPlay, but only by tricking it.  If I started off with Pandora as my source and switched over to CarPlay, Pandora actually continued to play while in CarPlay mode.

AppRadio 4 Review - Tricking Pandora to Work on CarPlay
AppRadio 4 Review – Tricking Pandora to Work on CarPlay

Update – 10/30/14 – I spoke with Pioneer tech support and there is a work around for this glitch.  If you start Pandora up on the NEX side, then switch to App Radio Mode, then skip a track forward, Pandora will resume playing in App Radio Mode.  They are working on a fix for this issue.  Note – this only appears to be an issue with iPhone.  Worked fine with a Samsung Galaxy S4.

Don’t be afraid to close the app and relaunch if it doesn’t work the 1st time

AppRadio Mode is not perfect and on several occasions the Pioneer AppRadio 4 would ask me to launch the AppRadio App from my phone, even though it was already launched.  This resulted in me having to close the app and relaunch it to get the two to sync up.  Again, not the safest thing to be playing around with while you’re driving.

CarPlay has it’s own quirks too – just not as quirky as AppRadio Mode

Ultimately I think the CarPlay integration is working far better than AppRadio Mode.  Even still, there is a slight quirk in the keyboard in CarPlay.

AppRadio 4 Review - CarPlay Keyboard Quirk
Why not make it full size to begin with?

For whatever reason, when first launched, the keyboard comes up all tiny like this.  You have to press the arrow on the lower left corner to enlarge it.  That’s weird, why not just default to the larger keyboard?

AppRadio 4 Review - CarPlay Keyboard
AppRadio 4 Review – CarPlay Keyboard

AppRadio 4 Review – Conclusion

Quirks and all, I do like this latest AppRadio 4 the best out of all of Pioneer’s AppRadio models.  The SPH-DA120 has flexibility in its application, ease of use, CarPlay integration, high voltage preouts, quality equalization tools and a striking screen touch screen display.

I do think the AppRadio 4 has more promise as a CarPlay stereo, than an AppRadio stereo.  If these IOS8 incompatibility issues and other quirks are worked out anytime soon, I may change my opinion, but as of right now, I think this is an awesome double din head unit for anyone interested in adding Apple CarPlay to their vehicle.

I have yet to test this radio with a compatible Android phone.  It seems every customer interested in this model has a newer Samsung (like a Samsung Galaxy Note 3) with the latest firmware version 4.4.2 (understandable) – Yet AppRadio mode is only listed as being compatible with most Samsung phones running software version 4.2.2.  I’ve actually tried AppRadio Mode with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in an AVIC-7000NEX running Android 4.4.2 and it worked, but not on most apps.  Anything other than the contacts app ran with lots of glitches and picture cutting in and out.

I am sending an email over to Pioneer tech support this weekend to follow up on the Pandora issue and to see if they have any word on Waze compatibility with iPhone IOS8 as well as Waze compatibility with Android 4.4.2 in a Note 3.  I will update this post as more information becomes available. Hopefully I’ll hear back early next week.

UPDATE – 10/30/14 – I did have a chance to test this with a Samsung Galaxy S4 and confirmed compatibility with a Samsung Note 3, both running 4.4.2.  Pioneer advised me to change a setting in the Developer Options on the phone.  In that Developer Options menu, I had to check the box to “Turn off Hardware Overlays”.  To my delight, it loaded up the app on the first try!

Pioneer AppRadio 4 Review Samsung Galaxy S4
Pioneer AppRadio 4 Review Samsung Galaxy S4

Additionally, I found that the AppRadio 4 did not have any glitches running Pandora with the Samsung Galaxy S4.  I could start Pandora in the NEX side, switch over to App Radio Mode and Pandora would momentarily pause then start right back up without me having to touch anything.  

Pioneer AppRadio 4 Review Waze Samsung Galaxy S4
Pioneer AppRadio 4 Review Waze Samsung Galaxy S4

Although Pandora remained playing even after I launched Waze, there was no information regarding what was playing on the lower bar of the screen.  With the iPhone running App Radio Mode and Waze, I did at least have this information (although Waze didn’t work properly – you can’t have it all with AppRadio 4).

AppRadio 4 Review Samsung S4 iHeart Radio
AppRadio 4 Review Samsung S4 iHeart Radio

I was also happy to see iHeartRadio working pretty seamlessly with the Samsung S4.  This is a great app for people that enjoy listening to local and national radio stations, static free.  Very cool stuff.

With all the software limitations running 3rd party apps through AppRadio Mode there is no guarantee – even if you have a phone that is compatible and working that at the moment – that it won’t become incompatible through software updates.  That’s the frustrating part about AppRadio Mode and that’s why see I the AppRadio 4 more as a CarPlay stereo than an AppRadio stereo.

If you have an iPhone 5 and up and plan on using this stereo for its CarPlay integration features, but also like the idea of being able to mirror video from time to time through HDMI – then this is probably a good option for you.  If you really wanted to take advantage of apps like Waze, you may be disappointed with this stereo due to software limitations and various compatibility issues from phone to phone and operating system to operating system.

In conclusion, I think the AppRadio 4 offers a lot of features for iPhone users interested in CarPlay integration.  For Android users, it really depends on which Android device you have and what software you are running.  If you can confirm compatibility with your device, AppRadio 4 may be a great option for Android users.  Overall, dollar for dollar, I think the AppRadio 4 is a better value over Alpine’s iLX-007.

What do the readers think?





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  1. Hi there. You wrote about “weird tablet like rounded corners may leave gaps in many installation applications”. I’m here to report that in my installation this actually is a feature not a bug. The radio looks like an iPad embedded in the dash. I had it professionally installed and I don’t know how much trouble it was for them, but it certainly came out looking good, absolutely OEM, with no gaps to be seen.

    • Hi John, yeah it’s different from car to car – in fact I found the App Radio 4 looks phenomenal in 2013 – up Dodge Ram vehicles (without 8.4″ U-Connect) due to the rounded dash installation kit.

  2. Hi Annie, excellent page! When I connect my iphone 6s to the unit via lightning cable the Pioneer displays ipod1 as being connected. Should it say iphone?

    • Hi Ian,
      No, iPod one is what it will display for USB1, but it should also display CarPlay in the top left corner of the screen. There are basically two ways to view music you have stored on the iPhone so you can either control it through the Pioneer USB1 iPod interface or through the Apple CarPlay short cut.

  3. It’s good to hear it’s still working out for you in 2016. I found one of these decks for around $300 and was looking for recent commentary. The price cut means Appradio 5 is near, in my mind, but I haven’t been able to find much info on that. Also Pioneer hasn’t updated Appradio 4 since 2014. I’m wondering if Waze and other Appradio apps will work fine on this deck now. Waze and Escort Live are pretty indispensable at this point.

    Also, since CarPlay works wirelessly (since iOS9) – it’d be nice to see that supported in the next version of hardware. No more of this switcheroo.

    So what do you think? Get the discounted Appradio 4, or wait?

    • Hi Chris,
      I have a couple customers in the same boat. The rumor is the App Radio 5 will add SiriusXM capability and iDatalink Maestro steering wheel control ability, but that is just a rumor at this point. I imagine since it’s already getting late in the year that we’ll see the App Radio 5 debut at CES 2017. I don’t think we will see Waze integrated through CarPlay since Google owns them unless Apple is willing to pony up and pay some licensing fees, they want their customers using Apple Maps.

      As far as “App Radio Mode” goes, Pioneer’s app interfacing, I would expect that to be pretty much abandoned at this point thanks to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Both of those interfaces are accomplishing what Pioneer was trying to do and they’re doing a good job at it. I think it was really difficult for Pioneer’s engineers (just a small, but talented team) to keep up with the various phones on the market and the fast pace of operating system updates. So I don’t *think* we’ll see anything new there, but who knows.

      There used to be a page on Pioneer’s website where you could read the fine print to see exactly which phones and which operating systems were compatible, but I can’t even find it any more as a feature when you actually go to the overview product page. I just tried it with my iPhone 6 running ios10 and can’t get App Radio Mode to pop up. Before I updated it, I could at least get App Radio Mode to be recognized on the stereo, but I didn’t have any apps that were controllable from the screen (I have Waze on my phone for example, but that was not accessible through App Radio Mode).

      I have not heard of any aftermarket companies yet with wireless CarPlay, maybe we’ll see something at CES 2017?

  4. Hi Annie, Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Your reviews are excellent! My question today is, whats your opinion of this head unit now that Pioneer has fixed some of the bugs? Would you recommend it over the 4200NEX? Retailers in the U.S. have dropped the price of AppRadio 4 down to approx. $328 after a $100 dollar Pioneer rebate. Since i’m not a fan of CD/DVDs anymore i’m struggling to find a reason to go with the 4200 UNLESS the AppRadio is still buggy with older tech. Are the new features in the 4200NEX worth the upgrade?

    • Hi Duncan, I still sell quite a few of the AppRadio 4’s – it has the better glass capacitive touch screen and I really haven’t had any bugs with it, I use it nearly every day to play my iPhone 6. Using CarPlay, Bluetooth audio or HDMI input etc. has been fine. It’s not something I’d recommend for trying to do the old Pioneer App Radio mode with either an Apple or Android device. If you’re an iPhone user, the only reason to step up the 4200NEX is for the CD/DVD player, the HD radio, the SiriusXM capability or the detachable face feature. Also the 4200NEX is Android Auto compatible so a lot of customers like that for keeping their options open. But if you’re a loyal iPhone user, don’t care of HD or SiriusXM and don’t need a detachable face, I think the AppRadio 4 is a great option still.

  5. Hi I’m thinking about getting the app radio this week. I bought the kenwood ddx6902s but the screen is hard to see in the sun and has glare. It uses TFT. Do you think the app radio 4 is very hard to see in the sun? Also did the firmware update from dec 2015 resolve some of the buggy issues since 2014? I read some old reviews that it freezes up a lot.

    • Hi Mark,
      I haven’t had any freezing or bugging out – I use this radio all day long with my phone connected. The only time it’s ever bugged out it’s been an Apple issue and their last update seemed to fix that (bugged out on all CarPlay decks). And yes this model is much brighter and easier to see than the DDX6902s. That was just a poor screen from Kenwood, very washed out compared to even a regular resistive touch screen from Pioneer for example. You could REALLY see it on my display board I had the DDX9902s and the App Radio 4 side by side, it just looked washed out.

      • I ended up returning the Kenwood and bought the Pioneer and you’re right it is much brighter and easier to see. So far it hasn’t had any issues. Having to use the HDMI adapter to use App Radio mode is sort of odd. I’m wondering if installing better speakers without adding an additional amp will make any noticeable difference compared to factory speakers.

  6. You mentioned the brightness can be adjusted and it can, but mine only in Pioneer app mode. When in CarPlay mode the brightness doesn’t change for me – is this normal? It does dim with the headlights though.

    • Huh – I never noticed that. Perhaps Apple has that feature fixed. So you’re saying you can adjust the brightness in the Pioneer settings, but it doesn’t seem to have any effect over the CarPlay screen? But the CarPlay screen does dim when you turn the headlights on? Weird. It’s probably normal Apple is so freaking proprietary I wouldn’t doubt it.

  7. Hi again Annie,
    I can barely believe almost a year has gone since I had this unit installed (and last contacted you).

    Anyway, as an update, the unit has continued to perform excellently from an audio perspective, I had a blip with CarPlay for about 3-6 months where the Contacts crashed every time it was launched in iOS 9.2x, but todays 9.3 update has fixed that – thank the lord!

    OK, so one other little glitch you may be able to shed some light on for me, the hands free mic. Since I bought the unit, it’s always been clear that people are struggling to hear me, so I raise my voice. However, last week having got board with this, I called myself and left a voicemail message and now I understand; it’s not the volume but the quality of the sound. It’s scratchy and fades in and out.

    The mic is positioned facing me and above the rear view mirror, I can’t think of a better place for it really, is there anything you can suggest I might be able to do to resolve this issue?

    Btw, the issue is the same using both CarPlay or Bluetooth connectivity.


    • Hi Andrew – in general I have to turn the mic gain DOWN with iPhones and Pioneer’s. I think default setting is 2 out of 3 and I always have to set at 1 otherwise it picks up a lot of background noise. Keep in mind this can only be adjusted when you’re in a call using Bluetooth, not Apple CarPlay. It’s just to the right of the answer/hang up icon when you’re engaged in a call.

      Secondly – near the rear view is okay for some cars, but it can also pick up a lot of wind noise so lately we’ve been trying to get the mic closer to the driver and off the windshield or a pillar area. Depending on the car, you may have a seam between the radio and dash that’s close to you or on top of the plastic cowl that goes over the steering wheel cover column area or even near the instrument cluster/gauges. I hope that helps!

  8. Hello Annie,

    So my question is that if I have an iPhone 6s with the Lifeproof fre power case on it, which is charged via a micro usb USB cable, can I connect to this stereo and use Carplay? What about other stereos for Carplay? It’s hard to find which ones require a connection using the lightning cable and which ones would work with a micro USB for Carplay. Obviously, I don’t want to have to take my phone out of the case each time I want to use Carplay. Thank you for your help!


    • Hey Jason, I don’t think any of them will work through the micro USB, but I’ve honestly never tried it. I’m just assuming it wouldn’t function through the charging case since Apple is so freaking proprietary with their stuff and unfortunately the opportunity to test one has never come my way. Try to find a shop near you that has a working CarPlay model on display so you can try it with your phone and case, that’s your best bet – try before you buy!

  9. HI Annie,

    Many thanks for your explanations, they are very useful! My question is if I can connect my iphone and use ohter APP like TOMTOM instead of Maps from Apple and add other aplications like Whatsapp, etc.
    Is it possible to do mirror linkg with Iphone too?

    Many thanks for your help.

    • Hi Daniel – Apple CarPlay will only support Apple Maps. Technically you could use the HDMI input and get an adapter from Apple like this called a lightning to digital A/V adapter and that will allow you to mirror the audio and video of your iPhone through the HDMI source, BUT there is no onscreen control. You have to control from your iPhone.

  10. Hey,

    Awesome review, I actually just finished installing this unit in my Jeep last night.

    Everything seems to be working fine, except I have no sound… from the radio, iphone, anything… was wondering if you could help. Thanks!

    • Hey Steve – My guess is amp turn on wire? Most Jeep’s have stock amplified systems. You may just need to use the Blue with White coming off the Pioneer to power up the stock amp. Most interface harnesses also have this wire, maybe labelled “Remote”.

  11. Hello Annie,

    First off thanks for taking all the time to post your reviews and experiences, they have helped me out a lot but I still have some questions and thought maybe you could help. I have recently purchased a Pioneer AppRadio4 for my 2004 Porsche Cayenne with the Navigation (PCM2). I have also purchased the NAV-TV as well. I was going to purchase USB and HDMI cables (for USB1) and another USB cable (for USB2) and run them to my armrest/center console, and run a rear camera since this year Cayenne did not come with one.

    I will be using 2 different phones on this: 1. Iphone 6 and 2. Samsung Galaxy Note 3

    I remember you mentioned pushing owners towards AppRadio Mode or CarPlay mode and I am leaning towards CarPlay as the iPhone will be hooked up the most.

    Here are my questions:

    1. With a standard USB and HDMI cable, am I still able to go AppRadio mode using a Apple Lightning HDMI adapter, or do I need to purchase the Pionner HDMI adapter?

    2. Is there a solution for Satellite Radio? The only solution I am up with was to put a tuner in and get it over a radio station since there isn’t a direct input to the AppRadio4, and I really don’t want to stream the SiriusXM app over my phone. What do you suggest? Could I put a separate Satellite tuner into an aux input or even one of the USBs?

    3. Using the Nav-TV, do I still need something else to install for steering wheel controls?

  12. Hey,

    Great review. I just bought this units yesterday, I have the Pioneer supplied USB cable plugged into port 1 on the back of the unit and my iPhone 6 Plus Apple Lightning cable plugged into that and the Apple Car Play works awesome. Prior to reading this article I was contemplating getting the CD-IH202 from Pioneer, but is that just a standard HDMI cable? Also, my only real gripe is that I cannot get Waze to work/display on the unit through Apple Car Play. That is my only real goal at this point. That would really top this off for me. I do have other questions, such as how to get to my camera roll, calendar and weather type of apps that are on my phone. Mabye I am not getting those due to not being in AppRadio mode? I really dont understand what you can do with App Radio mode vs not having App Radio mode.

    • App Radio Mode was Pioneer’s attempt to integrate apps and features of the phone into the stereo, but then Apple CarPlay and Android Auto came along and have done them I think a lot better, not as quirky. However, Apple CarPlay doesn’t have the ability to pull images, weather, calendar info or Waze – that would be the App Radio Mode which requires the HDMI connection and the Apple Lightning to Digital A/V adapter and then you have to change your Smartphone settings from USB to Digital A/V. So you’d have to switch your physical cable connection and switch your settings in the stereo. I have not tried App Radio Mode recently, but Pioneer did just release a new software update for the head unit a few days ago.

  13. Hi Annie!

    Great Review! I’m considering on getting this for my truck (2003 Toyota Hilux SR5). I’m wondering if the AppRadio 4 comes with a harness and if it doesn’t, what would you recommend?

    The truck currently has a single-din unit in it.



    • Hi Matt,
      The radio comes with a universal wire harness and you’ll probably want to buy the Toyota wire harness so you don’t have to cut/splice the stock wiring. If it’s like US vehicles and has the basic Toyota stereo (not premium or JBL) then you’ll probably want this harness 70-1761.

      And for mounting it you can re-use the factory Toyota brackets that are currently attached to the single din pocket and single din radio.

  14. Hi Annie,

    I’ve just purchased the Pioneer 4100nex and I am confused on whether I need to get the CD-IH202 (it’s just a USB connection on the receiving end) in order to take advantage of CarPlay. Or can I just connect my iPhone 6 into the USB port in the back?

    • Hey James – just connect your Apple lightning to USB cable to USB 1 on the head unit. Then go into settings, Smartphone settings and make sure it’s set to iPhone, USB and CarPlay is selected on. USB 2 will work with an iPod or for Android Auto connection.

  15. G’day,

    Just wondering of you’ve found out any further info with regards hearing Siri. Like Mario wrote to you previously I can hear music on the audio but no Siri and consequently no voice direction for maps.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi JJ, that’s a little different I think than what Mario was experiencing. If you’ve got audio on music, it sounds like you just need to turn up your alerts volume. When you adjust the stereo volume there is a tab on the right that says alerts. Tap that and turn the alerts volume up. The alerts volume is for text message alerts and navigation directions. Hope that helps!

  16. First, wow, thank you for such an in depth review. I have been trying to figure out how to get modern features to coincide with my interest in rather basic automobiles.

    However, the inability of this to work with Waze concerns me. Not very much, since I have somehow become a dedicated Android user, even though I have a very basic LG Optimus L90. Still, I upgraded to KitKat and I’m concerned about dropping $600 + installation on something that may not work with my phone. I also wondered if hooking my iPad 4 up and using my phone as a hot spot would be the way to go.

    I have a 2005 Nissan Altima and the aforementioned devices. Do you think this Pioneer unit is ready for prime time, should I wait a generation or two before stepping boldly into the future, or does another one of your reviews point to something more fitting for me?

    Again, wow, love your site, totally adding you to my Feedly. Have a great day!

    • Hi Hannibal, no don’t buy this stereo. You should definitely check out the Pioneer AVH-4100NEX which will do both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (most Android phones running Lollipop 5.0 and up – doesn’t work yet with Google Nexus 6). Neither one will work with Waze, but on Android Auto the traffic information is being fed to google maps from Waze. I think we will eventually see Waze integrated at some point in the future, but no idea when. That is what everyone really wants.

      The nice thing about Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is these interfaces are expanding. As more and more apps are developed and added to the platform, they simply pop up and work. This is the the future of car audio head units. I’m working on a in depth review of that model, but I honestly think it’s the best double din non navigation head unit we’ve ever had in car audio existence. I should have a post up in 2 weeks on it. If you were strictly an iPhone user, the App Radio 4 is still a nice head unit with Apple CarPlay, but very limited for Android users.

      I’m glad you enjoy the site! Thanks for the comment.

  17. great review! I’m still sorta on the fence with the appradio 4 / 4000nex or one step up from that. I’d get a slightly bigger screen, HD radio, CD/DVD, and i think SD slot also..? for a little extra seems worth it. I have a 2014 mazda CX5 and they’re notoriously bad headunits from the factory. I want to use my iPhone to navigate, music, ect of course – i’m a big user of waze, but I can manage with other working apps until it’s fixed. what about youtube / netflix / video playback? I play a lot of video on roadtrips and for my son. I’ll also take an HD movie and place it on a thumbdrive or SD card, or even convert and play through the iphone. is that an instance where HDMI is better than the lightning cable input; to play a/v phone out? Thank you again!

    • Hi John,
      Thanks I’m behind on my 2015 reviews. I would suggest the AVH-4100NEX. It’s been a very hot seller, even more responsive screen than the App Radio 4 and like the 4000, adds the CD/DVD and SD card slot. I would use your iPhone connected for CarPlay features and use an SD card for the movies. I think it’s too clumsy of an interface to get video out of the iPhone – you’d have to swap over your connections and change menu settings, to me it’s just seems like a hassle and too many cables everywhere.

      You will also need a TR7 for the video and you’ll also want to read the tech brief specific to this model. Pioneer changed something in the timing of their remote wire which can throw your standard bypass module off.

      To clarify, with iPhone 5 and up you need to use both HDMI, Lightning to USB and Apple’s ugly digital A/V adapter which I talk about somewhere in this post (sorry a bit short on time). It’s that bulky white connector. So technically you could connect for things like You Tube or Netflix through the HDMI that way, but another nicer solution would be to use the rear RCA style A/V in with one of these Miracast adapters and transmit wirelessly.

      Hoping to get my full review up in the next week or so!

      • Hey Annie. I just bought the app radio 4. I am trying to use my own images to customize the background or screensaver but it seems like it disabled and I can’t access my phone to use my images. Can you please help me out. Thanks.

      • Hey Derek,
        You’ve got to use a USB thumb drive with JPEG images for that, it can’t pull them directly off the phone via USB (would be nice if it did).

  18. Thanks Annie,

    Just looked for the TR7 unit that you recommend – in the US they are $19, same thing on Amazon here in the UK is £56.00!!
    Think I might just connect it to the handbrake switch at that price!!!
    Good to know that’s what is causing the missing functions though.

    • That’s crazy. You could probably accomplish the same thing with a basic toggle switch for the parking brake wire. Under the install guide the instructions say “Connect this lead to the power supply side of the parking brake switch to transmit the parking brake status signals to the iLX-007.” You just need to emulate what actually happens when you engage the parking brake and pretty sure you can do that with a simple toggle switch.

  19. Hi,

    I just got this unit and wondered if you could clear a couple of things up? I cannot find the keyboard you mention for inputting searches on Apple maps, Siri doesn’t seem to understand some road names. For instance if I say give me directions to Albert close, it says can’t find Albert in your contacts – or something like that??
    Also am I right in assuming the brightness levels, dimmer etc can only be set when connecting with hdmi and the Avi / lightening adapter as I can’t find these options either!!
    Thanks in advance for any help you can give 🙂

    • Hi Martin,
      The keyboard should pop up as soon as you tap the destinations tab on Apple Maps app. As far as Siri goes, well it’s still Siri – just Siri being piped through the Pioneer stereo. In my experience, even while driving in a car without bluetooth, just talking into the phone – Siri doesn’t always get it right the 1st time. If you find she normally understands you when you’re not connected via Bluetooth I would say you need to adjust the location of your microphone possibly. It could just be background road noise causing too much interference for her to understand you.

      Brightness/Contrast levels can be adjusted in the main settings menu under “picture adjustment”. Check out pages 81 & 82 of the owner’s manual. There are different settings for when the headlights are on vs headlights off (assuming your car has and you’ve connected the illumination wire). I hope that helps!

      • Hi Annie,

        Thanks for your reply, I think I may have found out why I’m not seeing some if the things – I did not connect the “handbrake” cable, which I have read will disable some if the features – like the keyboard input and picture adjustments. I can understand the reasons for the keyboard to stop you trying to type & drive, can’t for the life of me understand the brightness/dimmer options being locked out without the cable connected?
        I have read there is also a bypass for this by grounding the lead, but I would assume this would possibly void any warranty also!?!

      • Hi Martin,
        No problem, sorry I didn’t think of that – that’s usually my first thought! Grounding the wire won’t really do it, get yourself a TR7 – that’s what we use on our display boards. Makes it easy and doesn’t hurt the unit in anyways. FYI follow the included instructions for “Alpine” and there’s no programming involved, very straightforward.

  20. I am Brazilian and bought a 120 in the US and when do was update problem and now the device only restarts, know help me remain or device?

    • I’m sorry to hear that. You would really need to send it to Pioneer for repair. It’s possible something happened when you downloaded the file where the file got corrupted and screwed up the unit. It should be in warranty, but you would need to either sent it back for exchange or send it to a local Pioneer service center with a copy of your receipt. Sorry to hear that!

  21. Installed an appradio 4. Love it. Only thing. Is the only way to power it off is by the ignitions? Please help before I burn this radio up

    • I’m not in front of one right now, but I’m pretty sure if you select the all sources tab where it says A/V, I think there’s an “Off” icon. But that doesn’t turn the display off, if you want to turn the display off I think it’s tap the Mode button or possibly press and hold the Mode button? Hope that helps!

  22. Hi Annie!

    Love your review style! I was wondering if you could recommend a good installer for an Appradio 4 in the Bellingham to Seattle corridor in Washington state. I live in Vancouver, Canada & the most reputable installer wants to charge me $1,200 installed for the Appradio 4 🙁

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hey Ray,
      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoy the reviews! What kind of car is this for? Depending on the car, that might actually be a fair price. For example, we recently installed one in a 2006 Audi A4 and with all the necessary adapters, parts, labor and tax it came to exactly $1212.04. Let me know.

  23. Thanks for the review!, I do not want to connect my iPhone every time I’ve got into the car, I Think I am going to use the car play just for trips, so I want to know if I can connect the phone by Bluetooth, and if the pioneer is going to detect my phone and play my music, without me doing nothing else. Tks

    • Hi Miguel,
      Glad I could help! Yeah, I think Pioneer would be the better choice for you. Simply pair your phone to the stereo and every time you start up the car it will connect through Bluetooth and you can play your music through Bluetooth Audio and make/receive phone calls. On the occasions you want to use CarPlay you can connect through the USB and it will show up as an option on the home screen.

  24. I bought the appradio 4 and am having connectivity issues with my note 3. Pioneer is telling me its not compatible with kitkat 4.4.4 is there any work around? I tried removling the hardware overlay but still no dice. Any ideas?

    • Hi Craig,
      I have not tried it with the Note 3 with 4.4.4. I did try it with an S4 with 4.4.4 and it kind of sort of worked which surprised me since they said it will only work with 4.4.2. I was actually just testing a customers phone with our display and flat out told him I didn’t think it would work with that software, but it did with errors. We did have to disconnect and reconnect a couple times and touch operation icons were not always on screen so it was difficult to use.

      I also had a customer with the Note 3 and 4.4.4 and it was definitely quirky, but we did get it to connect. Sometimes we had to disconnect and reconnect and re-launch App Radio Mode. In this case the customer was using it more for his vast amount of contacts and for the HDMI input to replay videos related to his work so in his case, the quirkiness wasn’t a major factor is his overall use of the interface (he wasn’t using it mainly for App Radio Mode like for nav or music).

      So yes, 4.4.4 has connectivity issues. If it’s possible, I would suggest reverting back to 4.4.2. As an iPhone user, I honestly have no idea how easy or difficult that may be to do. If that’s not possible – I would keep the unit in good condition and sell it and upgrade when the new Android Auto models are released in Spring. It’s unfortunate, but the Android Auto interface is just leaps and bounds ahead of App Radio Mode. This model still works great as a CarPlay model or App Radio Mode on 4.4.2. I’ve even sold it to several Android users just as a stereo – no App Radio Mode integration. But I’m pretty sure once Android Auto is released, that will be the beginning of the end of App Radio Mode – I’m not sure how many more updates or support we’ll see.

  25. Hi Annie,

    Thanks for the review! I just got this on a whim and have no clue whether it works well for my androids. I’ve got an HTC one M8 running on version 4.4.4 as well as an Samsung Note 3 (probably on 4.4.2 and above). What kind of apps are compatible with AppRadio (since I assume androids and CarPlay is downright incompatible)? I use this music app called QQ music quite often and other common apps such as Whatsapp etc. Would these third-party apps work on mirrorlink, essentially replicating the functionalities on my androids onto AppRadio 4?? Is mirrorlink, AppRadio and CarPlay different modes? What kind of adaptors would I need to make it work etc?

    • Hi HT,
      You are correct – these are all different modes and require all different types of connections. I know I’ve posted this elsewhere on my blog somewhere, but I’ll repost the info here to make it easier for others to find it. These are the 4 different modes available on this model:

      Apple Car Play for iPhone 5 & up works with simple USB to lightning connector – works well.
      App Radio Mode for iPhone – doesn’t really work well if running anything newer than 7.1.2 and requires adapters depending on if you have 30 pin style connection or new lightning connection (requires this part and this part).
      Mirrorlink – doesn’t REALLY work – Not nearly enough support from developer. Phone companies can partner with Mirrorlink, slap the logo on their product and then decide to pull the software at the last minute of production or wipe out the software with an operating system update. For Samsung devices, requires Samsung Drivelink app which crashes immediately upon opening on my Samsung S4. Waste of time.
      App Radio Mode for Android. Works with the right adapters (CD-AH200 and you may need a Samsung tip adapter), right software and correct phone settings with select phones and select apps.

      To confirm phone compatibility and app compatibility, go to Pioneer’s website and de-select iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 to see what apps will work. Then see their list of compatible phones/software versions.

      With Android Auto coming in Spring 2015, I don’t know how many more apps we’ll see added. I have a feeling between Apple Car Play and Android Auto we may see App Radio Mode no longer supported or developed. And unfortunately there will not be an update to add Android Auto compatibility to this model.

      • Hi Annie, thanks for the awesome review! I have a question regarding the two parts you say we’ll need to use appradio. You list the part in the link below which is a standard HDMI cable and whatever that other cable is. My question is where does that other cable plug in? It has a strange looking end that doesn’t appear to fit anywhere on the back of the unit. Can’t we just use a standard HDMI cable, USB to lightning and the digital AV adapter? Just wondering if I really need to spend 20 bucks for that part when I can just use a standard HDMI cable. Thanks in advance! you rock!

      • Hi Tony,
        The technology has progressed so much since this review was posted (as far as cell phone technology and operating systems) that the App radio mode is really not a relevant or compatible feature for most phones these days. If you’re an apple iPhone user, you can enjoy Apple CarPlay using your standard USB to lightning cable. If you wanted to truly mirror the audio and video of your iPhone, you could use the HDMI input (I like to flush mount it with an adapter like this) and then you can buy this adapter from Apple and connect using a short HDMI cable and your USB to lightning cable. When you select the HDMI input on the stereo, whatever is on your phone will be mirrored. However, you would have to control it FROM THE PHONE. The “App Radio Mode” has kind of become obsolete and CarPlay has really replaced it. I hope that helps!

  26. Perhaps this can help Mario.

    If you cannot hear anything when you expect to hear Siri’s voice, turn the volume up via the head unit or steering wheel while Siri *should* be talking. That is how I found out you can control Siri’s volume. Once the volume level is no longer depicted on the screen, if you use the volume control subsequently, it will revert back to controlling the head unit (media) volume. The on-screen display of volume level tells you nothing about which volume you’re controlling – very confusing! There is no documentation I could find for this, but I did figure this out through trial and error.

    If you’re talking about the map guidance volume, I think you control that via the “Alerts” volume control that shows up to the right of the volume bar when you press + or -.

    CarPlay, as simple as it is, still could use an owner’s manual…

  27. Hi Anne,

    Excellent review!

    I recently installed a sph-da120 unit in my car. Everything works as expected, except that, i have no sound from applications (maps and so one) or phone, with any type of connection. I have iphone 6 plus with all the latest updates installed. Can you help me please?

    Thanks in advance.

    Mário Carolino

    • Hi Mário,
      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it! Question – do you have sound on FM/AM? Is it no sound on all sources? If so, let me know what year, make and model vehicle you’ve installed this in.

      If you have sound on AM/FM and Bluetooth audio, but nothing when connected through USB for CarPlay I would reset the phone first and if that doesn’t work I would reset the stereo. It could just be a glitch or hiccup in either one. I have not run into the problem you described. I did have ONE defective unit, everything worked except for the microphone and on every 4th or 5th start up we would see a white screen and nothing else and have to cycle ignition to get it back. My Pioneer distributor swapped it out right away and hopefully if you do have a defective unit, wherever you purchased it from can do the same thing.

      • I had the same issue with the AppRadio 4 (sound on AM/FM, but not CarPlay) when I first connected it, but found that disconnecting and reconnecting the iPhone fixed it. It hasn’t reoccurred.

  28. Hi Annie,

    I recently installed an AVIC-8000NEX using carplay mode. Why compatible apps like beats music , are not showing up on the screen? I am missing an update?

    thx in advance,

    • If you’ve installed the CarPlay update for the unit and CarPlay comes up, I have no idea why certain apps would show up, but not Beats or MLB. Maybe I misunderstood the question, but it sounded like you can access CarPlay, but not all the compatible apps. And you have the apps installed on your phone, right? If you haven’t installed the CarPlay update from Pioneer to enable the feature, yeah, you need to do that found here under firmware/software update. If you don’t have the apps on your phone, they won’t show up. Other than that, I’m stumped and would have to get back to you.

  29. Hi Anne,

    Good review and you seem to really know your stuff!

    I’ve just brought and installed this and I’ve got to say I’m pretty disappointed. Using an iPhone 6 and carplay function only in ’05 vw golf.

    The basics:

    1. Radio signal is worse than original car stereo- seems to drop out easily and then struggles to find it again- this admittably maybe due to fitting.

    2. Sound quality is worse and adjusting it is complex. You can make custom settings but there are a lot of settings to faff about with.

    3. YOU CANNOT ADJUST THE BRIGHTNESS!? This is my question really as I simply can’t believe there isn’t a way of adjusting it. The carplay screen is so bright for night driving- you have to turn the screen off at the moment! Is there a way of dimming it?

    4. The integration with the phone is terrible. Eg- you want to look up a contact so you do this on the stereo which is great. But sadly the phone screen joins in to show you the address book meaning that if you were using the Tom Tom app (for example) it requires re opening. Not helpful at all!!

    5. If you use google map app on the stereo you need decent signal to begin the route as inputting an address seems to rely on it.

    6. The Halfords recommended harness leaves it connected to the permanent 12V supply so you can’t turn it off even with the key!!

    Overall, it’s simply not the apple product you expect and not designed by drivers. I’m looking at resolving the brightness and power issue or it’s going back!

    Any help appreciated 🙂

    • Hi Jim,
      Okay couple things to help you out here.

      1. Sounds like you have your harness wired incorrectly, the radio absolutely has switched power and constant power is only to retain memory for things like EQ, presets, settings etc. I’m not familiar with the Halfords harness. For a 2005 Golf I would use a Metra 70-9003 OR a Pac Audio C2R-VW2. Notice the 70-9003 has a separate long red wire. There’s no real ignition source in the stock radio harness, it’s done through a data circuit. So you can run that red wire to an alternate switched power circuit in the car. Or if that’s too much trouble, buy the C2R-VW2 which creates a virtual ignition wire for you because it talks to that factory data circuit. It will also retain accessory power, like when you turn the car off, the stereo stays on till you take the key out. If you use the 70-9003 it will simply go on/off with ignition.

      2. Radio Reception. Could be two things. Aftermarket stereos tend to have worse reception in general because they have more powerful internal amplifiers and thus create more radio frequency interference. HOWEVER – if you’re getting absolutely no AM and only a little FM you probably have the wrong antenna adapter. VW’s usually have the amplified roof antenna and require the amplified adapter. The power antenna lead from the radio (solid blue) must be connected to the power lead coming off of your amplified antenna adapter.

      3. You can adjust the brightness. See pages 81 & 82 under Picture Adjustment for how to do this. Note the radio will maintain different memory for this setting when headlights are on and when headlights are off IF you’ve connected the illumination or dimmer wire from your car to the stereo.

      4. Sound quality. Anything should sound better than the stock VW radio – Kenwood, Alpine, Pioneer, whatever. I’ve owned a 2003 Jetta GLI, 2003 GTI, 2006 Jetta GLI and a 2006 GTI so I speak from experience here. It’s quite possible you have some speakers wired out of phase. Typically in a car like your 2005 VW Golf you’ve got the factory Monsoon system which has decent stock speakers and a separate amp. By installing the new stereo, you’re still keeping that amp in line but you’re starting with a cleaner source and you’re actually adding more power because you’re sort of amplifying an amplifier because you’re also using the Pioneer internal amp. The Pioneer does have source level adjustment so you can sort of tweak the balance between the two amps. If you’ve got a speaker or two connected out of phase (positive negative reversed), the speakers will play, but will sound hollow and lack in bass and mid range. One way to check if you’ve done this audibly is to fade to the front then balance left to right. If you find you have more bass when you’re balanced to one side, you’ve got a speaker out of phase. Repeat the same process by fading to the rear and double check all your connections behind the radio to correct the ones that are out of phase. If you still thing it sounds worse, I think you should take it to a professional and have them set the EQ for you. It may have a lot more detail and clarity in the upper frequency range which you might not be used to. If that’s the case, it might initially make it seem like the stock system had more kick or depth to it, but you might simply need the head unit’s EQ set professionally. Also – make sure you have HPF and LPF OFF in the audio menu and EQ set to flat. Default EQ setting is like SuperBass which is really muddy.

      5. CarPlay was designed with the idea people would be using Siri to make and receive calls or use the phone button on the stereo and for navigation it’s designed to work with Apple Maps. They don’t care about Google Maps, Waze, or Tom Tom because they don’t own it so they don’t have to support it so although it’s annoying you have to re-open the Tom Tom navigation window, if you ask Apple they’ll tell you, “Why don’t you just use Apple Maps so you don’t have to look at the phone?”.

      6. You really need decent signal to use CarPlay period so although I understand the frustration about not being able to input an address in poor coverage area, the idea is you’re still using the phone so you still need cell service. The GPS antenna does help if you lose signal along the way, but yeah, you need cell service to get it going and that’s going to be the case with any stereo unless you buy one with pre-loaded maps built in.

      I can see how everything added up so overall you’d be disappointed, but most of this stuff is easily remedied as described above. Hope that helps!

      • Hi Annie. Great site! Was reading your advice to Jim and noticed you recommended the C2R-VW2 or 70-9003 harnesses. I’m going to have a 4000NEX installed in my 2008 Passat Wagon and based on what I found on some VW forums etc I ordered the Axxess XSVI-9003-NAV. I don’t have steering wheel controls to retain – just want to have my stereo turn on and off with the car. Did I order the wrong harness?

      • Hi Harry,
        Glad you enjoy the site, thanks! And no, you didn’t order the wrong harness. The XSVI-9003-NAV is essentially the same thing as the C2R-VW2. Since I carry Best Kits, Metra, Pac and iDatalink I tend to use the PAC Audio parts for data integration/combo steering wheel controls and Metra for the simple harnesses just to keep it easy to remember part numbers and to keep my inventory organized.

  30. Hi Annie,

    Great review. I’ve read this one and watched the video. I’m currently stuck between the da 120 and the nex 4000. I have two questions that I can’t seem to find an answer for. I love that the 4000 has a 7inch screen. I love everything about the da 120 but it doesn’t have a disc player. But I can live with that.
    1. When using the maps with carplay can I still have the radio or other form of music playing in the background that is not part of carplay?
    2. I noticed that the da 120 comes with an external GPS antenna to help with the maps on the phone. The nex 4000 does not come with the antenna. Do you think that the antenna makes that much of a difference to matter?

    • Hi Alex,
      Honestly I haven’t tried playing like FM Radio and using Apple Maps at the same time on the CarPlay side. I will try it and let you know. As far as the external GPS antenna, that’s really going to depend on where you drive. If you’re planning long trips across areas in the country that lack cell service, it would be beneficial to have the dedicated GPS antenna. Where I live and work? Not so much an issue, there’s not a lot of dead spots in the Tri State area. I’ll try playing FM Radio and try accessing Apple Maps and I’ll let you know what I find.

      • Thank you so much.

      • Hey Alex,
        It does work. You can select iPod on USB2 or AM/FM on the NEX side of the stereo, then select CarPlay and start Apple Maps. The previously selected source continues to play. The audio of Apple Maps will go over the background music if you have voice guidance turned on. Good question! I honestly wasn’t sure if it would or if it would look for what was “Now Playing” on the iPhone through CarPlay.

      • Thanks so much for checking on that. It will help me with whatever I decide to pick.

      • Hi Annie,
        Thanks for a great review and your support here. It seems I may have a configuration issue as I cannot get Maps to ‘speak’ directions properly. For me, Maps speaks firstly at a very low volume (fixed low level regardless of the setting on the head unit or the iPhone, including setting the iPhone Settings-> Maps -> Navigation voice volume to ‘Loud volume’.

        Also, it doesn’t interrupt the music either from the phone or the radio.

        Any idea what may be wrong? I wondered if there’s some combination of App radio/bluetooth pairing confusion going on but I can’t seem to get to the bottom of it.

        Thanks again.

      • Hi Andrew, if you’re using CarPlay, the Bluetooth is turned off so won’t be any interferance there. I did have a customer have a similar issue with CarPlay and the AVIC-8100NEX. I plugged my phone in and it was fine. Ended up having to reset his phone. I will mention that there is also a separate volume for navigation prompts, text messages, etc and that comes up when you adjust the volume. On the right side of the screen, if you adjust volume while on the CarPlay side you will see an “Alerts” tab. If you tap that you will see a separate adjustment for the volume of those Alerts and navigation voice is part of that Alerts volume.

        If the volume on voice navigation prompts is inconsistent, I would say it sounds like you’re more or less just experiencing some quirks that should be resolved by resetting the phone.

      • Hi again Annie.

        AMAZING! You got it in one (Adjust ‘Alerts’) when neither Pioneer nor the Apple support community seemed to have an answer. It still doesn’t interrupt the radio but I can live with that.

        An additional note for anyone else that reads this, the ‘Alerts’ setting goes up to the rather random 32.

        Do you know if it’s possible to set the Alerts to be relative to main volume, so if for example I increase the volume on the music, the alerts will increase proportionally?

        (I’m not loving Pioneer’s manual, it seems things are easy to find if you know exactly what you’re looking for, which isn’t much help if you don’t).

        Anyway I’ll post your fix and a reference to your site on the Apple community forum I posted in earlier.

        Maybe I can help you in return…
        One other thing I’ve found really useful is a screen cover. I know the display is awesome, but actually I don’t watch movies in the car and am more interested in the screen simply being readable in all conditions, so I bought an anti reflective screen cover from these guys ( and much prefer it to a smudged glossy screen I often struggled to read.

        They actually made a precision cut film specifically to the size specifications I sent as previously they didn’t have a template for this head unit. Delivery (to the UK from Germany) was about 5 days, so I’m sure could make one for any head unit your customers use.

        Thank you again.

      • Hey Andrew,
        Thanks for the tip on the protective cover! I don’t believe there is a way to sync the two separate volumes, I think they are really independent of each other. Thanks for spreading the word 🙂

  31. Hi,

    I have just bought the app radio 4 with the impression that my s4 would work on it but i have tried everything i can think of but i cant even get the radio to realise that the phone is plugged in.. it does how ever bluetooth to it, but am very annoyed as the shop i bought it from here in.the uk don’t have a clue how to use it. I rang pioneer and they said that s4 is not compatible with this unit please
    Can someone help i feel ive wasted so much money on this

    • Hi,
      I know I already emailed you a response, but I wanted to post it here to help other people out that might be in the same situation. Things to check:

      1. You have it connected USB 2 and HDMI using the CD-AH200 with the Tip adapter?
      2. And you have it set up in the stereo to under Smartphone Settings to “Others” and “HDMI (see page 31 of manual).
      3. And you’re paired to the stereo via Bluetooth?
      4. And you have the parking brake connection bypassed using something like a PAC Audio TR7?
      5. You have the Pioneer App Radio Mode app downloaded on your Phone?

      If the interface was installed properly and you have the Tip adapter (and the parking brake is bypassed) you should at least be able to get audio and video from your phone (no on screen control) by selecting the “HDMI” source on the radio. If you get audio, but no picture, it’s a parking brake issue stopping all of it from working.

      If you get audio and video on HDMI and you can select “Apps” on the home screen, but when you select it you get a black screen with a white spot? That’s actually the secret calibration screen that there is no mention of in the manual or ANYWHERE on Pioneer’s website. Just keep pressing the white circle, it will go away after like 5 or 6 presses and App Radio should work at that point.

      These are all the tips I’ve got, I hope one of them helped!

  32. Hi Annie

    Thank you for the great review.

    Do you know if SPH-DA120 CAN interface play nice with VW Jetta 2006?
    Does the steering wheel controls work for volume control and Siri?
    Does any information (navigation or song information) displayed on multifunctional display (between speedo meter and rpm)?



    P.S. Sorry for the multiple post. I tried twice to post form iPhone but it is not appearing on your website.

    • Hi Priyan, I’m not aware of any CAN interfacing for the SPH-DA120. I have not seen any American released stereos from either Kenwood, Pioneer or Alpine support this type of integration with instrument cluster display.

      Pioneer supports several functions through steering wheel controls, but I don’t know if Siri is one of them. Pioneer typically supports “Voice Control” which usually refers to voice dialing using either Siri for iPhone or Google Voice with Android, but I don’t think that will be the same as the Siri button that’s on the stereo – I think it’s more for voice dial than telling Siri what music to play. There is a Siri button on the radio, but I don’t know if Pioneer specifically supports Siri command through steering wheel controls.

      ***UPDATE – 12/31/13. In looking into this for a customer with a 2013 VW Passat I found iDatalink has recently introduced advanced integration using their Maestro interface. Siri is absolutely one of the options available for steering wheel control commands. You can even retain stereo and phone information displayed in the instrument cluster using the iDatalink Maestro RR with the special VW1 harness and select stereos.

      To see if this interface is compatible with your vehicle and stereo, simply check out and select your vehicle, your steering wheel and stereo to see what features are available. Very cool stuff!

  33. Hey Annie! Thanks for the great and detailed review. It solved several doubts about the unit. How it felt in your experience the screen tactile feedback/response vs an ipad/iphone screen?

    Thanks, Gustavo.

    • Hi Gustavo, it’s not the same as an iPhone or iPad as far as responsiveness goes. It seems slightly more responsiveness compared to traditional resistive touch screen, but not a dramatic difference. And my hands are always cold which doesn’t help.

  34. Hi Annie.
    Great review, I stumbled across your site a while back and have been coming back for your detailed reviews since.

    I noticed you mentioned the Alpine ILX-007 sounds better than this model. I was wondering if this applies to the other pioneer models such as the NEX receivers given the updates to App Radio 4 such as the 4volt pre-outs and13 band EQ that are shared with NEX models. I’m wondering if the DAC might be shared across the pioneer line as well.

    I was also wondering what your thoughts are on the built in GPS on this model? It seems to be the only pioneer receiver without built in navigation that has the GPS and I noticed the Alpine ILX-007 does not as well. I live in the northwest and losing cell reception in rural areas is common, having the built in GPS when the phone loses service might be nice to have if well implemented.

    • Hi Stephen,
      Thanks for being such a dedicated reader! You have some great questions. I was already planning on switching up my display board to see if the audio difference is the same across all NEX style models. I imagine it will be.

      I also considered having the dedicated GPS antenna to be a great feature and added benefit over the iLX-007. One thing I’m not aware of, and have been meaning to ask Pioneer tech support about (but I keep forgetting to call and ask), is does the GPS antenna only apply to AppRadio Mode with iPhone or Android or does it also play into effect with CarPlay. AppRadio Mode and CarPlay seem to operate in such different ways that I wouldn’t be surprised if that GPS antenna is only utilized for AppRadio Mode operation.

      Additionally, the iPhone’s Apple Maps is supposed to work well in offline mode. I didn’t really understand why, but I found this blog post helpful in explaining how their use of offline data and vector mapping make the app reliable in no service areas. Having used it in the backwoods of Vermont with NO cell service, I can say this feature has been helpful to me, but if I were you, I would try it first on your phone in the areas you travel in and confirm its accuracy before making your purchase.

      I’ll follow up next week about the GPS antenna feature because I have been wondering if that works for CarPlay as well.

  35. Hi Annie, a question rather than comment; thank you for a fantastic review, you really know your stuff and raised many issues I never event considered.

    I am most disappointed about the Waze nav app not working in Appradio mode; does it work in Carplay mode ?

    Furthermore, if Waze is working in Carplay mode will it still display FM RDS data on screen whilst navigating with Waze ?

    Also disappointed that it is so cumbersome to switch between modes; is it easier to switch between modes on NEX 4000 and NEX 8000 ?

    Thank you so much for the great effort !


    • Hi Douwe,
      Thanks for the question and I’m glad you enjoyed the review. Yes it is disappointing Waze will not work through CarPlay and I don’t think it ever will because I think Google bought them. It will, however, eventually work through AppRadio mode via iPhone, but as you can see it requires a different type of connection to run AppRadio Mode and as of right now, AppRadio Mode really doesn’t work at all with IOS8.

      Waze is normally my first choice for navigation, but I have to say, I was quite impressed with the way Apple Maps worked. Having Siri be able to listen to me and find what I’m looking for is extra convenient. However, in CarPlay, there is no indication of what’s playing when you’re on the Nav screen and likewise when you’re on “Now Playing” like iTunes radio or whatever music is stored in your iPhone, there is no indication on the screen of what the navigation is going to tell you. So it lacks this very common feature that you normally see in a system with built in navigation.

      The overall set up for CarPlay vs AppRadio Mode is the same with the all the NEX models (except for the AVIC-5000NEX which does not have an HDMI port, but you still need something similar, an Apple Lightning to VGA adapter and CDI-IV202AV). So you definitely don’t want to be switching between CarPlay and AppRadio Mode frequently, it would be annoying.

  36. I just installed the Appradio 4 and am quite happy with it. Your post clears up a few issues I’ve had. like why I can’t switch to App Radio mode. I only have the iPhone attached to my receiver via USB-to-Lightning, so I’ll never be able to use it in App Radio mode (which is fine by me, unless I’m missing out on something, like video (which I don’t watch in the car).

    I have one question – there are a few posts about a firmware upgrade to v1.7, but it’s not listed on their website. I can even pull up a rather official looking PDF that talks about it, but there’s nothing for this model at the link provided. Is this something that was pulled shortly after release? Any links or ideas as to where I can download it?


    • Hi John, my guess is there will be another software update out shortly. I do know about the update you’ve seen and even downloaded it to my display model. I just talked to Pioneer tech support the other day about an unrelated Bluetooth issue with another model and they let me know that “by the way they are working on the Pandora pause issue in App Radio Mode with iPhone” so my guess is maybe they pulled down the update because they’ll be putting up a new one very soon.

      I will try and reach out to Pioneer tech support to verify. Good question!

      • I have a question. What do you mean nex side while using android? You mention using Pandora on NEX and then switching to appradio mode. I have a note 3 and can use Pandora as Bluetooth or via HDMI. Is there something I’m missing or am I just misunderstanding what you mean

      • Hi John,
        I was just referring to if you wanted to play Pandora radio while using Waze for example with an iPhone. With Android, it works – you can launch or select Pandora from the regular home screen and once Pandora is playing, it will continue to play even if you select App Radio Mode and launch Waze navigation. Sorry to confuse. With an iPhone if we tried that it would pause Pandora when switching over to App Radio Mode and the only way you could get Pandora to start playing again was to skip to the next track. That’s all. But I wouldn’t really recommend this stereo for App Radio Mode for iPhone anyways, too glitchy. CarPlay works well with iPhone on this stereo, but not App Radio Mode with iPhone.

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