Parrot RNB6 Eighty-sixed

Parrot RNB6 CES 2015
Parrot RNB6 CES 2015
Parrot RNB6 Cancelled – Photo from CES 2015 Car Stereo Chick

Parrot RNB6 Cancelled – Technology Nabbed by Automotive Manufacturers

After months of anticipation and waiting, many consumers will be disappointed to learn that the Parrot RNB6 has been cancelled. Parrot recently announced the company no longer has plans to develop and sell the RNB6 in the aftermarket electronics arena.

The original CES 2015 post on Parrot’s blog has been quietly updated to reflect the Parrot RNB6 cancellation with the following short and simple notice.

“[July 2015 update] RNB6 project was showcased at CES Las Vegas in January 2015. This infotainment system was selected by several automakers who envision to integrate it in their next-generation car models next year and beyond. As of today there is no plan to sell RNB6 in Aftermarket channels as RNB6 embedded technologies require deep integration with car series and manufacturers.

If we click on that Parrot Automotive link above we see some of their more recent press release articles confirming these automotive partnerships including a recent announcement stating they’ve partnered with Chrysler. Don’t get too excited though, the article goes on to explain this partnership will be focused on developing Jeep head units in the Japan market only.

Another press release article from this automotive website boasts the announcement that a premium German car maker has selected Parrot to develop its new premium rear seat entertainment system featuring:

  • Android Apps from Parrot Cloud such as internet browser, mails, weather, news, etc.
  • Video Call : video chat and instant messaging for Rear Seat Entertainment.
  • Wide range of  Games is provided to the passengers
  • Internet music and video streaming, radio and TV Apps aggregating stations from all over the world
  • Internet connectivity on each RSE Display is enabled by connecting a phone (Wi-Fi® tethering) or using an in-vehicle Wi-Fi® hotspot

Clearly Parrot is focused on the OEM division and I can’t say I blame them for canceling the RNB6.  Supplying car manufacturers with infotainment systems could represent a substantially larger revenue stream for Parrot vs revenue obtained from the aftermarket sector. In terms of market share, I’m sure the car manufacturers represent a much larger chunk of the market than aftermarket consumer electronics. I wonder what kind of investment and undertaking Parrot will have to do to develop and implement these systems with the car manufacturers.

Parrot RNB6 Apple CarPlay
Parrot RNB6 Cancelled – The Parrot RNB6 will NOT be available at a store near you – ever, sorry.

As a business owner, I feel a little bit nervous for Parrot going this route. Knowing what I know now, I would take a different approach than Parrot. If I had to choose between selling my products and services to 100 qualified customers who are specifically seeking me out and desire my assistance for a specific solution vs selling my products and services to a large middle man who happens to be serving 10,000 of his own customers – I’m gonna go ahead and keep it simple stupid. Keep in mind, that middle man (aka car manufacturer) needs a solution that will satisfy a WIDE variety of customers. Oh, and you know he’s going to beat you down on price because he needs to keep his overhead cost as low as possible.

Sometimes it’s better to just do what you’re good at for the people who appreciate it vs trying to grow your business and make everyone happy. I’ve already made that mistake in my life and I learned my lesson the hard way – both financially and emotionally. You can’t make every customer happy, but you can certainly lose a lot of time and money trying to do so – especially if they’re big customers like Chrysler or some premium German car maker (BMW? VW? Audi? Mercedes?).

Consumers may not understand this decision on face value, but if we look at Parrot’s annual financial reports, it starts to make more sense. As of 2008, a large majority of Parrot’s earnings came from the aftermarket sector, roughly 71% of all revenue. At the time, Parrot owned roughly 85% of the automotive bluetooth market share, but only 16% of their business came from the OEM division.  They’ve been growing that division ever since.

In 2008 the company had revenues of 206.6 million euros with a net income of 14 million euros.  Fast forward to 2014 and we can see that although sales were up, with revenues of 243.8 million euros, the company actually had a net loss of 2.59 million euros.

At the end of the day, every company needs to be in the black and I’m sure this decision has everything to do with their bottom line. For Parrot’s sake, I hope they can make this a profitable venture.

Parrot RNB6 – Supports Android Auto & Apple CarPlay

Parrot RNB6 CES 2015

Parrot RNB6 – Award winning head unit supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

UPDATE – 8-4-15 – Parrot RNB6 Cancelled – Find out why the Parrot RNB6 got eighty-sixed.

While at CES 2015 I was able to take a peak at the new Parrot RNB6.  The Parrot RNB6 definitely has the most vibrant and responsive touch screen of all Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible head units that I have come across.  It’s a high quality screen and it shows.  The image was not at all washed out despite being under bright display lighting.  I assume the Parrot RNB6 will be replacing the Parrot Asteroid Smart which is a head unit that I’ve always had mixed feelings on.

Parrot RNB6 CES 2015
Parrot RNB6 CES 2015

The Parrot Asteroid Smart worked on a similar platform, running an Android operating system and then tethering off your cell phone for wifi to allow access to various apps including a web browser, email, navigation apps and various audio apps.  What I didn’t like about the Parrot Asteroid Smart was it’s sound quality.  It was sub-par.  For a $500 stereo it sounded like a $50 Walmart special (think Boss stereo).  It also lacked standard steering wheel control integration, it required the Parrot Unika which had limited vehicle compatibility and lacked many American vehicles.  Thankfully, Parrot has teamed up with Metra and together they have come up with a solution for that.  The AX-SWC-PARROT will allow for Metra’s ASWC-1 steering wheel control interface to work with Parrot products.

Parrot RNB6 – Sound quality

The verdict is still out on sound quality.  Unfortunately, Parrot did not have an in car display set up for a true audio demonstration.  In fact, I don’t even recall any audio playing from the Parrot RNB6 models themselves.  At each display stand, there was also a monitor above demonstrating the features and capabilities.

Parrot RNB6 EQ
Parrot RNB6 EQ

The Parrot representatives were more than happy to scroll through the various pages of audio adjustments under the Parrot AudioFX menu.  Ever the skeptic, I’m not convinced just yet.

Parrot RNB6 EQ
Parrot RNB6 EQ

Parrot is known for their innovation, their Bluetooth hands free and their Drones.  They’re not exactly a car stereo head unit company so I will not be convinced on sound quality until I hear it.  If it’s anything like the Asteroid Smart, I will be sorely disappointed. On paper however, the Parrot RBN6 looks like it should perform well.  It features:

  • Multiple band EQ
  • Digital time alignment
  • Built in Crossovers
  • 6 Volt pre-amp outputs
  • Preset EQ based on vehicle – Parrot says they’re uploading more and more vehicles to their database, but the unit should come pre-loaded with many popular vehicles (probably mostly European models)
  • Option for using either a simple EQ or advanced EQ depending on user preference
Parrot RNB6 - Preset EQ by Vehicle
Parrot RNB6 – Preset EQ by Vehicle

Parrot RNB6 – Vibrant and responsive touch screen

I definitely think the Parrot RNB6 has the brightest and most responsive capacitive touch screen of all Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible head units so far announced.  You can truly see the vibrancy.  The RNB6 screen quality is probably the closest in quality to your actual smart phone screen.  These sample models were all under bright show room lights and still incredibly vibrant.  This is an important feature and I think it’s a key advantage Parrot will have over Alpine, Kenwood and Pioneer.

Parrot RNB6 Apple CarPlay
Parrot RNB6 Apple CarPlay

Parrot RNB6 – Extra features over Alpine, Kenwood and Pioneer

Like the new Pioneer and Kenwood Apple CarPlay and Android Auto models, the Parrot RNB6 will support both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – not at the same time of course.  However, the Parrot RNB6 offers a lot more than its competitors.  Besides being both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, the Parrot RNB6 itself is running the latest version of the Android operating system, Lolipop 5.0.  This means users can simply pair their phone to this stereo and tether off their cell phone for internet connectivity.  So if you don’t feel like connecting and using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, simply use the onboard Android operating system and apps for your navigation and music.  This unit also includes Bluetooth so you can make and receive phone calls or stream your music wirelessly.

Additionally, it includes Parrot’s stereo microphone – this appears to be the same microphone that comes with their MKI9200 Bluetooth which is the best sounding handsfree kit I have heard or used.  Meaning call sound quality is great – very little background noise, calls are heard clearly thanks to the noise canceling stereo microphone.

Parrot RNB6 - Shallow design makes for easier installation
Parrot RNB6 – Shallow design makes for easier installation

The Parrot RNB6 is similar is size to Alpine’s iLX-007.  It’s quite shallow making installation easier in many vehicles.  For example, I doubt heat and A/C ducts would have to be modified if installing this in a BMW E46.  Other cool perks include Parrot’s Dash Cam.  It’s unclear whether or not this unit will be shipping with the Dash Cam or not.  I believe that is Parrot’s intention.

In Europe it is mandatory to have a Dash Cam installed.  I think that’s a great idea.  I know I’ve been looking at installing BlackVue’s Dash Cam DVR in my own vehicle.  I’ve had too many near miss accidents due to idiots that can’t drive and don’t know or care who has the right of way.  In fact, recently it scared me how angry and aggressive I became after 3 different idiots pulled out in front of me within less than a 1 mile stretch.  I think driving around with a Dash Cam DVR would calm me down a bit and make me a safer, less aggressive driver.  At least I would feel like I had a built in witness on my side should I ever be unable to avoid one of these morons.

Parrot RNB6 Dash Cam
Parrot RNB6 Dash Cam

Other cool features include OBD2 integration for on screen vehicle information.  Check out all the ports on the back of this stereo.  Besides OBD2, there are two HDMI inputs, one standard USB (assuming for Android Auto) one USB for iPod/iPhone (assuming for Apple CarPlay), external GPS antenna connection, Steering Wheel Control connection, Dash Cam connection and an Ethernet connection – which I was told will be for future use and expansion.

Parrot RNB6 - Connections on back of radio
Parrot RNB6 – Connections on back of radio

But wait – there’s more!  Here are the features that people get really excited about, but will probably only work with a handful of cars.  Parrot’s demo of the RBN6 included screen shots of:

  • Heat and A/C controls on screen
  • Park assist sensor integration
  • Front/Rear camera integration
  • Lane assist integration
Parrot RNB6 Climate Control
Parrot RNB6 Climate Control – Most likely a CAN bus only feature

I asked Parrot how this is being accomplished and they told me it was through CAN.  CAN stands for Control Area Network (little side note here – I learned about CAN years ago from Larry Perzan who sadly passed away last weekend.  Larry owned and ran Perzan Auto Radio in Upper Darby Pennsylvania.  He was a true innovator and genius when it came to car electronics and installation.  He was an invaluable asset to this industry and he will be missed dearly.).  CAN is basically just communication lines.  It’s kind of like positive and negative, cars with CAN have CAN hi and CAN lo wires.  Information from the vehicle computers and modules flow along these lines.  By tapping into and reading CAN this information can then be displayed and even integrated with (this is how iDatalink’s Maestro works).  So I have a feeling that in order to use these features, your vehicle will already have to be equipped with these systems and this information must also be communicated on the vehicle CAN Bus system.

Parrot RNB6
Parrot RNB6

Overall, the Parrot RNB6 looks quite promising.  I can’t wait to take a listen to one in my shop on my own sound board.  Parrot did not have an estimated price or release date at this time – they are still working out the details.  My guess is it will be similar to other soon to be released Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible models and fall in the $700 – $800 price range, but please understand that’s just my professional guess.  If they do end up packaging it with the Dash Cam, I would expect it to be in the $1100 – $1200 price range.  I will be sure to post an in depth review once the product ships and I get my hands on one.