By Kelsey Mays on July 19, 2012
Honda announced a new multimedia system called HondaLink, which will debut in the 2013 Fit EV, the still-unrevealed redesigned Accord and the updated Crosstour this fall. Additional Honda (and likely Acura) models will get it down the road. Like Toyota's Entune or Ford's Sync AppLink, HondaLink allows you to stream various smartphone applications through the stereo via voice prompts, touch-screen stereo commands or steering-wheel buttons.
It's not yet clear how Honda plans to differentiate HondaLink from Entune, AppLink and others. The automaker is working with internet radio provider Aha to stream Facebook and Twitter feeds, news updates and Yelp listings. Lest Honda run afoul of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's latest distracted-driving guidelines, Honda engineer David Kirsch told reporters on a conference call that the system is "showing things that are needed for you to see, but just enough."To wit: HondaLink can announce the latest messages on your Facebook wall or Twitter feed, but it won't enable liking something on Facebook or having conversations with your online cohorts. It does have some cool possibilities, however. HondaLink can read a downloaded book from your smartphone to you on the morning commute, for example, or chime in with verbal calendar reminders.
"There's a rising demand among premium mass and luxury owners for these kinds of services," business development manager Charles Koch said, adding that online radio audiences have doubled every five years since the early 2000s. It's worth noting that most audible smartphone apps can play via a basic auxiliary cable, but in-car multimedia systems enable a lot more. iPhone's Siri, for example, won't read a Facebook or Twitter feed (unless you hack it, which Apple warns can threaten the device's stability).
HondaLink comes on the heels of a redesigned 2012 CR-V offering streaming Pandora internet radio. The system integrates Pandora among its suite of features, Honda says, and it works through a HondaLink app on Apple's iPhone via Bluetooth or a USB cable or an Android phone via Bluetooth only. There's a "very positive" chance Honda will enable iPad integration soon, officials said.
Honda is mum on other details surrounding the redesigned Accord, except to say HondaLink will likely apply to "upper trim levels." The Accord and Crosstour will run HondaLink through your smartphone's signal, while the Fit EV gets an embedded cellular receiver, which could provide better signal reception.
Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey