CarPlay Pioneer 4500NEX: First impressions after 2 weeks

Derek87

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Original poster
Jan 29, 2009
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after some helpful advice gained here from forum members (shout out to HeadphoneAddict and levander), two weeks ago, i had a Pioneer 4500NEX installed in my 2012 Subaru. it replaced a, for it's time, full featured head unit which had a CD player, HD radio, and USB iPod connected integration via a port in the arm-rest cubby.

all in all, i've been super pleased with the upgrade. here are some of the many highlights:

THE GOOD:

- Wireless Carplay is a game changer, IMHO. while i have enjoyed wired CarPlay in a rental car and a 2019 Subaru loaner which actually nudged me in this upgrade direction, wireless CarPlay is a whole different animal. i love not having to pull my phone from my pocket to set up navigation, especially when i decide i need to look at the maps and consult traffic issues in the middle of driving. Of course, there have been a couple hiccups (see below), but when it works, it's awesome.

- Eyes-free Siri, to me is a big deal. there are two other great ways to activate siri: the bluetooth button on my steering wheel, the microphone button on the head unit. however, just saying "Hey Siri" to initiate a call, or navigate and jump to Maps is fantastic. it sounds like a small upgrade over the 4400 (which i am told did not have it), but to me, it's a notable upgrade.

- it took me a while, but i have put together a 256gb SD card (using NTFS file system which was a little bit of a trick) of FLAC music for use in the car. i had to perform some trickery to get the head unit to playback tracks in the correct order (it doesn't respect track number TAGs), but in the end, i have about 70% of my music library in lossless format in the car. i do acknowledge that FLAC is overkill for this application since the Subaru isn't particularly quiet and is prone to tire noise, but nevertheless, when on a quiet street or when parked, the sound quality over my previous 192 kbps tracks is noticeable.

- the sound quality improvement over the factory head unit is also noticeable. less muddy bass, and more transparent midrange. (keeping the same Kicker upgraded speakers from Subaru)

- iPod integration is fantastic using my old 3rd generation iPod touch. with the SD card mentioned above, i can, in parallel, have 64gb of ALAC tracks organized by playlists for my listening pleasure.

- HD radio was a must have for me after having it in my prior head unit. it works as it should.

- i had my unit installed with the idatalink Maestro. steering wheel controls work as expected, and i also get OBD2 vehicle information -- not essential, but a nice bonus, nevertheless.

- as trivial as it sounds, i like the ability to customize the illumination of the buttons to match the lighting of my Subaru dash lights.

- boot up time is much faster than i expected or was concerned about. i've always had the ability to use my backup camera, even if i'm brisk in getting in the car, putting on my seatbelt, turning the ignition, and backing up. (the camera works even if the warning screen is on the display)

- iPhone battery usage for maps is about 4% per hour on my iPhone XS (compared with about 10% when using iPhone in car mount and screen is on).


THE BAD

- day 2 of ownership, i experience a random freeze up after driving away from a friend's house a night. the screen went black and i couldn't unfreeze it with any combination of button pushes. the only ultimate remedy was to pull to the side of the road and restart the car. thankfully, i haven't had to do this again. i will actually visit this friend's house again in the coming week, so hopefully it won't repeat itself (Pioneer tech support suggested that the 4500NEX may have randomly connected to a wifi network and then couldn't reconnect properly to my phone)

- i knew this going in, but i still find it lame that with two USB ports, one supports Carplay/apple iPods and the other supports Android Auto. not a showstopper for our family, but it would be nice to use the passenger's iPhone for music (as an iPod -- noting the Ugly situation of iPod playlists being alphabetical (see below)). my installer put the second USB port (and AUX jack) in my glove box so i can be used to charge any USB device or be used for a USB flash drive which might be nice should i want to add another large music storage device there. (i have one wild idea of buying a cheap Android Auto device so that i would have better navigation of music than the SD card, but that's really a dream because i'm too cheap to spend more money to minimally upgrade something that is already working really well for me)

- while the 4500/8500 have parking guidelines that can be adjusted, there is no way to have them on by "default." i rely on these regularly for parallel parking and judging distance to the curb. it's a pain to have to activate them when i go into reverse. Pioneer claims this is due to some NHSA regulation which seems nonsensical to me. it's a small feature that i took for granted with my factory head unit. i'm sure some people don't like lines, but i use them often.

THE UGLY (mostly resolved, some slightly unresolved issues)

- after much research and help by HeadphoneAddict, a friend who also owned a 4500NEXT, as well as Pioneer tech support, i learned that the current NEX receivers only properly playback playlists on older iPods. for iPod touches, this is 4th generation or earlier (30-pin connector). if one attaches a newer iPod touch or iPhone to the USB port, it will force playback of playlists in alphabetical order. thankfully, i still had my old 3rd generation iPod touch to use. but that meant taking it away from our other car rather than use our old iPhone SE.

- this alphabetical bug also presents itself with USB flash drives and SD cards. when viewing by TAG (rather than FILE), the Pioneer doesn't respect the TAG track numbers for a particular album and will only playback tracks in alphabetical order. i ultimately circumvented this problem by using MP3TAG (a windows program that runs fine with WINE on a Mac) to rename all tracks to start with their track number (e.g., 01-Track1Name)...this works well, but the only problem is if you want to search for song by name, the alphabetical shortcuts on the Pioneer won't work since every song/track starts with a number. for me, that's not an issue. i intend to search music on the SD card by Album and Artist, not song.

- i have had a couple of occasions where wireless CarPlay did not connect. i have troubleshooted it to situations where my iPhone prioritizes the wifi network it is leaving (e.g., my house, or my in-laws) and doesn't connect to the 4500NEX. this has never happened when my phone is on LTE service. i have been able to fix it, for the case of our house at least, by manually (using the phone) connecting to the 4500 network immediately upon entering the car. after doing this a few times, it seems, for now, that my phone prioritizes the 4500 network. i hope this remains the case. i wish Apple had a way of letting us manually sort network priority on the iPhone, but that feature disappeared a few iOS versions ago.

- i've had a couple of times where Carplay won't show maps in "Night mode" even though it's past sunset. in both cases, it corrected itself after about 10 minutes of driving.


the Goods, outweigh the Bad and Ugly. if i can avoid freeze-ups like the one i've encountered, and can manage to get around this wifi network preference issue (for the most part, i have), i'd give this upgrade an A grade.

highly recommended for those of you out there with older cars. i can only hope that more car manufacturers will jump on board with wireless CarPlay so that my next new car will have it too. it would be hard to go back to wired CarPlay after having had it wireless.
 
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Chacocliff

macrumors 6502
Oct 22, 2014
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Thanks for the great review. I am getting the 4500NEX installed in my 08 Titan on Sunday. I have had the Pioneer 850BT in my car for the past few years, but I am excited to be getting an upgrade and finally getting Carplay. I'm also excited about all of the crossover options to tune the audio for my aftermarket sound system too.
 

Coffee50

macrumors 6502a
Apr 23, 2015
616
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Glad to hear you took the plunge! I've had a couple of hiccups that you mentioned (when the screen freezes, they only way to reset it is to restart the car). Now this is rare & has only happened a couple of times, but beyond that, I like the Pioneer series.
 

Derek87

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jan 29, 2009
543
115
Glad to hear you took the plunge! I've had a couple of hiccups that you mentioned (when the screen freezes, they only way to reset it is to restart the car). Now this is rare & has only happened a couple of times, but beyond that, I like the Pioneer series.
thanks for your help too along the way. how long have you had your unit ? (ie, how frequently have these freezes been) i just hope i never encounter it on the middle of a long road trip. that would be frustrating.

but i am seriously more pleased with the upgrade than i thought i would be. i guess i went in with realistic expectations which have been exceeded.
 

Chacocliff

macrumors 6502
Oct 22, 2014
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- i have had a couple of occasions where wireless CarPlay did not connect. i have troubleshooted it to situations where my iPhone prioritizes the wifi network it is leaving (e.g., my house, or my in-laws) and doesn't connect to the 4500NEX. this has never happened when my phone is on LTE service. i have been able to fix it, for the case of our house at least, by manually (using the phone) connecting to the 4500 network immediately upon entering the car. after doing this a few times, it seems, for now, that my phone prioritizes the 4500 network. i hope this remains the case. i wish Apple had a way of letting us manually sort network priority on the iPhone, but that feature disappeared a few iOS versions ago.
I had an idea for this. I set up an NFC tag to work with the Shortcuts app, that when I scan it, the wifi will turn off, and then immediately turn back on. This may help kick it off of your home network, and then let it connect to the wireless carplay. You could just put the sticker in the car, and scan it when you get in.
 

Derek87

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jan 29, 2009
543
115
I had an idea for this. I set up an NFC tag to work with the Shortcuts app, that when I scan it, the wifi will turn off, and then immediately turn back on. This may help kick it off of your home network, and then let it connect to the wireless carplay. You could just put the sticker in the car, and scan it when you get in.
thanks for the suggestion. i think that would work, but it still requires the extra step of scanning. it seems that Apple could make have a setting that says to drop all wifi connections when Carplay device is present. (user configurable of course, as HeadphoneAddict in another post said this is bad for him if you are on a call using Wi-Fi calling on the home network, the call gets dropped). alternatively, i wish Apple would bring back the "advanced" menu which allowed you to order your preferred wifi networks.

for now, it seems i'm good to go, and will have to consciously check my phone if and when i leave a "preferred" wifi network. as i mentioned, i seem to have convinced my phone that the NEX takes higher priority over the home network. i'll need to do that at any other commonly used locations that have wifi as a preferred network (there are only a couple others i can currently think of).
 

Coffee50

macrumors 6502a
Apr 23, 2015
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I've had my unit since August. It's only done that about 2 or 3 times. The worst case would be on a long trip or stuck on a freeway.

Overall I like it a lot & the pros definitely outweigh the cons. I've gotten so used to the convenience factor, that when there are any issues, they feel amplified.

I find myself listening to a larger variety of music & podcast than before. I generally stream all my music & just use maps, messages & phone.....Haven't really utilized 3rd party apps.
 

Chacocliff

macrumors 6502
Oct 22, 2014
422
237
Another idea would be to creat an automated shortcut that would turn off WiFi when it connects to Carplay.
 

Derek87

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jan 29, 2009
543
115
Another idea would be to creat an automated shortcut that would turn off WiFi when it connects to Carplay.
i think some sort of automation could work using location services, i assume. i haven't played much with it yet though. one couldn't turn of wifi itself, else CarPlay wouldn't work. CarPlay relies on a wifi connection to the head unit to work.

the key is telling the iPhone that if it sees the NEX wifi network to always switch to it. it should already do this, but i have seen on a few occasions, it doesn't. seems like a problem on Apple's part (which i have reported to them).
 

Chacocliff

macrumors 6502
Oct 22, 2014
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I ended up getting my install date moved to last night. After a few hours with it, I am really liking the carplay so far. I was worried about the wifi issue, as when I am in my car at the house, it is still connected to my network, but every time it has connected to the head unit right away. I am really liking the wireless Carplay too for short trips. With the rumor of no ports on the 2021 iPhone, I should be good now.
 

Derek87

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jan 29, 2009
543
115
I ended up getting my install date moved to last night. After a few hours with it, I am really liking the carplay so far. I was worried about the wifi issue, as when I am in my car at the house, it is still connected to my network, but every time it has connected to the head unit right away. I am really liking the wireless Carplay too for short trips. With the rumor of no ports on the 2021 iPhone, I should be good now.
Congrats! i'm glad you are enjoying your unit and that you haven't had issues with the wifi. i didn't have it initially, so i have no clue what changed, but as i said previously, i fixed it at home for now at least by a few forced connections.

i think you will enjoy it more and more as time goes on.
 

Chrisbc

macrumors newbie
Apr 17, 2015
15
1
.

- Eyes-free Siri, to me is a big deal. there are two other great ways to activate siri: the bluetooth button on my steering wheel, the microphone button on the head unit. however, just saying "Hey Siri" to initiate a call, or navigate and jump to Maps is fantastic. it sounds like a small upgrade over the 4400 (which i am told did not have it), but to me, it's a notable upgrade.
Is it possible on this unit to trigger Siri with “hey Siri”?

This functionality was a feature of ios13 and now works with older alpine units.
 
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Derek87

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jan 29, 2009
543
115
Is it possible on this unit to trigger Siri with “hey Siri”?

This functionality was a feature of ios13 and now works with older alpine units.
yes, perhaps my long-winded wording was unclear. "Hey Siri" works without any button presses, etc. i love it!

(from what i understood, the head unit needs to support "Eyes Free Siri" to do this, and it existed before iOS13, but i could be wrong...maybe they made it more universal in ios13)
 

Chrisbc

macrumors newbie
Apr 17, 2015
15
1
yes, perhaps my long-winded wording was unclear. "Hey Siri" works without any button presses, etc. i love it!

(from what i understood, the head unit needs to support "Eyes Free Siri" to do this, and it existed before iOS13, but i could be wrong...maybe they made it more universal in ios13)
Weird, that’s totally different than I’ve read other places.

Could it be your phone mic picking up the “hey Siri” command?

Thanks so much for your comments. I’m just waiting for my unit to ship before installing and can’t wait!
 

Derek87

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jan 29, 2009
543
115
Weird, that’s totally different than I’ve read other places.

Could it be your phone mic picking up the “hey Siri” command?

Thanks so much for your comments. I’m just waiting for my unit to ship before installing and can’t wait!
No. It’s certainly a feature of the 4500nex. There is no way it could pick up my voice with my phone in my pocket or messenger bag.
 

Chacocliff

macrumors 6502
Oct 22, 2014
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237
I am curious if any of yall are having issues with the steering wheel controls only while using Carplay? They work fine for all of the other functions, but when using Carplay, they do all sorts of weird things.
 

Chrisbc

macrumors newbie
Apr 17, 2015
15
1
I am curious if any of yall are having issues with the steering wheel controls only while using Carplay? They work fine for all of the other functions, but when using Carplay, they do all sorts of weird things.
All steering wheel controls are working fine for me with the maestro rr system and pioneer 8400. Have you done the firmware updates?
 

Derek87

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jan 29, 2009
543
115
I am curious if any of yall are having issues with the steering wheel controls only while using Carplay? They work fine for all of the other functions, but when using Carplay, they do all sorts of weird things.
i haven't had any problems with them. i have the Maestro RR installed to integrate SWC which allow me to control volume and mute; change tracks or stations of the radio, change source, and answer or hang up phone calls.

i'm running firmware 1.01 on the 4500NEX
 

Chacocliff

macrumors 6502
Oct 22, 2014
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I looked on the website, but didnt see anything about a firmware update for the 4500. Where did you find it?
 

Derek87

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jan 29, 2009
543
115
I looked on the website, but didnt see anything about a firmware update for the 4500. Where did you find it?
i wasn't suggesting there was a firmware patch...i was just stating the version that my unit was at. when i had it installed, it was already at 1.01 and there were no updates to that available. i had assumed it shipped with that and yours would be similarly on 1.01.
 

Chacocliff

macrumors 6502
Oct 22, 2014
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No I had it installed at Best Buy when I bought the unit. I called Pioneer tech support, and they told me that if I did not have Carplay functionality before I installed the unit, that it would not work with the 4500.
 

Derek87

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jan 29, 2009
543
115
No I had it installed at Best Buy when I bought the unit. I called Pioneer tech support, and they told me that if I did not have Carplay functionality before I installed the unit, that it would not work with the 4500.
i'm confused: what would not work if you didn't have CarPlay functionality before the installation? i'm very surprised that Pioneer would say anything like that. the whole point of buying their head unit would be to gain Carplay functionality. as for Steering wheel control, that should be something that BestBuy can speak to and you probably can cross-check with Crutchfield's online tools.