Crappy, Misleading Marketing by Pioneer Electronics: The AVIC-X940BT

I guess I should be accustomed to the marketing of electronics products being full of crap, but it’s still disappointing when you get tripped up by it when purchasing an expensive device that is virtually unreturnable. Here is my story of my latest encounter with crappy, misleading marketing:

I enjoy Pandora radio and I’d worked out a clunky system for getting it to play through my car stereo. It involved a gizmo plugged in to my car’s aux input and the manual control of Pandora on my Droid Incredible 2 phone. So, when I had a little extra cash from a textbook royalty check, I thought I’d splurge on a car receiver that handled Pandora without the extra gizmo. And then my tech fever escalated and I decided to go for a unit that also incorporated GPS and phone features.

This drew me to the Pioneer AVIC-X940BT (who names these things? former rocket scientists?), which seemed to have everything I needed and, the Mobile Electronics salesman told me, would display Pandora data and allow me to control Pandora right through the device’s interface–connecting to my phone via Bluetooth.

But I was worried about compatibility so I checked Pioneer’s Website, where it says,

Compatible with Apple iOS, as well as Android devices that support the Bluetooth Serial Port Profile (SPP). Simply download the free Pandora Radio app to your iPhone or Android device and connect to the AVIC-X940BT and take your music to the next level.

The Droid Incredible 2 does indeed support Bluetooth Serial Port Profile so I thought I was all set.

Image missing due to crappy behavior by Blogger, which deleted dozens of my images.

I poked around everywhere I could on the Pioneer Website, but nowhere could I find a specific list of compatible devices. All I found were displays like the one below that seem to confirm compatibility with Android.

Image missing due to crappy behavior by Blogger, which deleted dozens of my images.

And so I bit. I paid too much money to have the unit installed by Mobile Electronics.

Everything seemed to be fine with pairing my phone, via Bluetooth, with the AVIC-X940BT until I tried to get Pandora to work. Then I began encountering error messages about the inability to connect:

Bluetooth connection is disconnected. Press “Connect” to connect.

This message appeared while I was already connected. I scoured the PDF manual (of course they don’t give you a real paper manual anymore) for an answer.When I found the following fine print (“Compatibility with all Android devices is not guaranteed.”) buried in the 240-page manual, I suspected I was in trouble.

Then I went back to Mobile Electronics to ask about it. An installer dude checked it out and declared that it wasn’t supposed to work with Pandora. That Pandora only works via a wired connection to an iPhone.
I knew that wasn’t right, but the installer dude couldn’t be convinced otherwise. So I called Pioneer’s tech support–after Googling around turned up no solid info. There I had it confirmed: the AVIC-X940BT is not compatible with the Droid Incredible 2–an Android 2.2+ phone that’s less than a year old and supports Bluetooth SPP. In fact, the tech guy tried to replicate my situation using his own Droid phone and his model didn’t work either. He found a list that states that only 12 specific Android phones work with Pandora and this Pioneer unit.
I told the guy to please tell his supervisor that I am extremely disappointed about this and that the marketing of the AVIC-X940BT as compatible with Android phones supporting Bluetooth SPP is very misleading and should be corrected. The tech guy said he would “capture that feedback” and pass it along.
Ah well, at least this unit does, like, 70% of what I bought it for. And, who knows, maybe a firmware update will solve my problem? Or maybe my next smartphone will be one of the compatible ones.
But still it’s sad to have the crappiness of electronics marketing confirmed. Again.

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Update 3:50, Thursday:
Well, get this. In his NY Times column today, David Pogue is dealing with the same Pandora issues as me–although in his Toyota Prius! See “Pogue’s Posts: The Prius V and Its Entune System”, in the May 3 NY Times. Turns out that Pandora in the Prius does not work wirelessly with the iPhone, but does with Android!
But probably not the Droid Incredible 2, I’d wager.

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