We loved the Android-based Mirage infotainment system that Clarion unveiled last month simply for the amount of features it offers, but installing that kit as an upgrade required you to gut your car’s existing head unit. If all you wanted was a relatively more affordable add-on that’ll let you hook up your iPhone to your car’s existing audio system, here’s an easier solution. Clarion has introduced the Next Gate, a 7-inch device with a windshield mount that essentially extends the iPhone’s functions onto a larger screen with a driver-friendly interface.
It’s basically an add-on device, so unlike the Mirage, most of the smarts on this kit will be coming from a connected iPhone hooked up via Bluetooth. Positioned like a GPS navigator kit, the Next Gate can also be plugged into an existing audio system’s auxiliary input jack using a standard 3.5mm output connection. For use with (really) old systems that don’t come with an auxiliary jack, the Next Gate is also perfectly fine on its own, thanks to a built-in speaker and microphone.
Primarily, the device gives users control over a specific set of driver-friendly apps that run on your iPhone and ported over to the larger screen. Past the basic hands-free calling and music playback, Next Gate also features support for other apps for entertainment, information, communication and navigation. Currently, the device is listed to work well with TuneIn and Pandora for internet radio streaming, INRIX Traffic for avoiding traffic, and InfoGation for routing and navigation. Other functions include a news reader and weather app, with the promise of more supported apps on the way.
Strangely, this kit also features a way to check Facebook and Twitter, which really isn’t a must when you’re driving, but if you absolutely have to, Next Gate offers a safer way to go about it. The device comes with Vlingo’s voice recognition app which gives it text-to-speech functions.
Other features include a microSD slot for adding content, and a 12-volt adapter for in-car charging. Device compatibility is a bit limited though: it only works with the iPhone 4 and 4S running on iOS 4.3 and up. On the bright side, it won’t cost you as much as a full info-tainment head unit. The Clarion Next Gate will be out on June 1 for $270.