Pioneer sph-10bt in test: car radio with your smartphone as display

jurgen vielmeier 09.06.2020 24.01.2022 3

The car radio pioneer SPH-10BT provides mobile internet and apps on board. For this, it simply takes your smartphone – also as a display. This is what we have tested.

I am satisfied with my 15 year old VW lupo, which I bought in 2019. It takes me where I want to go, has no bells and whistles, but it drives. Only the radio, which the previous owners installed, does not work so well, a new one is needed. On my search for something more modern, I come across the pioneer SPH-10BT.

Pioneer SPH-10BT: your smartphone is the display

pioneer advertises with a beautiful, top-opening display on promotional images. But that’s simply because you plug your own (hopefully pretty) smartphone into the radio. The SPH-10BT itself does not have its own display.

Still sounds like a decent compromise to me. I sometimes look enviously at the cockpits of modern cars and at their on-board consoles, some of which have huge touchscreen displays. Something like this could also be retrofitted in my old vehicle. But the idea of connecting your smartphone to your favorite apps and thus also to a mobile internet connection sounds like two birds with one stone. I strike.

The installation goes reasonably smoothly. The installation instructions with complex circuit diagrams are a deterrent. In fact, the connection of the radio is very simple with already existing wiring. I plug the existing double plug into the radio using the adapter provided. Ready. The more complicated part is to change the cage and to put the radio back in the right place. After about an hour, the work here is done, and the pioneer SPH-10BT is installed.

Only" a good car radio on request

And the first impression is very good: the FM radio turns on directly and has a voluminous sound. The station search is fast and reliable. The display of the radio module itself is small, but you can still see simple RDS information such as the station you are currently listening to. To use the smartphone cradle, I first have to remove the control panel, pull out the cradle and put the control module back on.

Even while driving, i hardly have any reception problems with the radio (this was different with the previous radio), and there are no dropouts with the bluetooth transmission. The control buttons have a pleasant pressure point, the smartphone holder seems solid and firmly processed. To ensure that you have the right viewing angle and don’t accidentally trigger any buttons, you can move the individual brackets around.

Of course, the pioneer SPH-10BT also works without a smartphone. The operation is kept very simple with two main and four speed dial keys, but not everything is self-explanatory. Especially since pioneer includes an installation manual, but no operating instructions. You can find it on the support website as a PDF file. And a look inside is worthwhile, because functions such as station search, selection of frequency bands or selection of the LED color are hard to find on their own.

the SPH-10BT with smartphone: car radio with display and internet

The pioneer SPH-10BT realizes its full potential when you connect the smartphone to it and install the pioneer smart sync app there. The smartphone then becomes the radio’s display and shows you all kinds of useful information. About the song you are playing, the radio station and the radio program, how fast you are driving and – very elegantly – how many meters of altitude you are at and via compass also in which direction you are heading.

Or rather we say: the pioneer SPH-10BT could be using the smartphone to its full potential. because some things don’t really want to work. Reading out messages only seems to work sometimes. The voice control is confusing, because it only allows the function of the last offered menu item. I try to navigate to berlin-alexanderplatz, but the system only opens google maps and remains silent.

But the pioneer SPH-10BT automatically plays the last song I listened to on spotify – even though I can’t select spotify itself in the list of available audio apps. With the power button of the radio I can switch between FM, spotify and files from the audio storage of the smartphone. I’m reminded of an audio recording in which my colleague daniel wendorf and i recently talked about system cameras and SLR cameras.

Youtube? Better to start by hand

But the youtube link refuses to play a video for me. Although I am in a parking lot, the engine is turned off and the app also shows 0 km / h (which is not always the case when stationary!), the system complains, I would just drive and therefore may not watch videos now. A clear case of overshooting the mark. If I play a youtube video on the smartphone while I have the pioneer SPH-10BT paired with bluetooth audio, I can also hear the sound through the car’s speakers. However, with a slight delay.

If desired, the display remains permanently on. If you switch it off manually, a security query such as PIN, fingerprint or face unlock is necessary when switching it on again, except for navi operation, which is of course inconvenient when driving.

And that would be the first disadvantage that the whole concept has compared to a car radio with a fixed display. As practical as this can be, a smartphone is still a smartphone, has no access to the diagnostic interface and wants to save battery power by turning off the display most of the time. However, in the case of the pioneer SPH-10BT, you have the option of leaving the display permanently on and also charging the smartphone via the USB input. Of course, this is not ideal either, because smartphones can easily overheat when the display is permanently on and charging at the same time.

please only smartphones, no tablets

You might wonder if you can clamp a tablet in there instead of a smartphone to have an even bigger screen. colleague sven wernicke for example once tested at times how it is to use a tablet as a navi. However, this is not provided for in the pioneer SPH-10BT. Probably due to physical reasons, you can only use a smartphone here that is connected up to 87 millimeters wide and not thicker than 10 mm and not heavier than 250 grams is.

This includes the vast majority of smartphones on the market, but only such smartphones. The large iphone 11 pro max, for example, with its 6.5-inch display measures 78 millimeters wide and weighs 226 grams, so it would still fit in here (without the case). And also the oukitel K9, with 7.12 inch display diagonal one of the largest smartphones 2019 on the market, you can with its 86.3 millimeters wide and the 234 grams here just still clamp. But not, for example, the apple ipad mini, whose display diagonal of 7.9 inches hardly measures more at first glance, but which, with a weight of 300 grams and, above all, a width of 135 mm, would under no circumstances fit in the holder of the pioneer SPH-10BT.

But fold in the holder of the radio, use your own tablet holder and then connect the tablet to the SPH-10BT? Should work without problems!

Our impression: onboard console for the poor? No.

The suspicion could arise, especially when you see the advertising picture: is the pioneer SPH-10BT supposed to be an on-board console for poor people?? now after my test i would say: the comparison is lame. These are two completely different approaches. An onboard console with a large display, possibly also touch, simply fulfills other tasks. the pioneer radio with smartphone holder is just that: a modern car radio for those of you who want a convenient combination of car radio, smartphone and mobile internet connection.

The functions aren’t overflowing, but the operating concept is subtle, the design is well thought out and the price of around 120 euros is reasonable. I am overall satisfied with my purchase.

However, pioneer could have placed a little more emphasis on the handling. Safety is the most important thing in a car, but I can only achieve it if I can operate all the elements without taking my eyes off the road. and because the voice control does not work reliably and i have to unlock the phone every now and then, this is not solved to my complete satisfaction in the pioneer SPH-10BT.

By the way, Pioneer also offers a sister model: the SPH-20BT differs from the unit tested here by only one detail: it also supports DAB+. You can also find the pioneer SPH-10BT at euronics.

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