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

Jurgen Vielmeier

Jurgen Vielmeier 09.06.2020 24.01.2022 3

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

Pioneer SPH-10BT in test: car radio with your smartphone as display

I’m happy with my 15-year-old VW Lupo that I bought in 2019. It takes me where I want to go, has no bells and whistles, but it drives. Only the radio, which was installed by the previous owners, does not work properly, a new one is needed. In my search for something more modern I come across the Pioneer SPH-10BT.

Pioneer SPH-10BT: Your smartphone is the display

In promotional images, Pioneer advertises with a nice, top-opened display. But that’s simply because you’re plugging your own (hopefully pretty) smartphone into the radio. The SPH-10BT itself does not have its own display.

Pioneer SPH-10BT promotional image

Still, it sounds like a neat compromise to me. I sometimes look with envy at the cockpits of modern cars and 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 with your favorite apps and thus a mobile internet connection sounds like two birds with one stone. I strike.

. and reality with the clamped, own smartphone (Galaxy S10). Agrees in principle

The installation goes reasonably smoothly. The assembly instructions with complex circuit diagrams deter though. In fact, the connection of the radio is very easy with already existing wiring. I plug the existing double plug into the radio via a supplied adapter. Ready. The more complex part is to change the cage and to put the radio back in place. After about an hour, the work is done and the Pioneer SPH-10BT is installed.

If desired “only” a good car radio

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; nevertheless, you can see the simplest RDS information here, such as the station you’re currently listening to. To use the smartphone holder, I first have to remove the control panel, pull out the holder and put the control module back on again.

You have to pull out the smartphone holder first

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

Pioneer SPH-10BT with the cage set up but without a smartphone in operation

Of course, the Pioneer SPH-10BT also works without a smartphone. The operation is kept very simple with two main and four shortcut keys, but not everything is self-explanatory. Especially since Pioneer includes an installation but no user manual with the device. You can find this 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.

Color choice orange: Pioneer lets you customize the LED color of the SPH-10BT

The SPH-10BT with smartphone: car radio with display and Internet

The Pioneer SPH-10BT realizes its full potential when you connect your smartphone to it and install the Pioneer Smart Sync app there. The smartphone then becomes the display of the radio and shows you all sorts of useful information. For example, the song you are currently 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, the direction in which you are traveling.

Speed and below: Cardinal direction and altimeter - nice gimmicks of the SPH-10BT

Or rather say: the Pioneer SPH-10BT could be to realize its full potential via the smartphone. Because some things don’t quite want to work. Reading out messages seems to work only sometimes. The voice control is confusing because it only allows the function of the last menu item offered. For example, I try to navigate to Berlin-Alexanderplatz, but the system only opens Google Maps and then stays mute.

For navigation, the Pioneer Smart Sync app on my Android smartphone uses Google Maps. You start the navi with a button

For this, the Pioneer SPH-10BT automatically plays the last song I listened to on Spotify – although I can’t even 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 tray of the smartphone. This is how an audio recording jumps out at me, in which my colleague Daniel Wendorf and I recently talked about system cameras and SLR cameras.

YouTube? Better to start by hand

For this the YouTube link refuses to play a video for me. Although I am in a parking lot, have turned off the engine and the app also shows 0 km / h (which is not always the case when stationary!), the system complains that I’m driving and therefore can’t watch videos now. Clear case of overshooting the mark. If I play a YouTube video just like that 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.

YouTube link refuses to operate even when stationary

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 back on, except for navi mode, which is of course inconvenient when driving.

The control panel of the SPH-10BT

And that would be the first disadvantage that the entire concept has compared to a car radio with a permanently installed display. As practical as this can be in principle, a smartphone remains a smartphone, has no access to the diagnostic interface and wants to turn off the display most of the time to save battery power. 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

Maybe you’re wondering if you could clamp a tablet in there instead of a smartphone to have an even bigger screen. Our colleague Sven Wernicke, for example, once tested what it’s like to use a tablet as a navigation device. However, this is not provided in the Pioneer SPH-10BT. Probably for physical reasons, you can only put a smartphone in here that has a display of up to 6.5 inches 87 millimeters wide and thereby not thicker than 10 mm and No 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 a case). And also the Oukitel K9, with a 7.12-inch display diagonal one of the largest smartphones 2019 on the market, you can with its 86.3 millimeters width 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 with 300 grams of weight and especially 135 mm width would not fit under any circumstances in the holder of the Pioneer SPH-10BT.

But folding the mount of the radio, using your own tablet mount and then connecting the tablet to the SPH-10BT like this? Should work without any problems!

Our impression: on-board console for arms? 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 on-board 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 Pioneer SPH-10BT with Samsung Galaxy S10 in a VW Lupo

The functions are not overflowing, but the operating concept is subtle, the design is well thought out and the price is reasonable at around 120 euros. Overall, I am satisfied with my purchase.

However, Pioneer could have placed a bit 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.

Incidentally, Pioneer has another sister model on offer: the SPH-20BT differs from the device tested here, however, essentially only by one detail: it also handles DAB+. You can also find the Pioneer SPH-10BT at Euronics.

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