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Clarion Next GATE Hands-On: iPhone Apps on Your Dash for $269

The Next GATE from Clarion isn't just any 7-inch tablet. This $269 smartphone controller works with your iPhone to bring vehicle-friendly apps to your dashboard. The first six options include TuneIn and Pandora for entertainment, INRIX Traffic, as well as InfoGation for turn-by-turn GPS navigation. You can even do speech-to-text for email and social networking with the Vlingo app.

Clarion’s Smart Access Cloud Telematics Service will enable users to download additional approved apps developed using the company's SDK. 

The tablet itself is fairly basic, with a 7-inch WVGA screen, microSD card slot and built-in speaker. The Next GATE is designed to be plugged into your vehicle's aux audio input, and leverages Bluetooth for hands-free operation. Initially, we found the interface somewhat difficult to navigate, but once we figured out what each of the four hardware buttons do--including a dedicated voice command button--we got the hang of it.

We hope to take the Next GATE for a test drive inside a vehicle in the near future. The device has potential, but we'd like to see more apps added to the mix.