Toyota Entune System – Preliminary Review

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At the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, Toyota announced a new in-car electronics system called Entune that seems to be very similar to Ford’s “Sync” system. While we have yet to actually use Entune, the system might best be described as a smart phone or tablet PC that’s built into your Toyota. It features a large touch screen, a number of built-in applications, and the ability to connect to the Internet by tethering itself to the driver’s smart phone.

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How it Works: Entune connects your car to the Internet using your smart phone. You install a special Entune app on your iPhone, Blackberry, or Android-powered phone, and then you use Bluetooth to connect your phone to your car. As long as your phone is on and the Entune app on your phone is active, Entune will be fully functional.

Needless to say, if you don’t have a smart phone with a data plan, Entune might not be useful to you.

Entune Features Include:

  • Voice recognition for Bing, powered by Nuance (more on Nuance below)
  • Built-in GPS that can be used in combination with Bing search to find local businesses, download maps and directions, etc.
  • Navigation powered by Bing, including free traffic updates
  • The ability to stream music through your car stereo using popular Internet radio services
  • The ability to select and play music off your MP3 player (iPod, Zune, etc.)
  • The ability to check stocks, weather, scores, fuel prices, etc., directly from your car
  • The ability to freely upgrade the Entune system and add new features over time

Each of the Entune’s main features are contained in separate applications, very similar to the apps people download onto their iPhones or Android devices.

Toyota has been very smart to use off-the-shelf technologies to power Entune. The basic software behind Entune comes from QNX Software, which is a subsidiary of RIM (the same people that make the Blackberry). QNX software currently powers more than 20 million vehicle systems around the world, which probably means that Entune will be stable and relatively bug free.

The voice recognition software used by Entune comes from Nuance, one of the premier voice recognition companies worldwide. Nuance is the company that sells Dragon desktop, a popular and powerful voice recognition program that can be used to dictate speech to text.

Finally, Toyota has integrated Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio system and Pandora, two popular and well-funded Internet radio companies.

Toyota seems to have chosen their partners for Entune very wisely.

Toyota Entune vs. Ford Sync vs. OnStar

Here’s a quick breakdown of features offered by Entune and how they compare to Ford’s Sync system and GM’s Onstar:

OnStar Sync* Entune
Automated Crash
Response/911 Assist
Yes Yes Yes
Stolen Vehicle Assist Yes No ?
Remote Unlock Yes Yes (3rd party app) ?
Navigation & Traffic
Yes Yes Yes
Sports, Weather, News No Limited Yes
Built-in Local Search No Sort Of Yes
Hands-Free Calling Yes Yes Yes
Vehicle Diagnostics Yes Yes ?
Free Internet Radio
No No Yes
Built-in hard drive
for music storage
No Yes ?
Make Vehicle A
Wireless Hotspot
No Yes ?
Download Future
No Yes – Dealership
provides upgrade too
Monthly Fee $19-$29 No** No**

Note: This table will be updated as more feature information becomes available

*Sync is understood to include Ford’s new MyFordTouch features.

**Cell phone with Bluetooth and Internet data plan required.

Questions We Have About Entune

  1. How much bandwidth will Entune use? Will my phone’s data plan be sufficient?
  2. Will Bluetooth sync really work? There are numerous Toyota owners who have reported trouble with getting their phone to talk to their Bluetooth compatible stereo.
  3. Will Internet radio replace XM/Sirius? (Motley Fool tries to answer that question here)
  4. What apps are next? Maps, local search, and voice recognition apps are essential, but gimmicks like movie tickets and dinner reservations aren’t going to be enough to make this system really fly.

The data plan question is interesting because streaming one hour of Internet radio each day will consume about 860 megabytes of data each month according to the AT&T data plan calculator. That means that many iPhone customers will have to upgrade their data plan if they want to utilize this feature. If Entune eats up a lot of bandwidth completing local searches, navigation, etc., some iPhone users might not be happy campers.

Bottom line: The fact that Entune can be upgraded over time guarantees that this will be a worthwhile feature for Toyota owners who already use a smart phone. Even if the current iteration of Entune sucks (and it doesn’t seem like it does), an upgrade will always be available. Kudos to Toyota for taking Ford’s idea and making it better.

Filed Under: Auto News


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  1. Matt Keegan says:

    Good review about Entune, Jason!

    Personally, I am not at the point where I’m about to use one of the systems, but if I were Entune certainly is competitive. It seems easy to use and the price point makes it worth considering. GM wants to keep charging big time for OnStar, but if SYNC and Entune are essentially free services, then why bother.

    Yes, it seems Toyota is doing Ford one better with this system. That should help them in their quest to put the pain of 2010 behind them.

  2. Jason (Admin) says:

    Matt – Thanks! I really like what Toyota has come up with in theory, but whether or not it will be great in execution remains to be seen.

  3. John says:

    FYI, you do not need to take a Ford to the dealer for a SYNC software update. You can download them from the website with your VIN then just plug the thumb drive into the SYNC USB port.

  4. Jason (Admin) says:

    John – Thank you – I have changed the table above. Much appreciated!!

  5. mk says:

    the day toyota makes this system standard on their vehicles thus increasing price is the time I will probably switch brands. I do not have a smartphone since don’t need one or ever want one. More stuff not needed on vehicles nowadays. Drive the darn vehicle, don’t get in a wreck especially if I am the one you hit because you are fidgiting with the techy gizmos. I am totally sick of people talking on cell phones, messing with the apps and other gizmos on the road that if I was a cop, I would pull that person’s license on the spot and never give it back.

  6. Jason (Admin) says:

    mk – I understand where you’re coming from. I doubt this will be a standard feature in the near future, but 10-20 years? Hard to say.

    Smartphones are great tools for business and they can be really convenient for your personal life too. You should check one out man – I’ve been using them for years and love them.

  7. mk says:

    to each their own Jason. As of now, I have no use for a smartphone and refuse to pay say 30 bucks extra per month to use my cell phone like a laptop. Call me a cheap B…ard, oh well.
    Idiots at work ON company time wasting company money and idiots texting/on apps while driving tick me off almost everyday. If I ever get in an accident with someone using their cell phone, consider that cell phone smashed to pieces.

  8. Jason (Admin) says:

    mk – For sure. I understand what you’re saying about distraction – it’s like they’re video game players or something. I really don’t use mine for games, but I’d be lying if I said I never looked up some sports cores or read some news.

    What I like best is that I’m never away from email – I get an instant alert. That’s sort of a big deal for me in my real job.

    I like your plan to destroy a cellphone if it is responsible for an accident – I think that’s a great idea.

  9. TXTee says:

    I’m with MK on this one. I work with a lot of high technology but I don’t need anything on my phone except to dial out most of the time. I barely answer people as is and don’t want to be linked to the net, email, work or otherwise. I’d also rather not lump that cost into my vehicle. Bluetooth came with the head unit I put in the truck and I honestly don’t use the feature even when I need to make a call. GPS, don’t need it. It’s fun getting lost or either you just learn to plan ahead. But I’m sure someone felt that way about electriciy before it became commonly used so only the future will tell. 🙂

  10. Jason (Admin) says:

    TXTee – I appreciate your perspective as well – a line has to be drawn somewhere, and a car is just as good of a place to be off the grid as anywhere else (safer at the very least).

  11. Mickey says:

    Like Mk mentions I use the phone strictly for what it was intended. Phone calls only. I don’t have text much less a camera. Job requires no camera. I know these other phones that don’t have camera’s or camera’s you can turn off. Try explaining that to a marine who wants to take you down when you get at the gate. If I want internet access I wait till I get home and use the laptop or computer. So I’m not one who’s crazy about these gizmo’z. I do use my Ipod Nano for music along with cd’s and XM. Yes why use Nano and cd’s when you have XM. Answer is because I can. I do get tired of one and go to the next. CD’s are my gospel music.

  12. Jason (Admin) says:

    Well I am ADDICTED to Internet access…but in my defense it’s sort of what I do. I very much like my smartphone and would definitely buy an Entune system.

  13. TXTee says:

    I’m addicted to online too but the phone is too tiny and so are those keys. When I had a Blackberry, my thumbs hurt from texting LOL…..

  14. Jason (Admin) says:

    TXTee – I hear you. I don’t even try to use my keypad.

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  16. […] the hottest music apps: Pandora! The 2012 version of the well-loved Tacoma features Toyota’s Entune platform. This handy app allows users to look up driving directions, make dinner reservations, purchase […]

  17. Stet says:

    Texting, using a cell phone, even smoking, should be illegal while driving. All are
    distractions from driving. You wanna light up, text, or be using the cell phone. Get off the road and do it.

  18. Irwin Friedman says:

    2012 Camry with entune…can 2 different Iphones be programmed into the Entune radio???

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