2012 Toyota Camry Long Term Road Test - Audio & Technology

2012 Toyota Camry Long Term Road Test

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2012 Toyota Camry: L.A. to S.F. Twice

October 29, 2012


Our long-term Camry has been busy running back and forth between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Yes, that's the Golden Gate bridge back there.

During the trip the Toyota proved once again that this is the best Camry since the mid-1990s. And it's a great road tripper. Comfortable. Quiet. And economical. But also interesting to drive. For a few generations, Camry's have been so boring you couldn't remember driving the sedan ten minutes after climbing from its driver's seat. Not anymore. Our Camry SE hs plenty of personality. 

Our only issue during the drives were the occational miscue by its navigation system, which suggested a few questionable detours. After following the first two, we smartened up and ignored the rest.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 15,821 miles 

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2012 Toyota Camry: Definitely Broken Buttons

October 2, 2012

2012 Toyota Camry

Methinks Magrath was being optimistic when he decided our Toyota Camry steering wheel control buttons had fixed themselves.

I drove the Camry last night and this morning, and they were wonky nearly every time I restarted the car. Not the same level of wonky mind you, just intermittent enough to keep you guessing.

First, they didn't work at all. After I stopped at the post office and restarted the car, the volume button starting working, but only after I jabbed it several times. I stopped at the store 15 minutes later and restarted the car again. This time all buttons worked right away, and remained fully operational for the rest of my 90-minute drive.

We're planning to send the Toyota to service, but not until we get at least one more opinion--going for the full fail, maybe. Engineering Editor Jay Kavanagh's driving it tonight. We'll see how it works for him.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 12,334 miles

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: Broken Buttons

October 1, 2012

2012 Toyota Camry

This odd, muli-function, multi-button contraption is supposed to adjust volume, track, mode and other basic systems on our 2012 Toyota Camry SE.

From Saturday morning until early Monday morning it did not. It just didn't work. I could still control the volume and track the old fashioned way -- by reaching.

For no good reason it started working again on my way into the office this morning. Fixed forever? I think so.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ 13,142 miles

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2012 Toyota Camry: Thoughts On Entune

August 11, 2012


I played around with Entune a little when I was driving our Camry last month. Since I had never used it before, I started with Erin's setup post as a guide. After reading it, I was able to get Entune working without too much trouble.

And yeah, just like Toyota promotes, you can listen to Pandora and iHeartRadio, see traffic information, find movie and theaters, search for POI in conjuction with Bing, use OpenTable for restaurants and access other information, such as fuel prices and weather.

But for the most part, I was left with a feeling of ambivalence. I did see some value in Pandora and iHeart (though you're still paying for data useage on your phone). But for everything else I just wondered why I wouldn't just use my smart phone instead to get information. That way, I'm using the apps that I want to use rather than what Toyota gives me.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: Road Trip to Dodger Stadium

June 13, 2012


Earlier this week, on Tuesday, my commitment to the Los Angeles Dodgers was seriously tested, and I happened to be driving our long-term 2012 Toyota Camry SE.

The test had nothing to do with the final score, as some key calls by the umpires and clutch hits by Ethier and Rivera resulted in a 5-2 Dodger victory. Instead, it had everything to do with the horrific traffic going to the stadium... starting on the 110 freeway, continuing on the surface streets. After we entered the parking lot and paid our $10, there was another 15-20 minutes of traffic -- in the parking lot -- before we could park the car and hike back to the other side of the stadium to get to our seats. Door to door, my travel time was 3 hours, 20 minutes. Total distance? 20 miles. Never again will I go to a weeknight game when there's a (Mike Scioscia) bobblehead giveaway.

On the upside, I couldn't have picked a much better car for the occasion. As my blood pressure soared, the Camry remained calm, relaxed and at ease with the world. The driver seat never got uncomfortable. When All Things Considered ended, we switched to the Dodger pregame show, and then, sadly, to the radio broadcast of the game itself.

And I decided that I really like the navigation system in our Camry. At times, it's a little slow to respond to human touch, as Brent wrote, but for the money ($1,050 and part of the Display Audio package), it offers a lot of functionality that I like.

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2012 Toyota Camry: The Good and the Bad of Audio Controls

May 01, 2012


OK, so Brent Romans already covered the insensitivity of our 2012 Toyota Camry's touchscreen, but I wanted to add that I also dislike how tiny the "buttons" on the screen are as well as how the scrolling button doesn't make it obvious when you're changing the station. The small "click" you feel when you turn the knob to advance to another station is soo subtle that you can easily click over two Sirius stations. And when driving in stop-and-go traffic, you definitely do not want to take your eyes off Brakey McBrakerton in front of you (I'm talking to you. Mr. RAV4).

Fortunately, the Camry's steering wheel is equipped with an "excellent preset design" as Riswick noted so you really don't have to sit through that really annoying commercial and/or The Offspring song if you don't want to.

Only thing is having to share the Camry with a bunch of other people means that these are not your presets. But obviously actual owners of the Camry won't have this same issue.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 7,848 miles

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2012 Toyota Camry: Need More in Your Back-up Display?

April 30, 2012


After experiencing all the different types of backup cameras in various long-termers, one can't help but get used to certain features and miss them when they're not available in other cars. Like for our 2012 Toyota Camry's view via the back-up camera. It's a clean, straightforward display of guidelines. The thin, red horizontal line shows how close is too close, while the blue vertical lines shows where you are in relation to the space you're backing into.

But what the guidelines don't do is react when you turn the wheel (like in the BMW 528i), which, even though I don't really need it, I still find helpful when parallel parking. Nor does the Camry display have the helpful green, yellow and red zones you find in a Ford Mustang, Nissan Juke or Kia Optima (when it works). But that's me, what say you? Do you prefer simpler?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 7,848 miles

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2012 Toyota Camry: Not Fond Of the Touchscreen

April 27, 2012


There are only a couple things that I don't like about our Camry. The touchscreen is one of them. Mainly, I get annoyed with its lack of sensitivity to touch. It reminds me of our Explorer's touchscreen in the way that I'll touch a virtual button, but occasionally nothing will happen. Then I have to touch it again, still wondering if it will take for the next touch. 

I find it distracting because it just takes that much more concentration away from driving.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 7.623 miles 

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: A-to-B Car, But Better

April 25, 2012


Our Camry is an excellent A-to-B car. It's comfortable, the controls are logical, there's plenty of interior storage and the trunk is decent sized. There are also some nice conveniences or upgrades on our car like keyless access, leather/faux-suede upholstery, heated seats and the Entune suite of features. I was thinking about this today as I picked a friend up from the airport. You just get in it and drive, no thought required.

But the nice thing is that the Camry doesn't bore or annoy me like the stereotypical A to B car. It goes around corners acceptably, has decent power and responds willingly to my throttle inputs. Our car's $28,658 MSRP (or mid 26K for Edmunds TMV) seems like a very agreeable price to me. I'd buy one.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: Is "Canadian" Really a "Type" of Music?

March 26, 2012


According to Sirius/XM, it is. There, sandwiched between Latin and Comedy is Canadian, eh. The channel is produced in Toronto and features (mostly) new and emerging rock bands from Canada -- which explains why I had never heard of Tokyo Police Clu(b). Now, back to the search for "News/Public Radio" which I believe should be separate categories, but that's an entirely different problem for another day.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 6,294 miles

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: What Exactly is Personal Data?

March 26, 2012


It's tempting, isn't it? And in this era of identity theft, I thought, "Yeah, what the heck," and pressed delete after a few days in the car. What did I delete? According to the manual, here's the list: Phone Book Data (great), Call History and Speed Dial data (fine by me), Phone Sound Setting (?), Bluetooth Data and Devices (D'oh!).
"I'm sorry" to the other four (?) staff members who had their phones paired. At least it's easy-peasy to pair a Bluetooth device in this car.

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 5,812 miles

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: One More Note About Traffic Updates with Entune

March 17, 2012


You might remember an earlier post from me about the slightly involved and somewhat counterintuitive process of getting traffic data to appear in 2012 Toyota Camrys that have Entune and the base navigation system. If you don't go through that process, you get the above display -- a map with no green-yellow-red traffic data.

However, while running errands this week, I became aware of one particular convenience -- at least for iPhone users. If you stop for gas or something, and leave your phone hooked up via the USB port (which is required if you want to use Entune with an iPhone) and running the Entune app, then, when you turn the car back on, it remembers that you that you'd turned on the traffic data function.

So then, all you have to do is hit yes to connect to the Internet and, after a warning about racking up data charges, it takes you right back to the map with traffic data. Which is obviously more convenient than if it didn't do that.

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: The Microwave Clock

February 29, 2012

 Toyota Camry SE clock.jpg

It's a general Toyota policy that the vehicle's clock should be a stand-alone display. (Yes, I do know this.) Many people deride this display as the microwave clock. Stylish, it's not.

But it's quite functional. No searching around for the time buried somewhere in the Navi display, or worse, entombed in the reconfigurable display between the speedo and tach.

And changing the time (e.g., during Daylight Savings Time) is a breeze. I've had to bust out the book and RTFM on some cars just to do that simple task. 

The only thing I would change on this clock is to make it a nice analog model, but that might increase the cost too much when multiplied by 300,000 units.

Of course, many Camry owners...

Of course, many Camry owners are Boomers and parents of Boomers, and they want to know the time, and change the time, without any fuss. I know you Generation Z people don't even need a vehicle clock (or a watch for that matter) and will just check your phone for the time between sending SMS and Tweets.

But shouldn't this be a case where function triumphs form? Maybe we can have both with a nice, stand-alone analog clock.

What do you say?

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ ~4,200 miles

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: Radio Days

February 04, 2012


Initially, our 2012 Toyota Camry SE comes across as inhospitable for AM/FM radio listeners. After all, it has the same ridiculously long reach to the tuning knob as our Sienna did. If I need to tune a new public radio station while driving (weaker stations don't always come up in seek/scan), I have to lean way forward in my seat to work the knob. It's uncomfortable and annoying.

However, the Camry's radio has one feature I really like.

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: Additional Matters of Sound

February 01, 2012


Magrath and I sometimes disagree on cars, but definitely not on our long-term 2012 Toyota Camry SE's audio system: It's really not very good and I'd be tempted to ante up for the optional JBL system (or aftermarket stuff) just to listen to NPR. I, too, fiddled with the equalizer settings, couldn't get it to sound how I wanted, and gave up.

Similarly, Toyota doesn't give you enough steps for the navigation system's guidance volume. (I've noticed that a lot of my coworkers mute the navigation system's verbal guidance, but I always turn it back on, because I end up missing turns if I have to pay attention to what's happening on the screen.)

So I entered a destination into our Camry's system and then had to sit through some low-speed traffic. The first verbal prompts from the nav system nearly deafened me, so I hit the sound icon, brought up this little display and tapped it down to the minimum audible setting. Still too loud.

Then, speeds picked up on the freeway, and the minimum sound level was a bit too quiet. But I wasn't about to turn the volume up and have it blast again the next time I slowed down.

Curiously, the situation is a lot better for Bluetooth-enabled phone calls...

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: You Need Entune for Traffic

January 30, 2012


I got into our long-term 2012 Toyota Camry SE yesterday for a drive to the San Diego area for a work event. I hadn't been in this car for a few weeks, so my phone had long since been deleted (the Camry only allows four paired Bluetooth devices at a time... which is a little low, as most cars give you five or six slots).

Of course, pairing my phone was the first order of business, and then I hit the Apps button to enter an address in the navigation system. I plugged in my phone via the USB port, but didn't think to boot up the Entune app on my phone because I wasn't planning to use Pandora.

Then, I realized the map wasn't showing any traffic data... that is, I was seeing the map above but without the green (and yellow and red) highlighting.

Then, I remembered something about the entry-level Camry navigation system using Entune/your smartphone for traffic updates. And sure enough when I started the app on my phone, toggled to the second page of the Apps menu, I found a Traffic button.

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2012 Toyota Camry: Excellent Preset Design

January 27, 2012

Toyota Camry Favorites Settings copy.jpg 

I know in this age of portable music devices, the radio is old-fashioned to some people. Great, good for some people. I like listening to the radio, both terrestial and satellite, and Camry makes it easy with the way it lays out presets.

This is totally a play on GM's Favorites system, which mixes and matches AM/FM/XM on several different lists of 6 presets. If there is a problem with GM system, is that the favorites button is often placed too far away from the preset buttons (see Volt), and I've always wished there was a redundant favorites button included on the steering wheel. 

Well, with Toyota's new touchscreen layout, both issues are satisfied. The directional buttons on the steering wheel, as well as the touchscreen icons next to the preset list allow you to go through the favorites list. Toyota goes a step further by allowing you to go forward and backward through the favorites lists. GM only can go forward.

This is a great example of taking a really good idea and making it even better. Well done.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 3,005 miles 

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: Stereo Sound Separation

January 25, 2012

Toyota STereo1.jpg

There's someone on staff that I won't mention here (Chris Walton) who prefers the sound in cars set to have just a slight rear bias. He digs it. It drives me nuts, I feel like I've walked past the band and am now walking out the door with the cool stuff happening behind me. Thankfully, this can be solved simply by adjusting the fader.

The problem with our Camry's stereo isn't so easily fixed. See, the trouble is that when you really start listening to the stereo and not just coasting along with NPR there's a super annoying separation of sound. Usually this happens in a fore/aft left/right (see: our Raptor) but our Camry with the six-speaker stereo has a different separation: top/bottom.

Our Camry has two speaker grilles on top of the dash and one in each door. The sound never meshes it simply hits you from four different locations at roughly the same time. Unfortunately, they hit you from drastically different places and it sounds like someone's playing two radios at the same time with one above your head and one right around your feet.

Now, there's a 10-speaker JBL unit available but I'm not sure that would solve this problem. My car? Yank out the top speakers and chuck some reasonably priced 6.5 components behind the stock grille. The effort would be well worth it.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Edmunds

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: Navigation Woes

January 23, 2012


This weekend I went to a concert about 22 miles from my house. I wasn't familiar with the venue so I Google-mapped it and printed out the directions. It looked to be a little tricky at the end so I also attempted to put the address into the Camry's navigation system. Some guidance to find the last couple of turns would be very helpful.

The nav system did not recognize the zip code of the concert hall and would not let me type it in. It presented me with only one possible zip code option for the street address which was one digit off. I took a chance and pressed OK and it changed the street address to something else entirely. I was looking for a certain Drive, it changed it to Place.

I started over and it seemed to accept the street address without a zip code. The route it offered looked correct so I pressed start guidance and went on my way. While I was heading to the freeway, it tried to get me to make a u-turn and then I realized the navigation changed to a different address in the opposite direction. Perhaps it defaulted to the most recently used address instead? I have no idea.

The Camry's nav system does not accept information while the car is moving so my passenger tried to re-input the address at the next red light. But it accepts each letter and number so slowly that we could not complete the operation before it was time to move. I also tried to find the venue by POI but it was no help. I decided it wasn't worth pulling over for and cancelled the navigation. I used my paper print out instead. On the way I got detoured because of construction and had to get off an unfamiliar freeway exit. I could really have used some guidance at this point.

After the concert was over, the navigation system did help me get back to the freeway because it found my home address acceptable. But it could not get me to my first destination. It was 50% useless to me.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 2,958 miles

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: AUX Friendly

January 17, 2012


In my last Camry post, I noted a small annoyance. This time around, I'm pointing out a small perk.

A few other cars in my memory banks have this feature, and I hope more are to follow. This little bin has the USB and auxiliary audio jack built-in (sorry for the blurry photo, but it was dark and the Mountain Dew was starting to give me the shakes).

If I had an iPod in addition to my iPhone, I could simply leave it in the car. It'd be out of sight of prying eyes, yet easily accessible. Now, if it had a lock of some sort to keep the valets in line, it'd be perfect. Sure, some other cars (Audi mostly) put the USB in the glovebox, but what happens if you need to do a quick reset?

Open letter to other manufacturers: Please do more of this. Thanks.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: Easier Entune in the XLE

January 02, 2012


Erin detailed the steps necessary for pairing an iPhone with our Camry SE's Entune system, and noted that the device needs to be connected via a USB cable. I recently tested a 2012 XLE model with the $1,550 Premium HDD Navigation system and found it much easier to get Entune up and running with my iPhone 4. And I didn't have to attach the phone to the car with a cable to get the system to work, as in our SE with the $1,050 Display Audio option.

Premium HDD Nav also adds a 10-speaker JBL audio system. But besides letting you go wireless via Bluetooth, it doesn't add a lot to the Entune experience.

I had to go through a set-up similar to Erin's, but was a few steps ahead since Toyota had already established an account for the car. All I needed to do was create a username and password for my own sub account. And I already had the Entune app on my iPhone from a previous test in a pre-production car that was a fail didn't go so well since the system couldn't communicate with my phone. I previously had linked my Pandora account and set up and linked OpenTable.com and MovieTickets.com accounts in order to test Entune.

The setup and learning curve were simple enough. And I liked certain features of Entune. Pandora is much easier to use on the Camry's 7-inch screen than my iPhone's small one, and having Bing search onboard is pretty cool, although the voice recognition feature is hit or miss (see videos below).

But after using Entune for a few days I really didn't see the point. Most of these apps are available for a smartphone anyway and, except for Pandora and I Heart Radio, you can't use them while the car is in motion. The Entune system just gives you a convenient in-dash interface for its five apps.

Toyota needs to provide more apps to make Entune essential. And automakers need to loosen their death-grip on the dash so that third-party developers can create cool apps.

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: Getting Started With Entune, the iOS Version

December 20, 2011


We've had our 2012 Toyota Camry for a month, but until this week, we hadn't been using its Entune system, which is part of a $1,050 Display Audio with Nav/Entune option package on our four-cylinder SE model. It turns out the process is a little bit involved to set it up if you have an iPhone, as most of our editors do.

When it initially launched, Entune only worked on Android, BlackBerrys and Windows phones. Then, iOS 5 came along and it became compatible with Apple phones as well. But there are caveats.

The big one is shown here. You have to hook a hard line up to the Camry's USB input to make an iPhone work with Entune for this particular audio-navigation unit; you can't stream via the Bluetooth connection (although you do have to pair your phone as your normally would for Bluetooth and then enable music streaming). Android phones are exempt from this requirement, and Toyota officials tell us the iPhone will work wirelessly, too -- but only with the higher-end Denso navigation system available only on the XLE V6.

OK, fine, I've got the cable hooked up.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, we had to go to myentune.com and set up a staff account linked to our Camry's VIN. Then, we had to enter and save that username and password in the Camry's audio-nav unit. And then, we had to set up a staff Pandora account linked to the Entune account. Finally, I had go to the App Store and install the free Entune app on my phone.

All that done, I plugged in my iPhone, opened the Entune app on my phone (have to do this before you interact with the Camry's Entune menus, we're told), and that brings up this screen:

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: I Like Big Buttons and I Cannot Lie

December 13, 2011


Oh, my, gawd, Becky. Look at those buttons. They're so big. They look like one of those Fisher-Price toys.

What can I say? I'm a big-button type of guy.

Seriously, Toyota has the most legible buttons on the market, and that's a good thing. The buttons are so big, I'm pretty sure I could operate them with an oven mitt on. Maybe it's not the most attractive center stack out there, but in this regard, I would choose function over form any day.

The buttons on the steering wheel are also large, but perhaps not as ergonomic as they could be. The volume buttons are too far apart and I'm pretty sure no human thumb has that much range of motion to use them without shifting the hand position. I was also thinking that they could've eliminated the volume buttons altogether and used the vertical directional pad buttons for volume and horizontal for skip functions.

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2012 Toyota Camry SE: Wants Versus Availability

December 09, 2011


Our Camry purchase has triggered a lot of discussion about the options we chose for our test car. When we buy cars for the long term test fleet, we decide what trim level and options we want, and weigh that against what we can afford and what is actually out there on the dealership lot.

You can use a configurator all day long and design the car of your dreams, but what you'll find on the dealer lot is rarely what you had in mind. Dealers order vehicles not for the sake of variety, but instead they choose options and colors that they think will sell the fastest and maximize profit.

Each time you choose a color and an option, the pool of cars that will match that description gets smaller and smaller. And since we were one of the first to get a Camry SE, there were even less available to choose from. If you aren’t willing to budge on your options, you can always custom order the car, but you're going to wait 8-10 weeks on average.

We knew that we wanted a four-cylinder SE and that we wanted it with the Entune system. But the cars out there didn’t just come with Entune. They also came with a moonroof, and the convenience and leather package. This added $3,601 to the MSRP, in addition to the $1,050 that the Entune already cost.

Next we had to find a Camry with those options and in a color that wasn't the typical black, silver or white. We could've had a silver Camry sooner, but we decided to wait an extra week for the Cosmic Gray Mica (which looks more like a midnight blue) we ended up getting.

A Camry with an MSRP of $28,656 may seem pricey for some people, but keep in mind we didn't pay that. We negotiated and ended up paying the invoice price, which was $26,397.

For those curious, the V6 model, though not in our original game plan, would have cost an extra $1,300 and pushed the price out of reach. We are a big company, but we still have to follow a budget like everyone else.

When buying a car, you'll have to strike a balance between what you want, what is available, and how soon you want it. If you set out to buy a red car, with a sunroof and the upgraded sound system, will you be able to find it in the real world? And if not, are you willing to order and wait for it? Or would you be willing to consider the black one sitting in the showroom with the sunroof and leather package?

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate

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