Editor’s Note: This post was written by Neal Bricker, who writes about new technology for a number of publications and websites.
Lots of us love to drive with our favourite music playing along. Not so long ago, this would mean twiddling knobs to find a decent radio station. Then came cars with tape decks in them, and finally the CD player arrived. Real music fans could specify CD auto-changer units that would have a system in the boot with a stack of CDs you could select from the dashboard audio system. These systems were large and cumbersome, though, and pretty prone to failing. They also meant carting around your favourite CDs, which you invariably found you had left at home.
This all changed with the advent of the MP3 player, the iPod, the smartphone and the iPhone . Now car companies are getting rid of expensive CD players and replacing them with MP3 connectivity, as discussed by the consumer magazine Which? . But not only are these companies realising the importance of digital audio, they have began to integrate smartphones such as the iPhone and manufacturers like Honda have already announced further measures.
Ford has really taken this seriously. They use a system they call Synch, which integrates with Bluetooth and GPS along with your iPod and iPhone. The system, that can be found in the Ford Ka, lets you make and receive calls on your iPhone and play tracks from your device. Furthermore, this model has voice recognition. This state of the art technology allows you to change tracks and receive phone calls hands free.
VW has a rather more basic approach on most of its models. An iPhone connector is built into the glove box or central armrest. Plug in your iPhone or iPod and you are in business. Songs will simply play through the audio system and tracks are displayed on the dash. The Volkswagen Polo can come built in with an RCD 310 radio that has an Apple connector, perfect for listening to your favourite tunes.
VW’s big brother Audi has a rather more elegant approach and features a nice cradle to accommodate your iPhone or iPod and charge it while it plays. The luxurious R8 allows the iPhone and iPod integration for your calling and audio needs. With Bluetooth and hands-free, you can easily call DVLA customer enquiries to enquire about the tax banding of your lovely new saloon.
The Italian giant has upped its game recently and now uses the Microsoft ‘Blue and Me’ system for its iPhone and iPod connectivity. You no longer need to buy a special adaptor, but do watch out for additional cost as the system is an option on almost all models. For Fiat 500e models (electric cars), you can download an app from the iStore that allows you to monitor the vehicles charge level, unlock and lock the doors and turn on your aircon and heating remotely. If that doesn’t sell electric cars to you, nothing will.
The Mini Paceman fitted with Mini Connectivity allows support for a range of smartphones. Simply insert your iPhone into the integrated slot and have hands free connectivity. The official Mini iPhone app allows the user to collect data about their driving and take it to the next level by turning it into a game! Gain experience points for braking, steering, changing gear and more, and try beat your personal best each time you take your Paceman for a cruise.
Although not the most premium brand, this French manufacturer has always looked to innovate and they have done a pretty good job with iPhone and iPod integration. They offer an Oxygen Audio ‘O’ system that docks with the iPhone, and even the budget Twingo models let you dock the device into the stereo unit itself. Simple, elegant and effective and fitted at no additional cost, this may just be an iPhone winner.