Tunes on the road: the options | webOS Nation
 
 

Tunes on the road: the options 22

by Joseph Dowdy Tue, 28 Sep 2010 11:45 am EDT

Palm-mobile

There are myriad options when it comes to getting music onto your phone. There’s the straight-forward built-in music player app and there are internet radio streaming apps like Pandora. And let’s not forget podcasts in apps like drPodder. With all these options, there’s one place practically everybody listens: in the car. Sadly, webOS doesn’t have the fancy-pants remote control options available to our iOS-using friends, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t get your tunes into the car.

The first, easiest, and most seamless (not to mention cordless) option is with the beauty that is Bluetooth A2DP, known in more verbose circles as Advanced Audio Distribution Profile. A2DP gives us some of that remote control goodness, allowing you to control music playback via Bluetooth, though you’re limited to play/pause forward/back and volume. If your car has a Bluetooth-enabled stereo, you’re in luck, as hooking up via bluetooth is easy as pie. Once your phone is connected, you shouldn't have to do anything else except press play in your music app of choice and it will simply just work.

However, it's not always so simple or easy if you don't have a Bluetooth-enabled radio. There are multiple options for after-market Bluetooth radios if you want to upgrade your sound system and kill two birds with one stone. If you’re not feeling up to automotive surgery, one surefire way of connecting your phone to your car stereo is to run a wired connection to the “aux in” 3.5mm port on your radio (assuming that your car has one). Of course, there’s no control over this port, but it’s going to be the cleanest option for getting tunes on the road.

But what if your car is like so many others on the roads and doesn’t have Bluetooth or an inline connection? If you haven't bought a Bluetooth speakerphone yet, it might be a good idea to consider buying one that has A2DP capabilities (not all come with such support, though most modern ones do). Also, not all Bluetooth speakerphones can handle two simultaneous phones, so if you plan to drive a lot with someone else in the car and you both want to be able to use the speakerphone, then getting one to handle both phones is perfect. Of course, that means your passenger’s calls will interrupt your music (shame on your passenger). Adding a Bluetooth speakerphone is also a strong option in several US states where in-car calling laws have gone into affect.

Keep in mind that if you are going to connect up your phone to your car stereo and essentially replace your car radio with streaming audio (because it's easy to get tired of listening to commercial after commercial or radio stations that just don't jibe with your taste in Coldplay and Vince Guaraldi... which sound perfect when played next to each other by the way), you are going to need to pay attention to your data plan. If it's unlimited as with Sprint (though that may change in the future), then you're fine; with other carriers you may need to watch more closely. That said, streaming music might not use as much bandwidth as you may think. Also worth keeping in mind is the fact that streaming audio (and constant Bluetooth) will drain your battery, so an in-car charging option should definitely be on your shopping list.

Personally, I went through every iteration of this issue a few months back. I couldn't upgrade my car stereo because there are no replacements because my dash is so unique (i.e. my car builder designed it such that only factory replacements were available). There was no 3.5mm inline jack to use, so that option was out too. So, I bought myself a BlueAnt S4 Bluetooth speakerphone. This was not an entirely elegant solution after all because the S4 (though highly recommended) seems to have a difficult time dropping the Bluetooth handshake with my phone (which happens when I get out of the car and move out of Bluetooth range) and then automatically renegotiating it (when I get back in the car). It’s a problem I’ve learned to deal with and work around, because the benefits outweigh the small hassle.

Either way, when my phone and speakerphone are connected up and a call comes in, the S4 handles the call very nicely even if I am playing music. I have had people tell me on the other end that the sound is just as good as if I had the phone to my ear. And what's really amazing is that this setup pauses the music and then starts playing from that point after the call is over. Let's see you figure out a way to do that with regular radio when your favorite song comes on and you're drumming away on the steering wheel and singing along with the lyrics and then suddenly your phone rings.

Due to matters like radio interference, compression, and signal strength you won’t get the same superior audio quality with Bluetooth as you would with a direct wired connection. But on the other hand you do get all of the aforementioned controls and wireless magic. Either way, no matter which method you use to connect up your phone to play music in your car, it's probably going to beat what's on the radio any time of day.

22 Comments

Do the low cost parrot inline devices support A2DP? I'd like to purchase something like the CK3100 or the MKi9000. Does anyone have any experience with either of these?

Still using the tape adapter in the cassette player(yes, i said cassette) that's what i get for driving an eleven year old car. I need my pandora. Dont hate.

How about a car mount bluetooth touchtone??

I WISH i just had a cassette player for this reason. Nothing is more useless to me these days than a single-disc in-dash CD player that won't play mp3s.

Try a 6 disc glove box mounted CD changer (no mp3s either), with nothing in dash, only radio. Can't easily replace anything because all the components talk to each other in fiber optics. Fancy, yes, upgradeable, no. $1500 from the dealers to get any kind of upgrade options, like the ability to BUY Line-In, USB, SD, iPod, etc.. connections..

25 year old Nissan 300zx with a radio deck that has a power antennae switch, odd wedge shaped unit, and is tied into steering wheel radio controls (kinda crazy they had em in 85). Cassette adapter it is for me, and it works great. Audio is surprisingly good, plus, Webos is what pauses the music during call, not the BT speakerphone device.

I've been using the BlackBerry Remote Stereo Gateway to connect my Pre for a while and it works very well. Powers off the USB port in my car stereo and connects to the AUX in. Pretty nice sound quality for BT IMO. Got my 8gb chock full of my favorite albums and also listen to Pandora a lot. The Pre has totally changed (in a great way) how I listen to music in the car.

i caught these guys on the road twice in boston, mass

I can't stand bluetooth speakers. You need a bluetooth device that connects to your radio over the radio waves. I've found that to be the best solution

The best investment is to get the 3.5mm stereo input. And sorry that your radio isnt the most agreeable to making that connection possible- but, where there is a will, there is a way.

I spent 50 dollars to have the input connection made into my 03 SAAB Vector, and I recently purchased an extra touchstone from Verizon last weekend (on sale for $20!!)

So ive got tunes on the stereo, can hear phone calls on my car stereo- and my pre sits near me enough, the phone picks up my voice. Its almost almost all wireless.

Just wish the Touchstone had a little more umph of power to it with my car ac adapter. It loses power ever so slowly with Music Remix, and worse with Pandora.

Bluetooth is the way to go for me. Love being able to control the music without having to hassle with the phone. The bluetooth controls work with Pandora, too.

I have a Mazda 3 with both a cigarette lighter and an auxiliary input in the center console. I have my Pre Plus sitting on my unmodified Touchstone, pumping Pandora into my pocket rocket all the way to work. The connection is solid, and the music is sweet. Helps me to ignore the monthly fee I'm paying to get that, at least for a while... :)

Addendum: I'll mirror what someone said above. I can hear phone calls through my auxiliary jack, and the Pre is close enough to me for my calling party to hear me. However, my cigarette lighter port is powerful enough to charge the phone while in use. This was just serendipity. Obviously, this is a new requirement for the next car I get... :)

I'm rocking a Mazda 3 too, how/where did you set up your touchstone?

I'm really curious, if possible, can you DM me with how you hooked it up? I've been trying to think about how and where I would put a Touchstone into Casper (my car's name -- white hatch)

I have a Parrot MKi9000 installed in my '05 Mazda6 using a harness. This is tethered to my Sprint Palm Pre.

It works well except for a couple issues with Bluetooth A2DP:

1) Controls don't completely work. The play/pause doesn't work (I believe it worked when I first installed the Parrot but stopped after a firmware update), and other controls are kinda funky.

2) Audio quality is decent but not good. This is a known issue on the Palm developer forums; it has to do with some sort of driver/os/blueZ settings where there isn't enough bandwidth, resulting in highs that noticeably cut off. My girlfriend's Droid (original) doesn't exhibit this issue. Line in works great.

Other than the above it works great.

I've actually finally decided to star working on this. My car is fairly state of the art except the radio has no inputs or BT. It's a GM with their large form factor plus speed-controlled volume, OnStar integration and other features so I hope I can replace it and still keep all the features. I would love to add a BT stereo along with an on-dash touchstone charger (which I already have in place).

Thanks for the article!

For tunes, I love Ampache Mobile. It's a little buggy but when it works, its beautiful. You can setup your own music server and Ampache Mobile will do awesome things like cache up to 8 songs so you can skip without waiting.
From there, I use A2DP in my car. Controls work pretty much flawlessly, I can skip using my deck and pause/play.
The highs are cut off a little, like what reyawn mentioned above, but I deal with it. If I'm doing long trips, I usually use line-in still but it's great to go from headphones to car very easily and then just throw the phone on the dash mounted touchstone.

It's the best music setup I've ever had on a phone. There's an iOS app for Ampache, but it only streams over wifi, wtf?

I'm using a Motorola T505 I bought at Costco recently. It has 2 great features. First, it plays through an FM station on my car stereo. I've used FM previously & had poor signal. But the T505 has great signal strength. It also announces the frequency both over its own speaker & FM. It automatically searches for clear FM channels & remembers favourites. The other great feature is that it is powered by a rechargeable LiMH battery that lasts for weeks. Mine has never run down but I usually connect it to USB for a recharge anyway. It also has all the other features so I can take handsfree calls. The callers voice comes over my stereo, & the music starts playing where it left off when the call is over.

I'm using a Motorola T505 I bought at Costco recently. It has 2 great features. First, it plays through an FM station on my car stereo. I've used FM previously & had poor signal. But the T505 has great signal strength. It also announces the frequency both over its own speaker & FM. It automatically searches for clear FM channels & remembers favourites. The other great feature is that it is powered by a rechargeable LiMH battery that lasts for weeks. Mine has never run down but I usually connect it to USB for a recharge anyway. It also has all the other features so I can take handsfree calls. The callers voice comes over my stereo, & the music starts playing where it left off when the call is over.

I've seen a lot of recommendations for the Jabra Cruiser; can anyone attest to how good it works for this?

Thanks for the article. Great to know that there will be options for me whenever I get a new car.

For now, I'm using a pretty low-tech solution, but, it works well:

-Calls: I have a 3 year old Jabra Bluetooth headset that works great with the Pre
-Audio link: I am using the 3.5mm jack connecting to one of those FM transmitter deals & picking up my audio over the airwaves. This isn't a great solution, but, since I have no aux input (or Cassette tape), it does the trick. I like the fact that I get my music over the car stereo vs. some other set of speakers.
-Control: I'm using Music Remix 2.0 with the keyboard shortcuts (space=play/pause, @ = skip back / . = skip forward, ec..)

My truck has an after market stereo CD player. I bought this http://www.gomadic.com/palm-pre-car-auto-charger-fm-transmitter.html adapter and it works great. Routes my music thru my stereo AND charges my Pre. I read several reviews before I purchased it because I know from experience that many FM transmitters suck almost as bad as trying to listen to AM radio. This one had great reviews and I have to agree. Definitely a nice alternative if you don't have an AUX jack connection and I would have to assume that the audio quality will be far superior to a bluetooth speaker sitting on the dash. I'm sure back seat passengers probably can't hear the bluetooth to well.

Ditto on the MOTORKR T505...... trust me you wont be disappointed

for some reason after about the 1.3 is update I've only been able to get phone calls to work occasionally while connected to my radio's aux. Is there a software reason for this? It seems like the person i'm talking to will only hear me if I received the call while listening to the music player. No other way :( (i've tried in other card with the same result).