With the spectacular rise of the Smartphone, integration into the car has always been an obvious way forward. Once they started holding music and had access to the web the need to carry bulky CDs around was over. One small hand held device could provide all your music as well as communication needs.
Over time storage capacities have dramatically increased and access to streaming services like Spotify have put the world’s music at our fingertips. Most now have navigation apps that are updated in real time making them accurate and up to date. All this makes the smartphone an ideal addition to the vehicle environment; the trick is how to integrate it safely.
At Car and Home Stereo, we have been installing hands-free Bluetooth telephone kits for many years. A popular choice is still the Parrot CK3100. This simple device allows for hands-free telephone calls and the neat screen lets you see who is calling and also to allow access to your contacts list.
I can’t begin to imagine how many of these we have fitted over the years! With the new penalties for picking up a mobile phone in a car, this should be a minimum requirement if you do not already have Bluetooth capability.
Another highly desirable facility in the car is satellite navigation and smartphones are usually equipped with this capability. There are many companies supplying brackets and cradles for smartphones that can stick to the windscreen or attach to the dash. These are quite legal as long as they do not obstruct the driver’s vision, I have seen them stuck to the middle of the windscreen before now and that is a definite no-no!
This is a better installation but it does mean the screen is quite low.
Of course, all these solutions require something attached to the dash and associated wires to connect. It can get quite untidy and may still mean you have to operate some functions from your ‘phone. A much better solution would be if your car audio system could perform all the functions you need without the need for multiple external devices. There have been several unsuccessful attempts to do this over the years all with good intentions but ultimately let down by poor software and terrible compatibility issues. Unfortunately, open source development means systems cannot be tested for all configurations and operational incompatibilities are inevitable.
Step up Apple Car Play. Only available for iPhone 5 and above this system is the best system we have seen so far.
I don’t want to get into the iPhone versus Android debate, I know that each system has its pros and cons but for vehicle integration Apple Car play is definitely the most stable. This is simply because Apple have developed it specifically for one operating system and it can be thoroughly tested before release, it may not be perfect but it works every time without the need for the user to download and install drivers and patches.
So what does it do?
Put simply, it puts all of the relevant iPhone apps on your new car radio touch screen and works exactly like your ‘phone so you already know how to use it. There are several units available that offer Apple Car Play but let’s look at one of my favourites the Pioneer SPH DA120.
Even without an iPhone connected the DA120 is a powerful machine with full Bluetooth streaming and hands-free, dual USB, AUX, AM/FM tuner, HDMI and multiple connections for amplifiers, reverse camera and other AV devices. The 6.2-inch capacitive touchscreen is a joy to use and of course, the quality of sound from this unit is superb as you would expect from Pioneer.
However, the full power of the DA120 is unleashed as soon as you connect your iPhone and Car Play is launched. Immediately the screen changes to mimic the ‘phone screen and displays the relevant icons and this is the beauty of Car Play, you already know how to use it. Tapping the phone icon launches SIRI and you can speak the name of whoever you wish to call. Alternatively, all your ‘phone contacts are available exactly as stored. Incoming messages are read out to you and you can dictate a reply or create a new message from the messages icon. The quality of the voice calling using the supplied external mic is extremely clear even in convertible cars.
The music icon, of course, launches your media player and if you subscribe to Spotify then that icon would be available as well. Although the DA120 has an FM/AM tuner, if you want to use internet radio then one of the radio player apps like Tune In Radio can be enabled.
The icing on the cake:
So far so good but the icing on the cake is the navigation icon. This launches Apple Maps and turns your unit into a full satellite navigation system. You may have noticed from the picture of the rear of the SPH DA120 that it is equipped with a GPS aerial. This means it is not reliant on the ‘phone’s receiver and hence allows for more accurate positioning. Since Apple Maps traffic information is updated in real time getting stuck in jams could be avoided.
All of this can be accessed using SIRI, so with just a touch of a button you can access your contacts, dictate messages, request music or get directions. This makes a complex system very easy and safe to use.
This system can be fitted to any car that permits a double din fitting and we have all the necessary installation kits to allow a neat and seamless integration to your dashboard. If your car has controls on the steering wheel for volume and other functions we can ensure that these remain active, we will also ensure that any changes we make can be reversed if the car is sold to return it to standard.
If you would like to know more about Apple Car Play or any other aspect of improving your existing car audio system please give us a call on 01625 432707 or better still call into the shop on Sunderland Street, Macclesfield, Cheshire we would love to see you.