iPod Dock in Cars
June 21, 2004 2:29 PM   Subscribe

Ugh..after holding my breath to see the iPod integration with BMWs, only to find out that it's a "cable securely integrated into your BMW’s glovebox", and by "securely integrated" they mean 12" of loose cable so my iPod can fly freely around the glovebox. Why can't someone make a car stereo that lets you slide in your iPod (or other device) as if it were an 8 track tape?

Is there some reason that car stereo's seem to lag so far behind other consumer devices in quality and features?
posted by freshgroundpepper to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
Factory installed car stereos are always a step or twelve behind the times. They are big time into proprietary crap so they can justify charging $1200 for speakers that should cost $30.

My brother "integrated" his iPod with his BMW by taking the standard cradle for the desk, painted it to match the cupholder and hid the wires to the line-in on his car stereo. He says it looks it came that way from the factory but I've yet to witness it.

I settled with an iTrip for my needs. I keep it in the armrest to keep it from flying around from people stealing it. Sounds like shit compared to something going into the line in connector but my car stereo doesn't have one. And getting an aftermarket stereo means the trip computer won't work.
posted by birdherder at 2:56 PM on June 21, 2004

I've seen the iTrip in action, and it's actually a nifty little device with no wires (which solves half your problem, anyway). Do they make some kind of velcro holster deal for them? I'd imagine they do.

Personally, if BMW can't make a car that plays MP3s, then I'll stick with my Vespa. Which also doesn't play MP3s.
posted by chicobangs at 2:58 PM on June 21, 2004

I think the problem with car stereo design is that it moves fairly slowly and is in the realm of custom car nuts that would rather have more blinking blue lights on a stereo than increased capability. Personally, instead of bling-bling DVD/navigation/motorization, I just want a DIN-sized head unit that can interface with an iPod with a single plug, providing power and sound with steering wheel controls that use the head unit to control the iPod. It'd be great if there was a way to produce a standard center console dock, but center consoles are so different on so many cars, that you can't really produce a one-size-fits-all option.

I think the best idea would be for some company to produce ready to drop-in fiberglass custom mounts for popular cars like Hondas, VWs, and Toyotas.

Alpine is supposed to release some iPod integrated head units this summer that provide both power and sound from a single small plug, and let you control the ipod through the head unit, but I don't see anything on their website about it.
posted by mathowie at 3:13 PM on June 21, 2004

My 1971 buick skylark played MP3s from a silver spraypainted full tower case in the trunk leading up to the in dash tape player. Had the keyboard under the seats. Those were the days. 133Mhz of pure unadulterated Black Sabbath.
posted by Keyser Soze at 3:13 PM on June 21, 2004

Response by poster: I've actually got an iTrip, but there seem to be too many "real" stations in Mpls for me to get even passable reception on any of the stations. All the existing solutions that have passable audio quality require way too many wires and clutter.

I had been hoping that Apple would be announcing a really cool car audio solution, but with this announcement being so crappy, it'll prevent Apple from doing anything quality for quite a while.

All of the car stereos sold at places like crutchfield/best buy/ultimate electronics, etc look terrible and gaudy. Why would I want an LED of dolphins flying around in my car?

on preview: matthowie, I've heard that the alpine unit is basically the same thing that BMW ended up doing
posted by freshgroundpepper at 3:18 PM on June 21, 2004

Ask Apple to develop one, or license development to an audio manufacturer. How can you seriously expect car makers to create a system that takes an iPod like a cassette? It's not exactly the only media player out there.
posted by linux at 3:34 PM on June 21, 2004

Our friends in Europe can get the Smart i-Move [click on the i-Move button on the page] that includes a truly integrated iPod. It is a start.

Of course the entire Smart car could fit into the glove box of a Ford Excursion.

I would think Scion might be another vendor that would have a way to support the iPod because it is trying to be hip and cool.

If the iPod had a built in radio and ability to connect with XM satellite radio then a company could sell it as a the head unit and you eject it when you leave -- like they used to do for theft protection.
posted by birdherder at 4:04 PM on June 21, 2004

Warning, self-links: the Dension ICELink (theoretically) connects various flavors of iPod to various flavors of car stereos. Also, for keeping your iPod from flying around, the Belkin TuneDok is only $13.
posted by turbodog at 4:41 PM on June 21, 2004

Wow, turbodog, those Dension kits are exactly what I was looking for earlier today. I'm totally ordering one of their kits for my car.
posted by mathowie at 7:26 PM on June 21, 2004

The reason OEM units are always behind is the long lead and testing time required to get them planned into a car. While I'm sure they have working prototypes of all of the above wish list it will take them at least 12 to 18 months to even rush them into production installation, longer if it involves steering wheel controls or other exterior items.
The after market will be able to move much faster but the relatively low volume causes the consumer to take a real hit in features or availability and cost.
posted by mss at 7:29 PM on June 21, 2004

mathowie: I hope it works out as advertised. They could have a gold mine if they had adapters for other players. Just an 1/8" plug would make me happy. A 12V power connector would just be a bonus.
posted by turbodog at 10:20 PM on June 21, 2004

I'm really just waiting for a car stereo that is a tuner/equalizer with some RCA inputs on the front.
posted by rudyfink at 12:01 AM on June 22, 2004

Response by poster: turbodog: the Icelink 1.1 player is pretty darn close to what I'm looking for. I hadn't seen the newer version and it is quite a bit more compact and aesthetically pleasing than their initial product. Unfortunately, they don't have connectors currently for my WRX, and from the message boards I've read, it doesn't sound like they'll be supporting Subaru anytime soon (I did add myself to the notification list though). Thanks to everyone for the replies.
posted by freshgroundpepper at 12:03 AM on June 22, 2004

A number of head units do have AUX inputs--I was just checking Crutchfield online: apparently some units use mini-plugs, others use RCA plugs.
posted by adamrice at 7:53 AM on June 22, 2004

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