What The Iphone 7 Means For Your Car Stereo

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Upgrading to the new smartphone may require some changes to your car’s audio system.

Apple’s latest smartphone, the iPhone 7 was revealed last week to great fanfare…and a fair bit of grumbling. The biggest issue that people were complaining about was the lack of a headphone audio jack. After over a century as the pre-eminent audio interface, Apple decided to kick the audio jack to the curb. The 3.5mm jack, which has been such a mainstay for pretty much every set of headphone since the Walkman was introduced, is dead.



At least as far as Apple is concerned…on the iPhone.

But Apple has a bit of a history when it comes to phasing out ubiquitous technologies. There have been technologies like that were considered essential to any computer design that Apple decided not to include in the next design. Devices like floppy disk drives and CD-ROM drives had their day…and Apple had a big role in letting them know that the day was over.

This isn’t a 100% departure…

For all the hand-wringing, people who use headphones or earbuds aren’t looking at too big of a change. Apple is providing an audio-to-Lightning adaptor to plug into the Lightning jack (which you use to plug the phone into a computer or power source).

So if you use headphone when you’re jogging or what have you, your life is not about to be revolutionized.

The issue is in your car

There’s an interesting dichotomy at play here. Automobiles are lasting longer than ever. The average car on American roads is a decade old…while the average cellphone is, well, not. If you really want to get all you can out of it, the life cycle of a smartphone is maybe 3-4 years, while plenty of people upgrade every two and a special elite group like to send their phones swimming in toilets, so they get new ones every 6 months. (Fortunately for those folks…and Newport’s sailors, the iPhone 7 is water-resistant.)

car-discman

Until last week, this hasn’t been to large a concern. Since the Sony Discman was introduced in the 1990s, there have been an assortment of ways to connect flashy portable devices to aged car audio systems. There was the tape adaptor, which had a dummy cassette with a cable to plug into a CD player or iPod. Then, when cassette players were phased out, a straight up “AUX” jack that took the 3.5mm headphone plug was offered up stock in many vehicles. That was the solution that worked perfectly for people who want to play MP3s or Pandora on their car’s stereo.

That option is now becoming a lot less convenient with the iPhone 7.

The problem is that you can’t charge the iPhone 7 and play music to the AUX jack at the same time. This isn’t a huge issue when you’re running a quick errand, but things get a bit problematic if you have a longer commute or are on a roadtrip. Playing MP3s on your phone for 15 minutes isn’t don’t to do much to your battery. Streaming music online while running GPS while you’re driving to West Palm will.

Two Options

Bluetooth

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Higher-end and more tech-oriented cars have had Bluetooth wireless technology for over a decade. Initially they offered a hands-free means of talking on the phone through the car’s speakers. Then they started allowing for streaming audio. If you’re one of the folks who has this capability in your car, you’re likely good to go.

USB

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The other choice is to have a car stereo with a USB plug. This allows your phone to interface with the stereo while it’s charging. If your car has one, you’re fine.

If your car stereo has neither of these inputs and you like to get music from your phone, things might be getting a little problematic.

The Good News

ext3If you own a 10-15 year old car, then Bluetooth streaming audio and USB ports in car stereos where not commonplace when they rolled off the production line. However, that doesn’t mean they weren’t commonplace technologies in computers back then. What’s nice is that these tools are on the high-tech depreciation plan rather than the automotive one and so are available on most entry-level aftermarket car stereos.

If you think a new head unit would make a great accompaniment to your new iPhone and you’re in the Newport, RI area, give Nick at Werks Autosound & Complete Custom Audio in Middletown a call at 401-206-0066. He’ll make sure that you’re sorted for your car stereo installation.

-Tristan Pinnock, Blast Audio Correspondent


Tristan’s just this guy, ya know?