With the rate technology is advancing, it can only be a matter of time until we have internet hookups in our cars as standard. This may seem like a massive leap from what we have today but the technology is already there it just needs to be put in place.
We live in a society in which our lives are broadcast across social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. When driving, you have an escape from this interconnected world but for how long. We only need to look at our mobile phones to realise how small internet technology has become. We can access the internet through a chip the size of a 1p piece so to then add this to a car stereo would take minimum effort.
At the moment the biggest downfall to this plan is network coverage. In order for a car to pick internet coverage up we would have to either make the roads a giant wireless hotspot or make mobile internet free. This may a few years down the line due to the current economical climate however it is definitely somewhere on the horizon.
With the right amount of money it is possible to get internet in your vehicle today. Using mobile dongles from a service provider and an in car pc, you can get a live hookup however the technology is still in its infancy and consistency is not great. This also requires a monthly subscription which can put most people off.
So in the future, it looks very likely that we will be driving along, updating our Facebook and Twitter , listening to songs that we stream directly from places like Spotify. Eventually a car stereo may be a thing of the past and the car’s media centre will be totally built in, being accessed through the vehicles screens, much like the iDrive and MMI systems we have today but in much greater detail and integration.
Web 2.0 isn’t just making the internet a better more useful place to surf. Its also helped develop the day to day sites applications being used on a hourly basis (for most people), on devices such as the iPhone, iPad and other tablet pc’s & android phones. You know sites such as Facebook, Twitter and a variety of other sites on the social scene. The surge in interest of the social media wave has also made an impression on the traditional none-web business’s. Now its becoming more important to at least think about introducing ways of integrating App’s or using App’s on the devices created by companies.
So how does this translate to car stereos and in car entertainment systems, and what services will be introduced? Well for the short term its fairly limited. There are PC systems that fit into the vehicle, however this isn’t application based. However there are more and more after market car stereos are being produced with ability to integrate iPhones and other similar devices. This integration currently only extends to the use of the iPhone music & bluetooth, however it wont be log before companies can harness the power of the iPhone and Sites like google & other applications to perform day to day tasks while in the vehicle.
For example, there is an app available for free or a nominal fee (Skobbler) which is a navigation based app which learns as you do. For example if your driving down a road and it provides wrong info or the road has changed or maybe there are local police speed checks, you can press a few buttons and this info is uploaded to the national database for everybody to use. So the next time you drive somewhere this info will be available to you and everybody else.
This is a perfect example of how a device integrated into the stereo can provide up to date info with minimal effort. The future concept of integration is unlimited, dependant on the apps available. It could be that from a few clicks on your steering wheel you can access an app that purchases an a parking ticket for an area you wish to park, or book train / plane tickets on the way to the station / airport, Or it maybe that you just want download a new album through iTunes while your driving?
The point is as long the boom in the social web is active, there will be new ways of integrating and improving systems. Introducing new methods of making our life easier & as our vehicles are central to our lives at the minute this is an obvious place to start. Who knows where we’ll be Five years down the line.
The 375 is the latest offering in Beats price smashing range of car stereos. Beat have packed this unit so full of features they struggle to fit them all on the packaging. Priced at less than £90, the Beat 375 is better equipped than some units that are twice the price.
I like to use a unit for a solid fortnight before passing judgement on its credentials. Upon fitting the Beat 375 I had high hopes for this attractive looking unit. It immediately became apparent that I was not going to be let down. The touch panel controls that are spread across the unit have a good level of sensitivity meaning that your input is picked up nice and clearly. The first day I had the stereo fitted it took me a while to get used to this feature as it has been a while since I used a purely touch panel unit.
The stereo itself is very smart in its appearance and tends to blend in very well with most dashboards to give an almost OEM look. I had a lot friends commenting on its looks in the time that it was fitted to my car. The point that people overlooked was the amount of features on this unit. It can handle almost any digital media and is able to take the info from most sources. I found the direct iPod control (additional lead required) the most useful but also the most frustrating feature of the stereo. It does exactly what it says on the tin, allows you to use the iPod through the stereo however if you are used to using the more expensive models like myself you may find it a bit slow and clumsy. For me this was a bit of a let down however I have high standards with technology.
One of the best features of this stereo was the connectivity, I had my iPhone, 2 usb drives and an SD card all in the car and could swap between them with the click of a button. There are not many stereos out there that can handle that many different connection types. For less than £90 the value for money on show here is beyond impressive. The added bonus of bluetooth on this stereo is excellent, the quality of the audio is great. When making a call it is very clear and I found no problems when using this feature.
As a whole package the Beat 375 stereo is worth every penny. If your after something that is a little understated but can do everything you want then you cant really go wrong with this stereo.
CAP Rating: 4/5
The Sony DSX-S300BTX has been with us now for a fortnight and its time I wrote a full product review. I have had the stereo in my car for 10 days, this has allowed me get a good feel for the unit and test each feature fully.
The first thing to talk about with this unit is clearly the new TuneTray technology that Sony have developed. This really caught my eye when I was told that we would be receiving this kit and it really did live upto the hype. The build quality is excellent and the tray feels really solid when changing your media device. I used the unit with an iPhone 4 and found the tray to be the perfect size for the unit, even with the official iPhone case fitted. The USB connection is very simple and flexible making the whole process of docking any device take seconds.
So after having a fiddle with the TuneTray and how it works I got down to the serious business of playing with the features on the unit. The controls on the unit are very intuitive and within a few minutes I had found my way around the menu’s and had a basic grasp of how most of the features worked. I found the Zappin feature to be a real stand out for me. Instead of listening to the build up of each song, Zappin allows your to hear just the chorus, speeding up the song selection process. I found myself using the feature at every opportunity. There is also a SenseMe feature built in which allows you to categorise your music into moods to help select the perfect sound track for the day you are having. In order to do this you need to install a program on your PC and set it up, I found all this a little to much for a feature that did not really appeal to me. If you are using an MP3 player then perhaps it would be a little more interesting however with an iPod the play lists kind of negate the need for SenseMe.
The feature that sets this apart from the rest of the range is the blue tooth connectivity. As blue tooth goes there is little you can do to outperform other devices however the menus are well laid out and the one button voice dial is an excellent touch. As far as sound quality goes it was ok, there is an option to fit an additional mic however I found once set up properly the built in mic did the job quite well. It will never be as good as a dedicated solution such as a Bury device but as far as blue tooth stereo’s go it is one of the best I have used.
The biggest let down for me on this unit is the screen. Don’t get me wrong it is a perfectly good unit and the screen does it justice however for the price and the technology available nowadays I would like to see more LCD and full colour displays. This goes for all units priced over the £200 mark not just the Sony range however the DSX-S300BTX’s screen is still a great product.
As a summary I would say the Sony DSX-S300BTX is a fantastic product. There are features on there that are great new additions like the TuneTray. There are ways that Sony could improve on the unit with a better screen and maybe including an external mic as part of the package. If you are looking for a feature packed unit that is build solidly then you will be hard pressed to find a better car stereo for the price than the Sony DSX-S300BTX.
CAP Rating: 4.5/5
There are a lot of different ways to connect your iPod to your cars audio system. Here I am going to look at 5 of the best ways to achieve this on the market today.
Auxiliary – Perhaps the most simple of all iPod solutions, the auxiliary lead input is also the cheapest. An auxiliary lead is simply a 3.5mm jack to 3.5mm jack. Manufacturers are now starting to offer this kind of connection as standard in there cars making it one of the most popular solutions. It is the cheapest and easiest method of connection however there are a lot of drawbacks. With an auxiliary lead the audio quality is never quite there, you will get you audio and be able to hear it fine but if you are used to CD’s then you will be able to notice the difference. There is also a lack of control with auxiliary leads, all control has to be done through the iPod itself, not ideal whilst driving and certainly something we would never suggest you do. The last and possibly biggest downside to auxiliary connections is the lack of charging, your iPod will only play for as long as the battery lasts meaning after a long road trip your iPod is going to be dead by the time you reach your destination.
Transmission – The next level on the ladder of connectivity is an FM-Transmitter. This provides a more universal approach than the auxiliary connection as it simply uses the 12v socket and the radio. The iPod plugs into the transmitter which in turn sends the sound via an FM frequency, you then simply tune into this frequency on you radio. This can provide a very good solution on the cheap and also allows you to transfer the kit between various cars very easily. The biggest down fall of this type of kit is the quality, as with any radio signal, it is only as good as the strength of the reception. It is also susceptible to interference from other radio stations as you travel. In essence a transmitter is a great way of connecting an iPod cheaply but don’t expect the best sound quality.
Modulation – An improvement from an FM-transmitter is an FM-Modulator. In essence the operation of the two kits is near identical however there is one very major difference. Instead of sending the FM signal through the air it uses a solid connection onto the car aerial input, providing near perfect quality audio and removing 99.9% of interference. With a price tag that is similar to the high end transmitters, modulators are perhaps the most popular of all iPod solutions. One of the biggest market leaders in the iPod field, Dension, produce an Ice Link One. This is perhaps the best value for money solution on the market today.
Integrated Kits – OK so you’ve looked into the kits I’ve suggested so far but you really want to hide your iPod away rather than clutter your dashboard with cables and brackets. This is where an integrated solution becomes your best option. An integrated kit will allow you in most cases to control your iPod through the standard stereo fitted to your vehicle and keep the iPod safely hidden in the glove box. The majority of the integrated kits use the CD changer connection to send the feed from the iPod into the stereo allowing for perfect sound quality, full charging and also text information to be displayed on any OEM displays. Products like the Gateway 100 are the pinnacle of iPod solutions if you want to keep your standard equipment.
Replacement – So you have looked at the options above and want a fully integrated solution however your stereo does not support CD changers or you simply want a change from your boring looking OEM unit. If this is the case then your best bet is to get a brand new stereo with iPod integration as a feature. The choice out there nowadays is huge, there really is an iPod ready stereo to suit everyone’s budget. The latest of which is the Sony Tune Tray range. These stereos are at the top of there game allowing you to hide your iPod in the stereo itself and have full control still of the iPod. The Sony DSX-S300BTX is in my opinion the best iPod stereo on the market today.
So to recap, no matter what your budget there is a way to connect your iPod to your car stereo and listen to your favourite play list on the move. In terms of iPod connection the more you pay the better quality kit you will receive and the more features will be available to you. If you choose to go down the integration route always connect a reputable company to gain some good advice as compatibility plays a massive part in what kit is available to you.
Car Audio Plus is dedicated to providing the best products at the best possible price, we have certainly done this with our newest item. The Beat 375 has taken all the features from its predecessor and improve even further. Featuring full touch panel control and connectivity with almost any digital media on the market, this stereo is one not to be missed.
The Beat 275 is a highly successful product for us, getting excellent reviews from staff and consumers alike. The 375 has taken this solid base and taken it further. Having used the product myself for the last week I must say that it really is a top class piece of kit. I have used many stereos and this has to be one of my favourites with its easy to use controls and neat, retro styling.
The new features of the Beat 375 are highly impressive for a unit under £100. The touch panel controls on the front of the unit are very sensitive and easy to navigate. With this and the neat placement of the controls, this product is very ergonomically pleasing to use. The new direct iPod control is possibly the biggest improvement over the 275, although it is a little slower than some of the more expensive iPod units it is by far the best for under the £100 mark. With full search ability under artists, songs, albums and playlists, finding that favourite song is very simple and intuitive. Supporting both iPhone4 and 5V charging, this unit will work with all variants of the iPod/iPhone family.
For more info on the features the Beat 375 has simply click the links in this text.