Mercedes entered the race to integrate Pandora and other streaming-media applications with its Media Interface Plus (MIP) accessory, enabling users to control smartphone music apps through its vehicle infotainment systems. But how much functionality you get with MIP depends on the device you're using.
The MIP is an accessory that plugs into a Mercedes' media interface outlet (available on most Mercedes vehicles since 2009) located in the glove compartment or center armrest. On its most basic level, the device makes it possible to stream audio tracks from a Bluetooth enabled device, eliminating the need to carry around cords for each music player. However, if you have music apps on your smartphone, you're also able to stream Pandora and Stitcher to your infotainment system using a Bluetooth connection.
The capability to stream audio from apps already exists in cars with Bluetooth audio streaming, but the MIP adds a couple of bells and whistles. For example, the MIP will display music information in the audio head unit, and you'll be able to skip songs using radio and steering wheel controls instead of fumbling for your phone. The ability to fast-forward through a Justin Bieber track may or may not be worth the $298 price tag of the accessory, especially since the beauty of these apps is that they play stations that you've programmed with music you say you like, but it's an additional safety feature worth considering.
To get the most capability of these apps with the infotainment system, you'll need to use Mercedes' standard media interface cable, which comes with the vehicle and at the moment only works with iPhone 3G, 3GS or iPhone 4. The cable gives you all the functionality of the phone's music app on the audio head unit. Using Pandora as an example, you can skip songs, change stations, like a song, or ban it from a playlist--pretty much everything you can do using the smartphone app except create a new station. The an optional $30 video cable also enables you to play video on the media interface when the car is at a standstill, turning your car into a drive in theater of sorts. Of course, this feature only works with iPod and iPhone, and leaves BlackBerry and Android users in the dark.