How To Video
iPhone your carHaving trouble setting up your new iPhone with an older car? CNET's Donald Bell walks you through your options.
There's nothing like a new smartphone to remind you just how old your car is. This thing wants to connect over bluetooth, but your car stereo is still trying to figure out how to play CDs. I'm Donald Bell, and in today's How-To, I'm gonna show you some general tips for connecting your older car stereo to your new smartphone. So, in a perfect situation, you're gonna have a brand new car like this one that's gonna have USB ports for charging, connecting to your stereo. You're gonna have a bluetooth wireless connection for taking calls and listening to music. You're gonna have an aux input for everything else. But cars like these are still a fraction of what's on the road today. So, how are you gonna make your CD era car iPhone ready? Now, some stereos are just gonna be beyond help. If you're still rockin' an old cassette deck or something that doesn't even include an aux input, your best bet is to buy a new aftermarket system and have that installed. A basic system with installation should run you around $200 to $300. It's not cheap, but it's not too bad considering the huge upgrade you'll be getting for something you'll use everyday. Now, in some cases, you're dealing with the head unit that's so integrated with the design of the car that there's really no removing it. In that case, a lot of people are gonna give up hope. They're gonna go with that cassette adapter or the most heinous of all adapters, the FM transmitter. Don't do it. Quick note on FM transmitters, the reason they're so awful is because they're regulated by the FCC, they can't be powerful enough to overpower any local stations, so they're really just these weak, underpowered things that are only gonna work if you live in the boonies. But don't give up hope. There's a good chance that someone makes an adapter kit for your old car stereo that will add an aux input or an iPhone cable to the back of the system that will run out to your glove compartment. Now, unfortunately, these things are more trouble than their worth more often than not because they're as expensive as a brand new stereo, they still need to be professionally installed, and you're still dealing with an old stereo interface. You're often tricking this thing into thinking that your iPhone is a CD. It's a big compromise, but it's workable. Now, if you're lucky enough to have an aux input built into your car stereo, there are a world of options and adapters available to you. So, take a look around. Sometimes, it's in your console. Sometimes, it's in your coin tray. Sometimes, it's on your armrest. Look for it because if you have one, you're gonna save a lot of money over buying a brand new car stereo. Now, one scenario you can use with an aux input is a cradle. You've got the cradle here mounted in your car to position your phone towards you. You can run the charging cable from the phone to the power adapter in your car and then an aux cable from the phone to the stereo. So, a lot of cables, but it works. Now, if your stereo supports bluetooth, you can still invest in a cradle just to have your phone position towards you, but you can cut the aux cable connection by going over bluetooth. Now, if you don't have a bluetooth connection in your stereo and you also just don't wanna deal with the clutter of the cradle and everything else, you can go with the bluetooth adapter kit. These things plug right into your aux input and it still has all the benefits of having a bluetooth connection. You can take your calls with the built-in microphone. You can still listen to music. All of that but you're not dealing with all that clutter. So, there you go. Those are my best tips for getting your older car iPhone ready. Now, you can read Wayne Cunningham's full post over on CNET's Car Tech blog. You can also check out more how-to's over at howto.cnet.com. I'm Donald Bell. Drive safely.