Most of us enjoy music while we’re driving, but often radio doesn’t play the right tunes. At one time the obvious choice would have been a CD, but of course these scratch easily. Fortunately mobile phones with storage space for MP3s is a very good alternative. As long as you have a safe place to mount or place your phone and the necessary range or cable to send a signal to your in-car audio system, you can use an Android phone as your mobile audio entertainment system while in transit.
Four options are possible which will allow you to playback music stored on or streamed via your Android phone to a typical car audio system.
Probably the most obvious solution is to use an analogue cable connecting the headphone jack on your phone to the line-in option on your car’s audio system. There are various ways in which this can be done.
For instance, you might have a standard line-in connector mounted on the front of your car audio system, providing easy access. Alternatively you may need to work the connection around the back of the dashboard in order to hook up your phone and enjoy the tunes you have stored on it.
Older audio systems with a cassette tape player will allow you to use a cassette adapter, a small, low-cost device which connects to the headphone jack on an MP3 player or phone allowing you to play music through it and into the car audio system.
Note that when using the analogue option you have two volume control options, that of the audio system and that on your Android phone.
Many modern car audio systems have Bluetooth as an option for playing music across a short-range wireless network. In order to take advantage of this, begin by activating Bluetooth on the car audio system, making sure that it is discoverable.
On your Android device, open Settings > Connections > Bluetooth Settings and activate the Bluetooth option. Below this, wait for the screen to update and display your car audio system, selecting it to pair.
The cool thing about Bluetooth is that it will pair automatically in future; the not-so-cool thing is the impact on battery life, resulting in you keeping your phone charged while using it.
Like Bluetooth, some modern car stereos have a USB cable that you can use to connect external storage devices. This enables you to then browse your library of tunes through the car audio system.
Hooking up an Android phone in this way is simple. If a USB cable was provided with the audio system then simply connect your phone with a suitable adapter. Otherwise identify the USB port on the device and connect your Android handset.
Once connected your Android phone will need switching to storage mode, so drag down the notification bar and select USB Mass Storage/USB Connection Mode (differs according to release and manufacturer). You will then be able to navigate your Android phone’s library on your car audio system.
Note that this option is no good if you’re planning to stream music from Last.fm, Spotify or Pandora, as it is purely for playing back MP3s stored on your device.
Arguably the best option is to use an FM transmitter, although how you achieve this depends on the hardware. Some Android phones come with built-in FM transmitter functionality, in which case you can use this natively or with a free app such as Quick FM Transmitter and then broadcast the MP3 and other audio files on your phone to your car radio.
If this isn’t an option, however, then a low-cost purchase will be required, providing you with a small FM broadcast device that you can connect your phone to via the headphone jack. Typically this will work in a similar manner to the analogue cable solution, although the FM transmitter may require exclusive access to the in-car charger.
Despite the wealth of alternatives for playing music in your car from an Android phone, it is surprising to find that most people tend to opt for the FM transmitter or cassette adapter options. This is typically because they’re unaware of the Bluetooth option (or not impressed with the hit on battery life) or that they drive older cars with cassette players.
The problem with this is that if your car has a digital sound system you’re not getting the best use out of it by relying on the analogue solutions.
What do you think? Have you come across any better options?