It’s ALIVE! My iPhone car set-up has been perfected

Well, this may not be perfect according to everyone’s standards, but it’s damn near close for my needs.

The hardware:

I’ve had this OEM iPod kit in my car since I bought it and it’s worked flawlessly with an old iPod nano that permanently resided in my glovebox. However, now that GPS apps are now widely available for the iPhone, I wanted to hook up my iPhone to my car so I could hear the navigation guidance audio over my car’s speakers and charge my iPhone at the same time with the same cable. Yet there were a couple of obstacles to overcome first…

  1. The iPod cable in my glovebox was not quite long enough to reach the place on my dashboard where my ProClip holder resides, so I needed an extension cable for this. 3GJuice makes a 24-inch one that sells for $24.95 on Amazon. It’s black and would have been a bit less obvious against my black dashboard, so I went for it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Next, I tried a similar extension cable from USBFever. No dice with that one either. I half-heartedly ordered a CableJive cable, expecting to see the same result. But it worked! God bless CableJive!
  2. The iPod-your-BMW kit charges via Firewire only, so if I wanted my iPhone to get a charge – particularly important when using power-intensive apps like GPS ones – I needed a charging converter to work with my iPhone 3GS. Scosche sells one, and I got it from Amazon
    for $24.99.

I do have a Belkin iPhone car charger but my cigarette lighter/charging port for the front seats is inside the ashtray, and it’s not the prettiest thing to leave this open all the time when I want to charge my iPhone, and it’s a bit of a pain to keep digging the charger out of the center console as well. Hence my desire to make sure I could charge my iPhone using the cord for the connector kit that is in my glovebox.

I’ve had the ProClip mount almost as long as I’ve had this car as well, albeit with different holders for the different phones I’ve had. The current holder is an iPhone 3G/3GS-specific one that accommodates a naked/skinned iPhone (I have a Gelaskins skin on it at the moment – my review of this skin is here). It also tilts and swivels so I can switch my iPhone to landscape orientation and adjust the viewing angle, with an additional arm that will prevent it from falling out when swiveled on its side or even upside down – you can find it on ProClip’s site here. I can’t say enough good things about ProClip mounts – they require no modification to your dashboard since they just pop into existing seams and they look far more professional than the air vent and windshield mounts I’ve seen. They are a bit pricey, but definitely worth it in my opinion.

Honestly, I do not like the look of wires hanging about my dashboard, but I was hesitant to drill through my dashboard to make this a little cleaner. However, since it’s just one black cord that peeks out of the back of the glovebox and drapes only 12 inches or so over my also-black dashboard before hitting the side of the passenger footwell, I’m not *too* bothered by this (this picture actually makes it look more obvious than it does in person).

To avoid the cable from dangling into the passenger footwell and the plug end from flopping around on my dashboard when my iPhone is not connected, I used some wire clips (kindly procured by my husband) and velcro. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with velcro, but it works very well for this, including keeping the dock connector end stuck to my dashboard in a place that makes it easy to grab when I need it and quick to store yet out of the way when I’m done.

In the end, if not aesthetically flawless, my set-up is is spot-on for what I need:

  • Incoming calls are already routed via Bluetooth through my car’s speaker. I can accept and end calls using a button my steering wheel. I can initiate calls using my car’s voice command system, or I can browse my contacts list on the stereo’s display using buttons on my steering wheel. Music playing through the stereo or iPod app fades out and in with incoming and outgoing calls.
  • Music playback from the iPod app works flawlessly, though it is limited a bit by the iPod-your-BMW kit. I have to set up special playlists labeled BMW1-Playlist1, BMW2-Playlist2, etc. for the kit to see the playlists and play music from them. It’s not the greatest and requires advanced planning, but it works and I’m used to it. I am considering changing this kit out for an after-market one that offers more functionality, but that’s not in my budget at the moment. If I really want to listen to something I just downloaded that’s not in a specially-made playlist that the system will see, all I need to do is start playing it before I plug it in and it will automatically pick up playing where it left off – I think this is a bit of a glitch with the iPod kit, but it’s a handy one.
  • Audio from GPS apps plays over my car’s speakers. Depending on the app, music will fade out before the navigation guidance and fade back in afterward, or guidance will simply play over the music. With the TomTom app (my review for work), this means music stops and starts abruptly when voice guidance is given. With the Navigon (my review) and Sygic (my review) apps, music fades out and back in nicely before and after voice guidance.

The only downside (aside from the limitations of the iPod-your-BMW kit) is that I must plug in my iPhone each and every time I get in the car if I want to listen to music from it. If I’m lazy and don’t do this, I can still listen to FM radio or a CD, of course, and my calls will still be routed via Bluetooth and all of those functions remain intact. However, I’ve found myself plugging my iPhone in as soon as I get in the car all the time, even for short rides to the gym or post office. I really dislike FM radio (too much chatter and advertising) and I haven’t made a new CD in ages with more recently-obtained music that I usually want to listen to.

Overall, I’m very pleased with my set-up. If you have any questions about any of the products I’ve mentioned in this post, please don’t hesitate to email me or post a comment.

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