Modern-day phones are incredibly advanced and feature-packed. You can use them to make calls, send messages, browse the Internet, listen to music, and watch movies. Yes, they are pretty amazing, but one of their greatest weaknesses is the low sound quality. So, what’s the average driver supposed to do when they don’t want to put their headphones on? Well, why don’t you play that music through your car’s head unit?
Also known as the radio and the stereo, it includes a set of speakers that will fill out the cabin with decent-quality music. The big question is – how do you play music through car radio? What are the options on the table? How can you achieve the best sound quality? What devices will you need? Let’s go ahead and figure that out!
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Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
This is the cheapest, quickest, and one of the most popular ways to link your phone with the car’s computer. First of all, it only takes a second to establish a connection between the two devices. Secondly, via CarPlay or Auto, you can also use the phone’s advanced navigation, messaging system, voice controls, (Siri, for example), and, of course, play music. The good news is – even if your Smartphone is a bit old, it will still fully support one of these standards.
If it’s an Android device, you’ll have the Auto interface; if it’s an Apple phone, it will feature CarPlay. Either way, you’ll need full Bluetooth or Wi-Fi support for this to work. So, moving on to the bad news, not all vehicles are compatible with these apps. That’s especially true if you own a car that was released in the early 2010s.
The Android owners are in luck, though, because they won’t even have to worry about wireless connection: they can just use a USB cable! The experience won’t be the same, but it will be pretty close!
USB Input Connection
As I just said, a USB cable can be your “magic wand” on an older car. To clarify: on an Android phone, it will give you access to most of the Android Auto features (not all of them, though). But, even if you have an Apple device, the USB interface will still allow you to link up and play all that Smartphone music through the vehicle’s radio (but the CarPlay functionality won’t be available). In contrast to wireless connection support, many cars have a built-in USB port.
Most people use this port to charge their phones/other devices, but never to play music. Well, now you know that it’s an option as well! Even if you’ve got the music on a flash drive, the car’s infotainment system will see that and be able to play it through the speakers. USB is arguably the best way to connect a phone to a car. First of all, it’s incredibly reliable. Plus, the audio quality is impeccable, not to mention the gadget will charge up while playing the tunes.
The Cassette Adapter
Moving on with our how to play music from phone through car radio guide, let’s check out what the cassette adapter is all about. I want to say right from the start that you won’t be amazed by the sound quality. That’s right: it will be average at best. On the bright side, this adapter is great for the owners of “ancient” vehicles that don’t have any of the modern interfaces, ports, or app support, but do include a cassette player.
What you should do is connect the Smartphone to the adapter via a standard 3.5mm aux cable, and then plug the adapter into the cassette player. Next, just choose a track on the phone and the car’s stereo will play it back. On average, a cassette adapter can be yours for 5-10 US dollars – a pretty reasonable investment for the owner of an older car. Keep in mind, however, that the latest iPhones don’t have a 3.5mm port.
The Aux Port
I just mentioned that the aux cable can help you connect a contemporary device to a decades-old car. Now, if you’re driving a relatively newer vehicle, it will most definitely have a built-in 3.5mm auxiliary jack (sometimes, it can be a pair of ports). What that means is pretty much all Android gadgets and the older iPhones (everything that was released before iPhone 7) can be connected directly through that interface.
You’ll find the aux jack on the head unit, or somewhere beneath it, on the dashboard. Along with the USB port, aux jacks sound pretty great and don’t affect the audio quality in any way.
So, we started with the most advanced option (the Android and Apple apps), then switched from the USB port and aux jack to the really old and low-fi cassette adapter. Now let’s go back a bit and talk about Bluetooth more. Bluetooth Audio is a very flexible and user-friendly interface. It doesn’t require the phone or the car to support any fancy platforms; you won’t need that 3.5mm cable either. Just pair the phone with the car’s computer, and that’s it.
If you’re driving a feature-packed vehicle, it will allow controlling the media and will display song information, among other things. One of the best things about Bluetooth Audio – once you’ve established a connection, the phone (or any other mobile device) will automatically link up whenever you get into the car. Hands-free calling is an option with this interface as well, by the way. The only downside: if the connection is bad, so will be the audio quality.
Bluetooth FM Transmitters
How do you connect music from your phone to play on the car radio if it doesn’t support Bluetooth and you don’t like how the cassette player sounds? There is a pretty interesting solution to this! Have you ever heard about Bluetooth FM adapters slash transmitters? As long as your vehicle has a cigarette lighter socket and a built-in FM radio, we’re in business. The transmitter won’t cost you a pretty penny: $15-20 is the average price on the market right now.
Here’s how it works: you plug the transmitter into the cigarette socket (AKA the power port) and access the phone through the Bluetooth interface. Next, you’ll need to find a free FM station and play the Smartphone’s music through it. The audio will be coming from the car’s stereo, of course. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it actually isn’t. Most transmitters set everything up automatically.
Alright, there you have it – the best ways to play music from a phone through your car’s radio. As we learned today, you can do this in different ways. The one thing that they all have in common – it will take you less than a minute to establish a connection and start enjoying your tunes. You won’t have to do any DIY stuff like re-routing the car computer’s cables.
So, go over the review once again if you’re still not sure which option suits you best. If both your car and the Smartphone support full integration via CarPlay/Auto, go with that. If not, the USB port and the aux jack will always be happy to lend a helping hand. Or, choose any of the other options, like a Bluetooth transmitter. It’s all up to you!