iPhone usage in the car

My Rating: 4

The iPhone, depending on the day, is either a brick of gold or just a brick. As I start to integrate this device into my regular phone/ipod habits, I begin to pick up on some of the challenges inherent in the only device that has ever come close to convincing me that convergence is at hand (bad pun, sorry). There are obvious oversights like the lack of a horizontal keyboard when you’re emailing. To me, these seem like things that got overlooked due to release dates. I have faith they will be fixed – as will the entire email application (please do a deal with RIM).

But, one thing that has really bothered me is iPhone usage in the car. When I’m driving I’m doing one of two things (and sometimes both) – listening to music and talking on the phone. Excitingly, the iPhone can do both of these things very well. Why, then, does it all fall apart as soon as I’m in the car?

First of all, I’m appreciative that I can charge it using the same charger I have for my old iPod. But, where do I put the iPhone? An iPod can sit anywhere because it might not need to be used at a moments notice (i.e., phone calls). But with the iPhone, in order to have it handy I have to put it in the cup holder of my center console. This is a dangerous place for a $600 device. Of course if I put it any closer, like on the dash shelf designed for a mobile phone, my car stereo will sound like lightening just struck the antennae of my car. This horrible popping noise must be fixed. There are ways to solve this problem (but with a $600 mobile phone should we really have to do this?). This problem gets worse when you actually try to play music on your car stereo using the iPhone. I utilize a tape adapter. I guess the tape adapter makes it even worse.

Plus, if you use your same old tape adapter, you’re going to need to use this little device because normal headphone jacks don’t fit into the iPhone.

iphone adapter

This sucks because you’d love to just plug your iPhone into things like desktop speakers. But, you can’t unless you remembered that strange, long-ass-dongle-thing. But, this doesn’t matter because the interference that’s going to accompany your iPhone usage will negate your desire to listen to music.

But, I digress. Let’s review…

You have a mobile phone that you can’t put in a useful location due to the constant popping and buzzing interference. You can’t listen to music because your tape adapter is making things worse. You certainly can’t do both at the same time, which would be rad – this is a feature I like about using Skype. I can actually listen to music while talking to someone – they can’t hear the music. This makes some conversations a lot more bearable.

On the positive side, bluetooth integration is very good and extremely easy to use. The interface that allows you to switch between the iphone, hands-free and speaker-phone is an example of the kind of simplicity that you’d expect from Apple. I am hoping that car-related features are greatly improved in future software upgrades. Overall, as much I like the iPhone, the usability factor while driving in the car (for all of its many-slpendored features) goes way down. I can’t rate it above a four for usability while driving.


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