Since the launch of the iPhone in Australia, the device from Apple has been a leading player in the nation's smartphone marketi. With music, apps, GPS, cameras, and more, the iPhone goes beyond being an ordinary communications device: this product is far more like an ultraportable computing unit than any phone.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the iPhone has been life changing for some owners. Needless to say, users are now constantly connected and have become accustomed to having information or entertainment available on demand.
Leading IT research group Gartner predicts that by 2016, consumers will consider in-car Internet connectivity a key factor when purchasing a carii. iPhone car integration, after all, is a prime example of a consumer's penchant for turning a car into a multi-device platformii.
Simply put, cassette tapes and CDs had their run; the reality is that smartphone integration is already well advanced in today's vehicles. Indeed, iPhones are so popular that many vehicle manufacturers have adapted their vehicles to include integrated iPhone ports.
Music brought to you by ... A2DP
The latest trend in integration is Bluetooth connectivity with A2DP. It is common for car manufacturers to include the capability to pair Bluetooth-supporting phones with the car stereo for dialling and phone support (Bluetooth HFP). With A2DP, the car stereo - now more like the car information computer - can wirelessly access your phone as the source for music and entertainment.
Car manufacturers have already started including support features for Bluetooth A2DP. The list includes Toyota, Audi, BMW, Mazda and more. It's not in all models yet, but if you are looking to buy a new car and own an iPhone or Android smartphone that supports Bluetooth A2DP, it's worth checking if your new car has the feature.
If you really want the wireless integration but aren't planning on buying a new car soon, you could upgrade your car stereo. For example the Alpine CDE-133EBT head unit includes built-in Bluetooth with HFP/A2DP/AVRCP (it also includes an iPod/iPhone port!).
No Bluetooth or iPhone port?
If your car doesn't have Bluetooth - whether or not it is A2DP compliant - or an integrated iPhone port, it's not the end of the world.
DIY iPhone integration is not a hugely complicated process. You will need a mount to secure your iPhone, a car charger and either a line-in port on the car stereo or an FM transmitter.
The mount allows you to secure your phone to your car, freeing you from the temptation to hold it in your hand. Securing the screen at eye-level makes it easier for you to manage calls, entertainment, and GPS navigation.
Using the built-in iPhone hands-free option or headphones that come with the iPhone are both cost-efficient ways to answer calls, hands-free. Alternatively a Bluetooth headset may be more to your preference. There are also separate hands-free Bluetooth devices available on the market like the Jabra SP200 (www2.jabra.com/sites/mobile/ap-en/products/pages/jabrasp200.aspx).
In-car iPhone Use: Safety First
While iPhone car integration can maximise driving experience, it is important to minimise the safety hazards of mobile phone usage while driving, even when using a hands-free mobile phone kit.
The NSW Centre for Road Safety stresses the cognitive distraction inherent in answering phone calls on the road in general - NSW imposes a fine and demerit points for each fully licensed driver caught using a handheld mobile device while drivingiii. NSW learner and provisional drivers/riders will face similar penalties if caught using a mobile in any way, including hands-free and loud-speaker operating modesiv. According to the NSW Office of State Revenue, NSW motorists have already received 33,655 notices and $8.9 million in fines for this very offence in the 2011/12 financial yearv. Drivers in other States and Territories should check local road rules before using a phone in the car.
In some cases, a fine may be the least of a driving-while-talking offender's worries. The National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 released by the Australian Transport Council (ATC) last year found that mobile phone use "produces a significant increase in casualty crash risk, regardless of whether the phone is handheld or hands-free"vi.
i IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, February 6, 2012, Smartphone Market Hits All-Time Quarterly High Due To Seasonal Strength and Wider Variety of Offerings, http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS23299912
ii Deutschen Telekom, 2011, Connected cars are definitely coming, http://intelligente-netze.telekom.de/tsi/en/1087322/Home/Connected-Car/Interview-Gartner
iii The NSW Centre for Road Safety, 2011, Mobile phone use, http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/roadsafety/driverdistractions/index.html, para.1
iv The NSW Centre for Road Safety, 2011, Mobile phone use, http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/roadsafety/driverdistractions/index.html, para.6
v The Office of State Revenue NSW, 2011/12, Number of mobile phone notices issued by NSW police statistics, http://www.osr.nsw.gov.au/about/corporate/statistics/
vi The Australian Transport Council, 2012, National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020, http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/roads/safety/national_road_safety_strategy/index.aspx, p.90