How to Connect Your Phone to a Car Stereo

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How to Connect Your Phone to a Car Stereo
How to Connect Your Phone to a Car Stereo

With so many audio entertainment options on your phone, you’ll want a simple method to listen to music, podcasts, audiobooks, and other material in your car. But what is the finest and simplest method to play music from your mobile in your car?

Let’s look at your alternatives for streaming music from your phone to your automobile, regardless of how old or new it is.

The Universal Option: Phone to Car Bluetooth FM Transmitters

Almost every vehicle has an FM radio and a cigarette lighter/power outlet, which you may use in conjunction with an FM transmitter to play music. If your vehicle lacks Bluetooth or an AUX plug, this is a terrific all-around choice; the required gadgets are quite affordable and simple to set up. Remember, this is not the same as utilizing FM transmitter applications on your smartphone.

The specific configuration varies, but these transmitters typically plug into your car’s outlet (or cigarette lighter in older vehicles) and link to your phone through Bluetooth. You may play your phone’s audio over your vehicle radio after configuring the device to broadcast on an unused FM station in your neighborhood.

However, audio quality may vary based on the amount of FM stations in your region and the individual device you purchase. And music does not sound as nice when played via an FM transmitter as it does when played through some of the other alternatives offered.

To be clear, you cannot play music in your automobile just using the cigarette lighter. While FM adapters may be plugged into this outlet, music cannot be played directly via the lighter port.

Examine the finest Bluetooth vehicle adapters to get the best solution for your requirements.

For Older Cars: Play Music Using a Cassette Adapter

If your vehicle is old enough to have a cassette player, you can use it to play music from your phone. Cassette adapters are simple devices that look like cassette tapes and include an auxiliary audio wire on the exterior.

Simply insert the converter into your cassette player and connect it to your phone using the included 3.5mm auxiliary cord. Then, using your phone, play anything you want, and it will be heard over your car’s radio.

These have mixed reviews, but this Arsvita tape adaptor should work perfectly and won’t break the money.

Cassette converters do not offer many benefits over FM transmitters. The music quality on cassette tapes isn’t fantastic, and you’ll have an auxiliary cable hanging about your dash. Furthermore, most phones nowadays lack an AUX connector, making this alternative unworkable unless you additionally purchase an adaptor for your phone.

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We only advocate utilizing a cassette converter if your cigarette lighter/power outlet does not function or if an FM transmitter does not provide a good signal.

For Reliability: Play Music Using an Auxiliary Cord

A 3.5mm auxiliary jack is found in most new automobiles, either on the audio unit or underneath it. This enables you to connect a wire from your device’s headphone port to your stereo. Simply play any audio on your phone that you want to hear in your automobile from there.

Both the cassette and FM transmitter choices will sound better with auxiliary audio. Of course, if your smartphone lacks a 3.5mm headphone port, this will not function (without an adaptor). However, if both your vehicle and phone have a stereo jack, it’s a quick and easy method to play music, as long as you don’t mind a cable.

If you don’t already have an auxiliary wire, Anker’s auxiliary audio cable should suffice. Remember that using an AUX wire to play music is not a “smart” way, therefore you’ll have to change the track and make similar modifications on your smartphone. An auxiliary cable prevents you from using the controls on your vehicle audio or steering wheel.

For Convenience: Play Music Over Bluetooth Audio

Even if your device lacks an AUX connector, modern automobiles with built-in Bluetooth allow you to stream music from your phone. Simply connect your phone to your car’s Bluetooth as you would any other device (as instructed in your vehicle’s handbook), and you may play media from any app in the car. If you’re not acquainted with Bluetooth, read our primer.

Depending on your vehicle, you may be able to control the media and see song details on the display.

Bluetooth is useful since, once paired, your phone will automatically connect to your vehicle for future streaming. It also offers the advantage of enabling hands-free calling, which is not possible with an auxiliary cord.

However, depending on your vehicle, the quality of Bluetooth audio may be lower to that of an auxiliary wire. Try both ways and decide which one you prefer.

The Best of All Worlds: Play Music Through USB

Many vehicles now contain a USB connector on the interior, making this the most current option to transfer music from your phone to your vehicle. A USB port in your vehicle enables you to charge your gadgets without the need for an adapter, and you can even put in a USB flash drive for music if you like. However, you may also connect your phone to play music directly.

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If your vehicle has a USB port, utilizing it to play music to your car’s sound is the best option. It not only provides a consistent connection and good audio, but it also charges your smartphone and allows you to conduct hands-free calls.

To achieve this, you’ll need an extra USB cable for your automobile (an accessory you should keep in your car at all times). This might be an Apple Lightning cable, a USB-C cable, or an older micro-USB chord, depending on your phone.

Without AUX or Bluetooth, the only option for playing music from your phone to your vehicle is USB input. It’s also the only method to utilize a useful feature of your phone designed for listening to music in the drive, namely…

Play Music Using Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto are becoming more common in automobiles. These let you to connect your phone to your car’s head unit for easy access to music, navigation, texting, and other features.

Not all vehicles support them, but if yours does, you should absolutely take use of them. They’re a delight to use because to slick UI and speech connectivity with Google Assistant and Siri. We’ve already discussed how to get started with Android Auto and how Apple CarPlay works.

Even if your car’s infotainment system does not support it, you can utilize Google Assistant driving mode, which is identical to Android Auto, directly on the display of your phone. This configuration, when combined with Bluetooth or a USB cord for music, provides virtually the same experience as having Android Auto on your head unit. Unfortunately, there is no similar in CarPlay.

Some vehicles manufactured in 2020 and beyond enable wireless Android Auto and CarPlay, enabling you to utilize these functions without the need for a connection.

Upgrading to an Aftermarket Stereo Unit

USB flash drive inserted into car stereo
Image Credit: Santeri Viinamäki/Wikimedia Commons

Here, we’ve simply examined factory choices and basic upgrades. If you have an older vehicle and don’t want to utilize an FM transmitter or cassette adaptor, you may replace the complete audio equipment. This allows you to employ current features such as USB and Bluetooth connections—some even enable Android Auto and CarPlay.

The replacement is a relatively difficult process, not to mention more costly than the alternatives. As a result, we don’t advocate it unless you have some expertise with that kind of job and don’t want to utilize any of the other solutions.

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Crutchfield is an excellent website to visit if you’re interested in this. It walks you through the process of choosing stereos that will suit your vehicle, and every purchase comes with a full setup instruction.

What’s the Best Option for Playing Music in Your Car?

The aforementioned alternatives differ in terms of audio quality and ease. The finest audio quality comes via USB and auxiliary connectors, which aren’t accessible on older vehicle models, while cassette converters and FM transmitters have the lowest quality but work with most automobiles.

Keep in mind that other variables might have an impact on the audio quality of your phone in your automobile. You probably won’t be able to tell the difference between an auxiliary cable and an FM transmitter if you have an older vehicle with bad speakers. The same is true if your automobile is very loud or if you drive in a noisy location.

That being said, we propose the following techniques for playing music in your vehicle using your phone, in order of best to worst audio quality:

  • Use the USB input if your vehicle has one. Support for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay is even better if it’s accessible in your car.
  • If you don’t have a USB port, utilize Bluetooth or auxiliary depending on your needs for convenience and hands-free calling, as well as if your phone has an AUX jack.
  • If your vehicle lacks a USB, auxiliary, or Bluetooth port, utilize an FM transmitter.
  • Only use a cassette adapter if your power outlet isn’t working or your FM transmitter isn’t reliable enough.

Start Enjoying Music From Your Phone in Your Car

We’ve spoken about how to transfer music from your phone to your car, with choices for every phone and vehicle. Once connected, all you have to do is start playing music or other media on your phone and let the music play. Just remember to keep your eyes on the road at all times.

Remember that, apart from music and navigation, there are many more helpful applications for driving.

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