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Andrey Mikhalchuk’s Blog

Technoblog about life

Jun 26, 2009 iPhone 3.0 and bluetooth

One of the most significant disadvantages of iPhone’s iPod part for a long time remained the lack of possibility to stream audio via bluetooth. iPhone OS 3.0 fixes this problem. So is it really fixed? Find out more.

Bluetooth can be different. In its most basic form it is used to provide communication between your phone and your wireless headset (the one you insert into your ear). However this basic functionality is not enough for transmit high-quality audio to your ultramodern speaker system or your car audio system for instance. Different capabilities of bluetooth are called “profiles” and having bluetooth doesn’t necessarily mean two of your bluetooth devices can use full spectrum of features they provide to each other. For instance if your phone supports HFP (hands-free profile) profile and your car doesn’t you can’t use your phone to make hands-free calls using your car audio system. You need to buy an additional device to make that feature of your phone work. Similarly even if your car supports streaming high-quality audio (this profile is called A2DP) you may not use this feature unless bluetooth in your phone supports A2DP too.

So what’s the iPhone situation? For a long time iPhone did not support A2DP and your only option to play music from your iPod or iPhone was an AUX cable. That was highly inconvenient because you had to take the iPhone/iPod from your pocket, open the glove box (or wherever the Aux port is), plug the player to the AUX port and start the music. Highly annoying!

Situation changed with iPhone OS 3.0 that provided A2DP capability to iPhone 3G, 3GS and iPod Touch. In fact Apple implemented it in a highly usable way – you just enter your car, turn it on and music from your player switches to the car audio system. You stop the engine, leave the car and music pauses. Awesome! I don’t know how other players work, but the way it is implemented in iPhone is beyond most people’s expectations. The sound quality is also very good because you don’t use those lousy wired analog connections. Instead you stream digits right into your car (or headset) audio system.

Unfortunately there is no 100% perfection and so it is in the case of bluetooth support in 3.0. If you try to change the volume or pause the song – that will work just fine, but forget about changing the tracks. For some reason Apple decided this feature is of less importance then pause and just didn’t implement it. As you might guess there is a separate profile for controlling your iPhone from the car audio system and it is called AVRCP. Let’s keep tracking the changes in the iPhone OS and hopefully we will see AVRCP fully implemented in OS 4.0. Or 5.0. Or never. Oh, and if your audio system supports displaying the composition name on its screen – that thing isn’t working with iPhone too.

A few words about cars. As you already may have guessed car’s ability to support handsfree doesn’t automatically mean that you can stream your music to the car audio system. Most BMWs are sad reminder of that. Even 2009 X5 does support handsfree (HFP) but doesn’t support audio streaming (A2DP). However new Toyotas and Lexuses do have this feature. And even cheaper cars (like Mazda CX-9) that share electronics with Lexus do support A2DP and even AVRCP.

This post is published in Hardware.

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