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Cars and the iPhone craze

Audi recently announced it would have iPhone capability when the Apple mobile phone is released here early next year.

BMW and Mini have joined the ranks of those offering full compatibility for products available here.

BMW spokesman Toni Andreevski says details of which BMW and Mini models will have full compatibility will be announced closer to the Australian launch of the iPhone.

The rush to be first to integrate the iPhone is in direct contradiction to the slow adoption of iPod technology.

While few manufacturers offer full integration of iPods, some have input sockets for the headphone jacks which limits control options and most don't offer any hook-up for an iPod.

However, Chrysler Sebring offers an alternative solution with a hard drive in the car for downloading music files, without the need of an iPod.

When the iPhone was launched in the US in June, BMW Group claimed to be the first car manufacturer in the world to offer full integration in most models. It will be available first in the 6, 5, 3 and 1 Series and the X5.

All Mini models will be equipped for the Apple iPhone in time for its European premiere later this year.

In the BMW hook-up, music files and signals for operating the iPod are transferred to the vehicle's audio system by a cable adaptor available for the USB audio interface in BMW and Mini models. The iPhone can also be charged using the same connection.

The requirement for comprehensive integration of the telephone functions is the mobile phone preparation feature with Bluetooth interface from the relevant BMW or Mini models.

Audi Australia corporate communications general manager Anna Burgdorf says the iPod feature will also be fully integrated via its Bluetooth telephone preparation.

Costs for Bluetooth preparation vary by model. It is a standard feature in some, she says, while in the A6 it is $1390 as an option.

Alongside standard hands-free functions (accept/reject call/hands-free), the Audi mobile phone preparation supports the display of the signal strength and the provider's name, in addition to the transfer of the telephone directory, including the icons Work, Home, Mobile and call lists.

In addition to telephone calls, the Audi Music Interface (currently an optional extra for the A5, A6, A8 and Q7) allows the iPhone's music playback function to be used via the car sound system.

Until now, telephone and iPod functions have been separated in vehicles because they were operated via different end-consumer products. For the smart phone innovation, the BMW Group has developed a joint platform for both functions.

With the adapted software, a music program the driver is listening to through the vehicle speakers is automatically stopped for the duration of the call, starting again at the same place as soon as the call is over.

While the music is paused, the speakers and microphone of the hands-free facility are activated.

In conjunction with the operating system BMW iDrive, the telephone function's address book and hands-free can be operated using the controller in the centre console, as well as music selection and play.

In the Mini, activated smart phone functions are shown either in the display of the navigation system or, if the latter is not available, in the radio unit. If a Mini navigation system is installed, the Mini Joystick operating system can be used to control the telephone and audio functions of the Apple iPhone.

A snap-in iPhone adaptor for BMW and Mini models will follow next year and will incorporate a wireless connection to the external vehicle antenna to lift reception. BMW plans to integrate other “smart” phones in the same way as the iPhone.

Mercedes-Benz fully integrated the iPod and spokesman David McCarthy says the company should have something when the phone is released.

Toyota, Holden and Ford have no plans yet to introduce iPhone compatibility but several of their models have Bluetooth compatibility.


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