How Bluetooth Saved Car Stereos

I’m getting pretty good at this test-driving thing. When I get a new car, I like to take a minute and settle in. I’ll go over the sticker, have a look around the interior, play with the exterior features, and eventually settle in the cockpit. And I will not, under whatever circumstance, put the car in gear until I have synced the Bluetooth stereo, which is seriously more important for me than syncing my phone. Because while Bluetooth may have made using your phone easier, it saved your music.

I must admit, this is a sensitive topic for me. A child of the new millenium, I got my first iPod when I was probably 12. Within weeks I had a massive collection of music that snowballed for years. For years I told people my iPod was my girlfriend, and I wasn’t as kidding as people probably thought I was. It went everywhere with me in a protective case, watched at all times.

When I learned to drive, the naturally inclination was to take my music with me wherever I went. The way to do so, however, was ridiculously unclear. I started with an FM adapter that transmitted my music to an FM station on my radio. The result was a clouded, low-quality excuse that changed frequencies over the course of a drive. It was bad.

So I saved lots of money and finally invested in a nice aftermarket stereo for my old truck. This state of the art unit let me just plug my phone into a chord in the glove box and control my music from the stereo’s interface. While the quality problem was fixed, the usability was dreadful. Replacing Apple’s revolutionary click wheel with a knob and a tiny screen was a horrendous solution that often led to me sitting there for minutes at a time trying to scroll down far enough to get to my artist. It would’ve been great if I only had a couple hundred songs, but that’s not the point of modern music players.

So then manufacturers figured something out: they couldn’t compete with the mp3 players’ user interface, especially once touch screen technology exploded. So rather than try to compete, they submitted in the form of the auxiliary cable. They were all like “yeah, you’re better at this than we are. So just do what you would and plug in.” And that’s great, but it still wasn’t perfect. Cables aren’t natural. Plugging something in every time makes us about a billion times less likely to use it on a regular basis; and furthermore, volume control was always a bit of an issue as both the player and the car stereo had controls of their own. It still just wasn’t natural, almost feeling like you were getting away with something every time you successfully listened to music in the car.

And then came Bluetooth. Finally. Finally you could just get in the car and press play. Finally you could have high-quality audio from whatever player you wanted. Finally you didn’t need chords. Finally music and cars met naturally and intuitively.

So next time you connect your music to your car via Bluetooth, take a second to consider the poor 16-year-old in 2005 who had to use a tape adapter to hear his tunes. Do I sound bratty enough yet? But I’m serious, and so is this technology. Also, it’s available or standard on every new Ford.

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