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5 Reasons Bluetooth Streaming is a Passing Fad

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2011 Lincoln MKX

2011 Lincoln MKX

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Bluetooth streaming is a passing fad, and we're here to tell you why.

The solution to in-car audio seems brilliant, at first. Your Bluetooth-equipped car is already connecting your device for phone calls. Why can't it also connect the music player so you don't have to fiddle with a jumble of wires and inconveniently placed USB ports?

It turns out, there are plenty of good reasons to stick with USB connections when you're hooking up an iPhone or God forbid, some Droid piece of junk, to your car.

A cable connection will always be superior, admits Ford's director of electronics engineering Dave Buczkowski, but Ford is leading Bluetooth streaming's integration because it's a good choice for some drivers, and it fits in with their growing in-car technology portfolio.

But here's why we think BT streaming doesn't work any better than a USB cable--and why it's often much worse:

MyLincoln Touch - 2011 Lincoln MKX

MyLincoln Touch - 2011 Lincoln MKX

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1) Audio quality suffers. You're already compressing sound to get it on your music device and/or phone. You want to lose more quality, not to mention signal stability, by passing it over the air?

2) Functions go missing. As automakers update the coding-decoding software on their audio systems to accommodate Bluetooth streaming, they're re-incorporating some of the controls you might already find on your steering wheel or at least, on the audio faceplate. If you're streaming via Bluetooth now--Ford's systems are an exception--you still need to touch the device to advance tracks and access other features. But even on Ford's newest vehicles, the MyTouch and SYNC systems can't use voice commands to instruct a Bluetooth-streaming devices.

Need an example? Audiobooks don't have persistent bookmarks with BT streaming, so you'll either listen to all of it in one drive, or have to shuffle through to get back to where you were.

3) Perfect integration is always a firmware update away. To get past the tech hurdle, engineers have to write software updates. If you buy a brand-new vehicle today with Bluetooth streaming and your device doesn't yet work--be prepared to wait until both the automaker and the music-device maker get their acts together.

4) Charging wirelessly is a fuel-cell-powered unicorn. If you're streaming audio over Bluetooth, you're consuming more of your device's battery more quickly. It reduces talk time. At some point, you're going to need to plug in for more juice--so why not just use the cable? That utopia you're dreaming of, the one where devices recharge over the air too, is just that. A dream.

5) The Bluetooth-cable battle always favors wires. If your phone and audio system do both, you can plug in via USB to charge, and channel music over Bluetooth. But then there's a battle between systems. Ford's MyTouch setup lets you select one over the other. On most systems, it's a setting you may have to access multiple times over the course of the day, as you wander in and out of Bluetooth range, and as the music device wants to default to good old USB operation.

You can fuss with Bluetooth streaming all you want, but it's always a step behind a hard-wired connection. Hey, you can give up playlists and skipping tracks if you want--we'll take all the functions of USB for the first-world problem of carrying an extra cable any day.

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Comments (26)
  1. I really don't get the need for BT streaming in a car. If it paired, streamed, and could be controlled straight from your pocket, I'd get it, especially for running around town/hopping in and out of the car. But that's not how it works.
    Going wireless only makes sense if you need to roam around and be free of cords. In a car, you're always seated right next to the audio equipment, so why not just plug in?

  2. Since when can you stream audio from a phone using USB cables? Maybe on an iPhone you can, but for us using "God forbid" Android powered phones, we have to use AUX or BT Streaming. So I think this whole article was a waste...except for iPhone users who have sucky bluetooth streaming wonder you're bitter, clearly author is an iPhone user :)

  3. If the Bluetooth device is in your pocket, you can't control it anyway. :) Honestly, most people get in a car and dump all the junk from their pockets into the console, door pocket, or the closest empty seat. So there is no reason not to plug in your device. And regarding Marty Padgett's last paragraph, if you own the car, leave the cable in it. No need to carry it around on your person.

  4. There is so much misinformation in this article that it overshadows the whole point. Yes, quality and battery life will suffer by using bluetooth streaming, but it's a nice option to have and considering bluetooth calling isn't going anywhere (iPhone excluded, most phones are actually capable of making and receiving calls), there isn't much investment to add bluetooth audio to the system.

  5. "...when you're hooking up an iPhone or God forbid, some Droid piece of junk,..." rofl @ disgruntled 40 year old iphone fanboy! Props for putting your picture on the article lol
    Fady got it 100% right

  6. I have an iPhone 3GS and use Bluetooth streaming in my wife's Ford Fusion. No problems, and I don't have to disconnect her iPod to listen to my music. frankly I actually have a harder time using my phone when the cable is connected. Also I actually have to take my phone out and put it in the center console?

  7. You lost me at "Droid piece of junk". My Moto Droid has given me the best portable audio experiece to date. I don't really like iTunes and my 32GB of memory storage really let's me take just about anything I want to take and more. Add a car mount and Sync with a Bluetooth stereo in a car and it's easy listening with.

  8. What a load or uninformed garbage. with ad2p i can control my berrys media player with my in car stereo and its remote. Get in the car, phone + stero auto connect. Hit play on phone. skip tracks/pause/ff/rr with the remote for my stereo.
    Maybe you should learn about how crappy the iphones bluetooth is before you go bashing it in general.

  9. Yeah, I stopped reading after your "Droid piece of Junk" statement. It would be best not to offend your very tiny and limited reader pool.

  10. The commenters are offended too easily. Marty is an admitted Apple fanboy and frequently makes fun of his status as such. The Droid-junk comment was obviously meant as a joke. I laughed and I prefer the Android devices.

  11. Hey Edgar - get your facts right. I'll be 41 soon.

  12. This is a very bad article filled with conjecture, half truths and fanboy smokescreens. I do not recommend this article.

  13. My suggestion for those of you lucky enough to have a Ford with Sync is to use a thumb drive for your tunes. I have a 16gb drive in my 2011 Mustang and it works great. I don't need to hassle with cables, bluetooth, or anything else. Best of all I don't need to risk getting my car broken into or my iPod stolen because I forgot and left it laying on my console.

  14. I'm leasing a new Mazda 6 which has bluetooth audio streaming for the iPhone and many other devices. Being an iPhone user I thought it would be nifty, but probably not a big deal either way. After having the car for about a year, THIS IS MY FAVORITE FEATURE ABOUT THE CAR. My prior car had an iphone jack and that worked fine. But it's really easy to get used to playing DJ as your phone floats unfettered in and out of your vest pocket. When my kids are in the car and I'm playing the Disney Pandora station, I'll pass the phone back to them so they can see the album art of the song that's playing. And by the way, I don't notice any loss of audio quality at all. Therefore, when my current lease expires, bluetooth audio streaming will be a "must have" feature as I shop for a new car.

  15. I have been listening to audio books in my cars for many years. Bluetooth streaming to my iPhone is the first solution that has been perfectly trouble free. I use the Audible app for the iPhone. I have a 2011 Infiniti G37 that supported my wireless listening with no special effort.
    Every time I get in my car my book picks up where it left off. After I get a phone call (hands free) the audio picks up where it left off before the call. Not only is this a huge convenience but avoids dangerous distractions, fumbling with devices and cables.
    I highly recommend bluetooth streaming over any other solution for listening to audio books in your car.

  16. Have you ever heard of internet radio and streaming through your car audio? Maybe you should wake up and realize the 128K sound via bluetooth audio is pretty damn good. If it's not for you, fine.

  17. I have a 2011 G37X with a USB a USB connection port, but it won't play music from my Droid that way and I am limited to bluetooth streaming of Spotify. Does anyone know of any android phones that will connect with my car?

  18. I understand this conversation is just over a year old, however i just installed an aftermarket stereo in my vehicle that sounds absolutely wonderful while streaming music via Bluetooth. I also read an article on Crutchfeild that suggest there is no difference in quality from USB, AUX, and CD it did however say that USB would come out a little better because its the actual digital file. I have the Samsung Galaxy SII phone. The frustration i have is everything is being fitted for the Apple Iphone of which does not hold superiority but in popularity

  19. I dont get this. I've got Sirrius, and Pandora apps on my iPhone. I've streamed Bluetooth from the iPhone to a Chevy Cruze that does BT streaming. It worked perfectly, and sounded great.
    What's the big deal about having to touch the device?

  20. I don't think it a fad at all. Most of the reasons listed as it failing are actually hiccups because it's a newer technology that people are starting to use. Of course issues are going to arise as more people start using it. Then we'll start seeing industry standards for communications protocols, upgrades to BT units (which btw have the capability to stream audio digitally at twice the bit rate most songs are stored at on your iphone). Wireless charging has existed for quite a while. In fact many phones have special cases that will allow for this technology. Cables are an eyesore, they tangle, get lost, chewed up, they require adapters, and they cost money.

  21. I have been able to stream music via USB, BT, and AUX on my Android.
    Being an IT tech myself I only know of one IT tech left that uses as iPhone. They are limited and especially for us tech guys who like to customize and make our technology to our liking who in their right mind would like an iPhone anymore? Maybe some young teenage girls would like them because they are an iPhone but they suck regardless.
    Don't hate on Android because they let people actually have control over their phone.

  22. I think you may want to rethink this stance 4 years later.

  23. You're just pissed because your iPhone doesn't have the hardware power to handle a decent Bluetooth streaming rate. My HTC One does an incredible job streaming to my Pioneer head unit *including voice-commands AND app-mirroring*. Please keep your ignorant complaints to yourself. Yes copper will always be king, but it doesn't mean we should put wireless technology in the attic.

  24. Funny how this article is over 4 years old and my new truck has full bluetooth streaming of everything on my phone. Not just music but I can hear games, GPS turn by turn directions and even my ringer. I can fully control songs, playlist, shuffle or repeat through my trucks audio system and my phone stays in my pocket. For something that's assumed to be a fad, it seems to be getting even better. The audio quality is excellent and far better than I expected. I love it when I see predictions that never come true. Some ask why go bluetooth when you can just plug it in and I say, why plug it in if you don't even need to remove it from your pocket. My truck immediately connects to my phone as soon as I turn on the ignition, I don't do a thing.

  25. The title of this article caught my eye as interesting. But when I got to the part where the author states "God forbid, some Droid piece of junk", I already knew the information provided would not be accurate. Apparently the author has had problems figuring out how to use a droid device in the past so all of them "are Junk". I have a so called "Droid piece of Junk" and Blue Tooth Streaming works great on my General Motors Acadia. I can jump forward or backward to the next song on my phone using the buttons on my steering wheel. And what is playing is displayed on the screen in my dash and in the heads up display.

  26. It's difficult to recall when I've last looked back on an article that was so completely wrong in so many ways. Hindsight is 20/20 'n everything, but this is like a satire piece.

    Fast forward 4 years and Bluetooth streaming works great as virtually all Android (having overtaken iOS as the leading mobile platform), Apple and Windows phones can quickly and easily pair with most car audio and use native steering controls, sound quality is generally quite good and getting better as ACT-X and A2DP gain traction and several manufacturers have enhanced bluetooth connectivity to include more than hands free calling and audio.

    What are your predictions for the NEXT 5 years, guys?

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