Integrate your iPod and iPhone into your car with the iO PLAY, a system that enables you to stream music from your iPod or iPhone to your car stereo via Bluetooth.

Ever since the iPod replaced the walkman and CD player as our means of playing music, the issue of how to play music in the car has never really been solved - a situation the iO PLAY aims to resolve.

Before the iO PLAY the result was a form of time-stasis - our cars have more archaic music setups than our grandparents' houses. Tapes from the late 1990s, the odd CD from a few years ago - we usually resort to listening to the radio.

Virtually all of our music is stored on the iPod or iPhone and, without a solution such as the iO PLAY, accessing it in a car has been something of a chore. None of the in-car solutions have worked with enough success for us to whole-heartedly recommended them. Tape converters work but sound terrible, while FM transmitters can sound quite good, but rarely work in built-up cities such as London.

iPod integration is something that the car industry has dabbled with, but hardly got to grips with. Many new stereo systems feature 3.5mm minijack inputs enabling you to plug your iPod directly to your stereo via the headphone socket. This works but is hardly an elegant solution.

So iO PLAY's attempt at integrating an iPod or iPhone to your car comes as something of a revelation. This system replaces an existing in-car stereo system, and enables you to stream music from your iPod or iPhone to your car stereo via Bluetooth. A Bluetooth dongle that plugs into the bottom of the iPod or iPhone is provided, click it into the bottom of your device and any music you play is streamed through your car speakers.

Inside the iO PLAY box you get an Amplifier, a Bluetooth dongle, a control console, a microphone, and connection leads. The whole thing needs to be installed behind your car stereo and the only visible part should be the control console.

The iO PLAY Control Console provides a volume dial, plus buttons to shuffle songs and answer calls

The installation is a job for an expert, and will require you to place the amplifier and leads behind the dashboard. To that end the iO PLAY comes with a voucher that covers the cost of installation. The idea is that you purchase the iO PLAY, use the supplied phone number to book an installer who will come and put the system into your car, or you can take it along to a local Halfords who will install it for you.

Once the system is installed, using the iO PLAY couldn't be easier. Plug the dongle into the iPod, or iPhone and press play. The radio cuts out and the music is streamed through your speakers.

The iO PLAY control console has a dial to control the volume and two buttons, which act as back and forward.

NEXT PAGE: using the iPhone with the iO PLAY

Integrate your iPod and iPhone into your car with the iO PLAY, a system that enables you to stream music from your iPod or iPhone to your car stereo via Bluetooth.

If you are using an iPhone you will be given the usual warning about the device not being designed for iPhone and asking you if you'd like to turn Flight Mode On. Say no, because the iO PLAY also acts as a superb hands-free system.

Set up with the iPhone is straight-forward - simply switch on the Bluetooth setting, locate the iO PLAY and enter a standard password ‘0000' to pair the device. When you get a phone call you press the green phone button on the control console to answer. The music fades out and the voice comes through your speakers. You talk into the microphone, which is usually attached near your rear-view mirror. Audio in both directions is clear and precise, and much preferable to wearing a Bluetooth headset.

Our criticisms of the iO PLAY are very few and far between. The volume dial on the Control Panel can be a bit slow to react, making it hard to get a precise volume. And we managed to crash it once (the device, not the car) by streaming audio directly from the Bluetooth in the iPhone rather than using the supplied dongle. On the whole, though, we found the system to be solid, reliable and a great addition to any car.

iO PLAY: Specs

  • Supported Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP, MPA
  • 60W RMS, Class D Amplifier, ISO Connection
  • iO PLAY Amplifier: 100x81x24mm
  • iO PLAY Bluetooth Module: 70x81x24mm
  • iO PLAY Console: 70x31x23mm
  • Supported Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP, MPA
  • 60W RMS, Class D Amplifier, ISO Connection
  • iO PLAY Amplifier: 100x81x24mm
  • iO PLAY Bluetooth Module: 70x81x24mm
  • iO PLAY Console: 70x31x23mm

OUR VERDICT

For just £199 the iO PLAY is a superb solution to the problem of integrating your iPod or iPhone into a car. The audio sounds superb for music, playback is straightforward, the whole system has no clutter whatsoever, and the idea of selling a complete integrated kit including the installation voucher inside the box is a smart answer to a long-standing problem. We advise you to pop along to Halfords and buy one.

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