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Thinking back to your childhood family car trips, there’s a good chance that most of the time was spent listening to a medium wave radio’s crackle of some sporting event. Despite the technological advancements at homes, it’s surprising how many people still use older-generation radios. Especially considering how wireless connectivity has become affordable.

Depending on your car’s age, a modest update to the audio system may improve the sound. If the car stereo doesn’t have built-in Bluetooth, consider upgrading it.

A Bluetooth stereo will allow you to listen to music streamed from Apple Music or Spotify while driving. As expected, apps are now set to be more engaging, and this is a fact that hasn’t skipped the automotive car audio units.

The best way to improve car audio is by updating the head unit, car speakers, getting a subwoofer, and adding an amplifier. Below are two ways of updating the head unit software.

Using Apple’s CarPlay

After a somewhat slow start, you can find CarPlay in several vehicles on the market. Apart from making it easier to make and receive hands-free calls and texts, this in-dash software can also help improve your car audio.

The software works with car-oriented iPhone apps via an easy-to-follow, consistent interface that features larger buttons and graphics. CarPlay works with phones above iPhone 5, which includes older models like iPhone 5c up to newer models like iPhone X.

If your car doesn’t offer you CarPlay, you can add it as an aftermarket in-dash infotainment system. You can pair the system with your iPhone through a Lightning cable plugged into the dashboard, and the CarPlay icon pops up and updates all compatible apps. However, after connecting your phone, the screen is locked to discourage use while driving.

Some head units allow iPhone-to-car wireless connection. Some of the best apps to use with CarPlay to improve car audio include:

  • The Music app for playing your iTunes purchased music
  • iPhone Fanatics podcast for listening to podcasts during your commute
  • Audiobooks for listening to audiobooks purchase from Apple’s iBook service
  • iHeart Radio that allows you to listen to hundreds of radio stations from all over the country
  • MLB At Bat for die-hard baseball fans looking to keep up with scores, highlights and much more

Since CarPlay is basically another app in the car’s head unit display unit, most models also offer support for Google’s Android Auto.

Using Google’s Android Auto

Android Auto features a Google Now-like interface on your car’s infotainment display unit using a USB connection. The software allows you to play music on your phone, make calls, dictate messages as well as use Google Maps.

Audio from your phone is sent to your car’s speakers using USB with no sound reduction in quality, unlike what you would experience when streaming via Bluetooth. On the other hand, Bluetooth hands-free handles phone calls.

Android Auto employs the same open approach to third-party apps as Android does on your phone. However, Google Play Music is the front and center app for pushing tunes to your vehicle’s stereo as you drive.

You can control the playback using the Android Auto interface or speaking out loud the playlist, album or artist you would rather listen to. However, there are many other options available too, including:

  • Pandora that plays continuous music for that long drive
  • Spotify, which offers access to all your favorite music or you can make a playlist that will be played during the drive
  • YouTube Music that lets you listen to niche tunes and remixes on YouTube
  • TuneIn that lets you listen to thousands of radio stations for talk, sports and music
  • Audible for listening to audiobooks instead of music while driving

Music controls in Android Auto are straightforward, simple buttons that have an accompanying album art in the background. However, note that streaming songs uses your data plan as usual.

Conclusion

Car stereos that have come directly from the factory are usually not that good. After all, car manufacturers are in the business of making cars not stereos. One of the best ways to improve your car audio experience is installing a new head unit and using the best apps suggested above.