The iPod/MINI Connector Reviewed
I've owned an iPod for two and a half years and owned my MINI for just under that. I've grown to appreciate both the longer I own them. Both illustrate how great design, engineering and marketing can create an iconic product. However, it would seem that neither had much in common beyond great design and rabid fans.
Finally in mid-June BMW/MINI and Apple announced that they had secretly been developing a new device that integrates the iPod into the stereo of BMWs and MINIs. While MotoringFile had mentioned an official product like this in the past we were never able to officially confirm anything.
Before BMW and MINI released it's iPod connector kit there were four ways to connect the iPod to the MINI. The first, the dreaded tape adapter, isn't applicable in 99% of MINIs due to the lack of tape players specced in the cars. The second are portable FM modulators like the iTrip. The major drawbacks to devices like these are less-than-good sound quality and significant interference within cities.
The other BMW approved connector is the dealer installed AUX port. The upside on the AUX port is a direct sound input give the listening good quality for the relatively low price of $45 plus installation. However there are drawbacks. For one, the audio many times has to be adjusted on the iPod not to mention the stereo itself. Secondly, you still can't skip to the next track or for that matter control the player at all from the car itself. And finally, there is no ability to charge from the car itself – one had to rely on an after-market option, and yet another device, in the car.
The fourth, and most flexible, way to connect the iPod up to this point is the ICE-Link from Dension. I won't go into details here on the ICE-Link since I reviewed it in depth six months ago. But the conclusion is that, while pricey, it gives you the most flexible solution out there – especially the new ICE-Link 1.1, which features digital sound and a handy cradle.
A quick note – this review is of the BMW/iPod connector. However the BMW and the MINI units are 99% identical and operate with exactly the same functionality (as seen here). MINI units won't be available until September of this year.
The new BMW/Apple device goes about things a little differently than the ICE-Link, however..The idea behind this new unit, as opposed to the ICE-Link, is that you have no interaction with the iPod itself while in use. Instead, you control the iPod using the existing controls on the radio. While this limits the overall functionality of the iPod, it also reduces the chances of driver distraction – increasingly something that our society won't tolerate.
The BMW/MINI iPod connector retails for $149. Installation should take one to two hours at your local dealer. The process is rather simple for those that are do-it-yourselfers. Just remove the head unit and plug in one end of the connector. From there you just run the other end into the glove box where you'll you're iPod will stored while in use. Not as easy as it sounds, but not rocket science either.
Knauz MINI were nice enough to hand over a Jet Black 2004 325ci with the Apple/BMW connector already installed for MotoringFile testing. The device is incredibly easy to hook-up to an iPod once installed. You simply plug your iPod into the glove box connect and turn your radio on. From there you just select mode and on the second click you'll get to what would be the CD changer – now the iPod. Once that is selected, you can choose one through five on the stereo presets which select playlists BMW1-BMW5 on the iPod as well as the ability to play the entire library.
Initially there was some disappointment in the functionality of the unit. However the way the system works makes sense once you're behind the wheel. The overall effect is very slick. Where you'd have to manually select playlists on the iPod with the ICE-Link, this one allows you to operate the iPod (only 5 playlists mind you) completely through the head unit or the multi-function steering wheel. It makes for a clean and clutter-free solution while sacrificing some usability.
The digital sound of the connection is also first rate. I tested 128kbps AAC files, 160kbps AAC files, and 192kbps MP3 files (all encoded with iTunes). All had depth and clarity that sounded close enough to CD audio that most will never know the difference. .
There is room for improvement, however. First off, the ability for the head unit to display song names would be welcome. Secondly, while it will play CDs with over 99 tracks, the head unit doesn't display any track numbers over 99 – something fairly common with MP3 cds. Finally the kit isn't available for cars with a navigation system, satellite radio, or a CD changer.
However it's my opinion that the ease of use and clean installation overcome these drawbacks. Further, you just can't underestimate how nice it is to be able to use the interface of the radio or multifunction steering wheel to control the iPod. It allows you concentrate on driving instead of selecting what song out of conceivably 12,000 you want to hear. And what you hear is perfect digital bliss.
For more information on functionality specifics see the BMW/iPod FAQ on Apple's site. [LINK]
Note: the review was conducted using a third-generation 40 GB iPod and a 2004 BMW 325ci.
Written By: MF Staff
Sort by MINI model
- MINI JCW Team Race Report: Lime Rock Park
- Former Top Gear Hosts Heading to Amazon Prime
- MINI Needs Your Help Breaking A World Record
- MINI USA Announces Recall Affecting 2015 F56 Models
- MotoringFile Review: The 2016 F56 MINI JCW
- 2015 MINI JCW Press Event Day 2: High-Level Review
- 2015 MINI JCW Press Event Day 1: Introduction
- 2015 MINI JCW Press Event Day 0: Thank You Note
- MINI JCW Team at Lime Rock Park: Race Preview
- 2017 F60 MINI Countryman to Become More “Authentic”
MotoringFile on Instagram
- BMW Rules Out Future LeMans Prototype
- BMW Group Announces the First Integration of EnLighten App
- The BMW M2 Option List Leaked
- Turner Motorsport Takes GTD Class Victory at Lime Rock
- Hands-on with the 2016 BMW 7 Series
- BMW Claims Overall Victory at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
- 7 Facts after 1,200 Miles in the BMW 428i Gran Coupe
- Report: Apple Will Use the BMW i3 to Build its Own Car
- New Details on BMW’s Pebble Beach Concepts
- Renting a Racer with the BMW 328i
- Ask SF: Buy a Vespa GTS 300 Now, or Wait for the GTS 350?
- Video: The Mahindra GenZe Electric Moped
- Prima Tubeless Rims for Vespa / Stella
- Have Towel, Will Travel: A Vespa Adventure
- Review: Vespa Primavera 150 from Just Gotta Scoot
- Gogoro Electric Scooter on Pre-Order in Taiwan
- Recap: Amerivespa 2015 — Indianapolis, IN
- Scooter Vagabonding. Man Quits His Job, Rides Ruckus 30k Miles. (video)
- Change.org Petition Aims to Ban All Motorcycles In Hawaii
- Genuine Debuts New Buddy Color: Titanium Gloss
MINI Model Cheat Sheet
R50: One & MC Hatch
R52: All 1st Gen MINI Convt.
R53: MCS Hatch
2nd Gen MINI
R60: MINI Crossover
R61: MINI Crossover Coupe
3rd Gen MINI
F55: Five Door Hatch
F60: MINI Crossover
Advertise with MotoringFile
MotoringFile Buyers GuidesR50 ('02-'06 MC) Buyers Guide
R53 ('02-'06 MCS) Buyers Guide
'12 JCW Coupe
'11 Fiat 500 Sport
'11 Tesla Roaster 2.5 '11 Countryman Comparo
'11 Cooper S Hatch
'11 Countryman MCS (FWD)
'11 Countryman MC (auto)
'10 Mayfair MCS (auto)
'11 Countryman MCS (ALL4)
'10 MINI E
'10 Tesla Roadster Sport
'09 Cooper S Convertible
'09 JCW Hatch
'09 JCW Clubman
JCW Stage I vs JCW Stage II
'08 Clubman S (Auto)
1st Drive: '08 MINI Clubman
'08 Smart Fourtwo
Comparison: '08 BMW 135i
'06 R53 MCS vs '07 R56 MCS
'07 R56 JCW (Stage 1)
'07 MINI Cooper S Long Term
'07 BMW Z4 M Coupe
'07 MINI Cooper & Cooper S
Audio: '07 MC/MCS at the Track
'06 JCW GP Long term
Reader Review: JCW GP
'06 JCW Cooper S Long Term
Comparison: '06 Lotus Elise
Comparison: '06 Mazda MX5
Comparison: '06 UK Focus ST
Comparison: '06 Civic Si
Comparison: '04 TVR T350
Comparison: '06 Nissan 350z
Comparison: '06 VW GTI w/DSG
Podcast: Cooper S Auto
Podcast: BMW 325i
Podcast: JCW MC Soundkit
'04 JCW MINI Cooper Tuning Kit
'05 MCS: One Month Review
'05 MCS Auto
'05 JCW S 1st Drive
'05 MINI Cooper
'05 MCS Conv. Long Term
'05 MINI Cooper S
'05 MCS Cabrio 1st Drive
'04 JCW MCS First Drive
'04 MC w/JCW Tuning Kit
BMW M3 SMG Vs. MCS
'04 MINI Cooper CVT
'02 MCS 3 year Review
Autocrossing the MINI Range