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The iPod/MINI Connector Reviewed

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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.

05

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.

05

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.

05

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

  • John Alteen

    Thanks guys, I think I have everything I need to tackle it now. Im sure you’ll be around if I need ya…

    I’ll let you know how it works out….

  • Bob

    My my iPod adapter in my new 2005 Cooper S worked great for the 1st 2 weeks with my iPod mini. Today it worked in the morning with out any problems. This afternoon the ipod no longer shows “MINI” when its plugged into the adapter and now does not work. I’ve reset the iPod and still no luck. Any ideas to get it up and running again? Or do I have to take the MINI to the dealer.. yuck.

  • Bob

    The iPod adapter for the MINI Cooper seems to have failed in some way. Plugged some of my friends iPods and they don’t work either. The iPod does get power from the connector but the car stereo does not see the iPod attached.

    So its scheduled for a checkup at the dealer. Bummer.

  • Robbie

    I have a similar problem Bob. I just got the iPod adapter installed today in my 2002 MINI Cooper and it doesn’t recognize that it is plugged in. I have also tried to reset it, even through a reinstallation process and still no luck. I hope that we both find the source of the problem from the dealer.

  • Bob

    The dealer could not find anything wrong with the iPod adapter or its wiring. They replaced the car stereo and the iPod adapter worked fine.

    Lucky the whole thing was still under warranty, otherwise that little swap out would have cost $502.

  • Brian

    Gabe or anyone else out there:

    My MCS with the HK and Ipod Adapter is coming in this week and I need to know how to set up the playlists.

    1. Is the protocol the same as the BMW – do I use the same naming convention (BMW 1) or is there something special for the MINI?

    2. Will the adapter recognize a “smart playlist” or just the regular “drag and drop” playlists?

  • Bob

    Brian ~

    The prefix for your playlists is “MINI 1″, “MINI 2″, etc.

  • Betsy

    I have a 2005 Cooper S that came with the ipod adaptor, I have an ipod mini, it had been working fine for about a month but now when I try to play it, the readout on the stereo system continually says “no disc”. Do you think something happen to the connector? If I unplug the ipod it works fine.

  • Peter Wiltshire

    I’ve read through most of the notes hear, but still can’t be sure whether I can use the official BMW ipod adapter in my Mini as I have SAT NAV and HK – I don’t have a CD changer. Can anyone help me?

  • Janner

    I have a 3-series BMW with Bluetooth phone. I have an dension icelink running firmware 2B1 which shows track names (ID3 tags) on the radio: it’s great. Except when the tracks change or the track name scrolls across the radio I get loud popping or clicking; the noise isn’t through the radio and doesn’t occur if you disconnect the bluetooth phone.

    Anyone else with this problem? Anyone with a solution?

  • Dede

    I picked up my 2005 MCS last Wednesday (yeah!!!!)with HK, Nav, and iPod adaptor and so far, everything works wonderfully.
    Great sound quality from stereo and iPod, and Nav is functioning well. While it’s correct that the stereo only displays tracks 1-99, it seems that it will play all of the songs on the iPod. I scrolled up to song 248 and the stereo kept forwarding and playing the next track. Don’t know if it will play all 10,000 iPod songs, but must say that hitting the forward button on the stereo became tiresome quickly. I have the 40GB iPod photo. I change the order of the songs on MINI by re-sorting them in iTunes – but there is also a “random” mode on the stereo that I haven’t played with yet. P.S. I live in the Bay Area and ordered from South Bay Mini in Torrance, CA (no markup over MSRP and 12 week delivery). HK and Nav were factory installed but dealer installed iPod for me. Apparently South Bay Mini did a great job.

  • PD

    Does anyone know if the ipod is supposed to pause/turn itself off and stop charging when the ignition/car is off?

    I am worried that the BMw dealership in the UK hasn’t installed it properly and that it may result in a flat battery if the ipod left in the car and continues to charge.

    Thanks

  • Daniel

    Dede

    I’ve just ordered an 05 MCS with Nav. With the iPod connected, do you see the track names through the Nav?

    Does anyone else know?

    Thanks

  • http://ctp.di.fct.unl.pt/~fpb/BimmerBox Fernando Birra

    What about using an archos player or recorder instead of the OEM CD changer?

    All the features from the IPOD-BMW set plus:

    • ID3 tag information display on headunit, NAV display, OBC, MID.

    • Virtual CD changer magazines (not limited to 5-6 playlists)

    And all this solution is free and the interface can easily be built by anyone.

    Check here: http://ctp.di.fct.unl.pt/~fpb/BimmerBox

  • Newbie

    Anyone got word on how the iPod works in conjunction with the 2006 BMW 3 series. Looks like it’s only the audio-out of the iPod goes into the aux input jack in the armrest. This sucks though…no control of the iPod…any way to get the control you had in the 2005 with the interface adapter. My thoughts are if you don’t have the cd changer, there should be an open input in the stero for use….anyone tried the adapter set up as they did in the 2005? Looking for help…..Thanks

  • Dave

    Hank Aaron Mini in Atlanta wants $150 to install the iPod adapter. Is this ‘fair market value?’

  • Rabbit Louis

    Just perused the thread re: interface of iPod w/HK in Mini Cooper. I’m using a 3G iPod in a 2005 Cooper S. After a couple of weeks of smooth operation of all functionality, I began experiencing problems with the Random mode function – stopped working, malfunctioned, etc. Lo and behold I believe I solved the problem by undoing the lock mechanism on the top of the iPod unit, which I activated a while back thinking it would keep the iPod from receiving any false manual input while bouncing around in the glove box. With the lock function turned off again, Random play resumed proper functioning through the HK/in-dash control panel. Sidebar: initially I nearly velcroed the iPod in place in the glove box, but thankfully figured out that the best solution there is to slip it into the little pocket on the inside of the glove box door panel. Happy motoring!

  • Rabbit Louis

    oops — should have mentioned that my random play problems described above only occurred on playlist 6 mode – i.e., when playing my entire ipod library (36gb & over 9K songs)… just to clarify!

  • busternme

    Interested to hear more about iPods suddenly not working. I have an iPod mini and had the interface installed in my 2005 at the dealer before taking delivery. Worked great for the first few months and I took to leaving it in the car over night (with no problem with the car battery). Suddenly the iPod did not get recognized by the interface. Other odd things wer that the iPod woudl start to play once it was fully charged in the normal AC charger, and it stopped holding a charge for more than an hour. I just got a replacement iPod from Apple, which I have to format and load.

  • busternme

    The replacement iPod doesn’t work in the Mini Cooper either. I won’t leave an iPod plugged into the car any more – not because of concern for the car but because of concern for the iPod.

  • RedRedZimmer

    Hey guys… fitted my 2003, 320 with the BMW IPOD adaptor yesterday evenning, with a little help from my local dealer… and their special terminal removal tool the whole proceedure took around 2 hours. Things you need to know.

    Ask for the upto date instructions from your dealer when you collect your adapter, they seem to change weekly!!.

    The main block on the rear of the head unit will require four pins being removed, you will damage them if you try and you need to reuse them in a different connector.

    My car has the bluetooth phone kit, two wires (black and yellow) need to be removed and replaced in the same position on the new loom connector.

    If you have a CD changer in the boot, you will need to undo the bolts and remove the two clusters of wires found on the back of the CD changer unit, THIS IS IMPORTANT and is not shown in the instructions.

    I am no wizzard at this and following the instructions carefully seems to have worked well.

    My experience so far is that sound quality and functionality are both acceptable although the lack of track information is annoying, and the volume does not compare to the output of the CD changer. Because the IPOD is completely taken over by the car, no volume adjustment is available on the IPOD to remedy this.

    Things that concern me

    Even when the car is switched off, the player continues to play in the glovebox and takes a charge. This, in turn, means that after about 10 minutes the alarm on the car sounds. It seems that a solution to this is to change to radio before switching off.

    If anybody has any other ideas about how to resolve this, please post a reply!.

    Also, the hide away box that the IPOD and the new loom plug into seems to be prone to the connectors falling out.

    I think that some people problems may be down to this.

    I live in the UK. Anybody from anywhere that wants any advice… just let me know, I will help if I can!!.

    Thanks

    James

  • Ivanov

    Anyone knows about the three pairs of jumpers inside the apple ipod adapter? Just opened it and found they’re in the far side from the to-radio/to-ipod connectors and wondering what if…

  • Chloe

    Hi ! I got my 2005 Mini last june (so nice…) I currently use the itrip to listened to my ipod but you know… Do you think I should have the ipod adapter installed ? Do you think a better system will come up soon ? I find it a bit strange that you can only listen to 5 playlists Why not the entire library ?? Not mentioning the fact that the names of song/artist do not appear on radio display…

    I live in Paris and french dealers don’t seemed very aware if the system is really efficient (they just want to sell it…!) or sometimes hardly know how the ipod works…

    What do YOU Pros suggest, please ? Should I do it or no ? thanks guys

  • http://bravo5.org/blog blalor

    Chloe, I’d suggest you take a look at the Dension ice>Link: Plus. It gives you the option to listen to any playlist, or the entire iPod. If you get yourself a post-April ’05 head unit, you should be able to have artist and track names displayed there, as well.

  • Chloe

    Blalor…merci beaucoup ! I read on the website there are a few dealers in paris

  • Chris

    Hi, I yesterday got my Nov 04 316ti fitted with the iPod interface for my 40Gb ipod (one of the first ones) at my BMW dealership. As above with a few of the other posts I’m getting a horible background interference noise. Today my car is back in the garage and the guys don’t have a clue what’s causing it. My CD changer is completely disconnected apparently and still the noise continues.

    Is there a solution for this problem???

    Cheers

  • Dave

    I have a 2005 MCS with the factory iPod kit and the H-K stereo. I have used the iPod constantly for the past 6 months with no problems. It has not been out of the glovebox for weeks. This is a fantastic solution for playing music in a car. Who cares about track names? You don’t get those with a CD changer, which is what the iPod emulates. I think the ability to control it with the head unit or the steering wheel controls is much better than trying to find tracks on the tiny iPod screen. Much safer to use while driving. Plus, the sound quality with the H-K system is fantastic.

  • Yegor
    What do YOU Pros suggest, please ? Should I do it or no ? thanks guys

    Hi Chloe.

    I have BMW/MINI iPod adopter in my ’05 MCSa. I like it very much, despite some missing features. However there is something else I would like to have. It’s Harman Kardon Drive+Play. I ordered a 2006 MCS JCW and HK iPod adopter, but canceled both orders waiting for ’07 MINI. The HK’s iPod solution just came out and not sure if it’s being shipped yet. I couldn’t fined any reviews, since it’s a new product. On my opinion, this must be the best solution: it’s made by HK and MINI provides HK head units. I would give a try.

  • NIck

    Yes but does this include the european BMW 1 series??? There is no information on this. As i understand it is not sold in the USA… Could this maybe be a reason why it is not made for an ipod???

  • Jason

    I hear an annoying noise (whirring, beepy, weird stuff) between songs and into the first 5-10 seconds of each song. This doesn’t seem to happen when the iPod doesn’t have to access the hard drive. I’m using a 3G iPod. Could this be the problem? Do new iPods do this also?

  • Nick

    I have a 2005 M3 with Harman Kardon/Sat Nav/bluetooth and am considering buying an Ice Link Plus. Has anyone had experience (good or bad) with the Ice Link in this car ? Thanks

  • Richard

    WORK-AROUND FOR BMW IPOD ADAPTER!!! Restore the functionality of your clickwheel, etc., and use your ipod as YOU like in your BMW with the factory kit!

    I have to credit my boss for this (he’s a podder as well), but I was showing him my new ipod/BMW adapter fresh from the dealer last week, and complaining about the ridiculous 5 playlist/entire ipod playback constraints with the new BWM adapter. He was as incredulous as I that they would do this (obviously done for safety concerns), because it renders the ipod little more than a larger-capacity CD Changer and eviscerates the spontaneity we all love about having complete acces to your music library.

    Anyway, we were driving and he started messing with the ipod, and all of a sudden, the main screen came up, with all menus, etc., and the clickwheel functions fully restored! I asked him what the hell he did, and we stopped and worked to replicate the process. After about 5 minutes of trial and error, we figured out the following procedure to circumvent the BMW protocol and allow you to use the ipod fully, with the benefits of hard-wire connection and charging:

    For my 60GB video ipod, you simply press and hold the play/pause portion of the clickwheel, plug in the cord to the base of the ipod, wait for the screen to go dark (while still holding down play/pause), and then press the menu button. Viola! Your ipod now exits the “BMW/Mini” screen and works as normal. We had the radio on, but not on the AUX/CD changer function while we did this.

    Don’t ask me why this works, and I have no idea if it will work with your particular ipod/car, etc., but I hope so. If not for this discovery I was going to return the BMW adapter to be removed and try an Ice-link or wait for a better alternative to come along. For the record, the white Apple pin connector cord is a problem, as it’s not insulated/grounded properly to avoid some electronic noise as mentioned above.

    My set-up: 2002 BMW X5, no NAV, no DSP; 60GB video ipod; BWM ipod adapter. Good luck!

  • James

    I’ve got an late-05 MCS Convertible with Nav, Boost, Bluetooth + MINI Ipod apaptor. I’ve tried:-

    press and hold the play/pause portion of the clickwheel, plug in the cord to the base of the ipod, wait for the screen to go dark (while still holding down play/pause), and then press the menu button.

    but cant seem to get it to work – anyone else tried it? I have an Ipod Nano with FW 1.1 FTR.

  • Barry

    I have a MCS and it works like this …. Turn your radio/CD player on, make sure the ipod is turned off. Plug in your ipod and the screen should display a green battery symbol. Press menu and you have all the ipod functions and total control. I must admit on the odd ocassion it does go to a white screen with a ‘tick’ and dislays ‘mini’, but just unplug the ipod and repeat the above.

  • Vlad

    Hi..How play video on Ipod 30gb connected to Dension Ice-link…I have BMW M3 2001 5th Ipod and Ice-Link…Thank you

  • Spike

    Richard–thank you, Man! I’m a new MINI owner (motored for 902 miles so far) and I absolutely love this car EXCEPT for that dang iPod adaptor. It aggrivates me that I’ve lost so much control over what to listen to and when. I’m really close to asking for my money back on this adaptor but then I found your message tonight. Wow! Is it that easy? I also have a 60GB 5G iPod and I can’t wait to try this myself in the morning.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • John David Dunson

    I just went to the BMW site (www.ipodyourbmw.com) and there is a video showing some “accessories manager” guy using what looks like a fancy BMW navigation system to control an iPod. CD 1 shows all your playlists, and you can use them like normal. And it shows song title and artist name. CD 2 lets you browse by artist, CD 3 lets you browse by album, 4 genre, 5 podcasts, and 6 selects 500 songs at random from your entire library. He also said some BMW that doesn’t have the fancy navigation thingy can access “the same functionality” through the radio. oh, forward, back and volume controls on the steering wheel work too.

    So it looks perfect. The only thing is, he didn’t say anything about the Mini Cooper. I’m supposed to be getting mine in June, so if nobody knows anything, I’ll post an update then.

  • Aris Navarro

    Hi Richard, Thanks for info about the WORK-AROUND-FOR THE BMW ADAPTER!!! It really works… But now how did you extend the factory installed wire so that it will reach the driver-side seat. My wire is only long enough to reach the glove compartment. Does anyone know how to extend the ipod dock connector?

  • Andy

    I had an I-Pod adapter installed recently in my bmw, and it works great. However, now my stock HK stereo won’t turn off when the turn the car off (and remove the key in the ignition). I could walk away from the car for the night and the radio would play all night long!!! What’s wrong?

  • Luke

    Hi All, can someone tell me why my 5G 60 GB vidoe ipod does not work with the BMW audio link? Thanks

  • S1500

    Hey Andy,

    You’re not the only one with the “radio stays on” symptom. I installed the adaptor on my ’02 MCS and the radio now runs independently of the ignition. Really annoying. That, and it likes to shut off after 20 minutes on its own while blastin’ tunes.

  • Paul

    does anybody have the wiring instructions to connect the kit to the bmw business radio

  • http://www.inseasonfoods.com Ali Fancy

    For Richard,

    Thank you very much for posting the “WORK-AROUND-FOR THE BMW ADAPTER”. I had almost given up on the IPOD Connection!

    I used a similar method to you (small variations): 1. Start the car 2. Turn the radio on to FM or AM but not CD. 3. Make sure the IPOD is off. 4. Plug in the connector to the IPOD 5. As soon as the battery symbol comes up on the screen, push the “menu” button on the IPOD.

    It works! Full control from the IPOD. Steering wheel functions also still work and you can increase/ decrease volume / change songs etc….

    Also possible to set up an on-the-go playlist and move between songs from the buttons on the steering wheel.

    Specs on BMW 2005 X3, no navigation equip.

    Cheers,

    Ali

  • ANDREW WILKINS

    Just installed OEM ipod inteface in 05 cooper and followed the instructions, but now the ipod switches the radio off after about 15-20 mins of play,it also does not turn off with the ignition key. Did i do some thing wrong with the install, called the bmw dealer and they said they never have that problem when they install them, help!!!! thanks andrew

  • andrew wilkins

    just re-checked all my wiring for about an hour,it was correct,re conected everything and still the same problem,then i checked the fuse panel in the drivers side footwell and found a 5 amp fuse for the radio had blown must have been while i installed the interface put the spare fuse in and now the radio turns off with the ignition and i suspect i will not have the ipod switching off after 20 mins of playing hope this helps anyone with the same problem andrew

  • http://mp3yourcar.com Steve

    This site has the best option for getting an Ipod in a Mini or a BMW. I is a simple direct hookup that charges while it plays and allows you to completely control the Ipod using the actual Ipod or by using the radio buttons. The hookup is very simple – it just attaches to the empty 6 CD changer outlet typically in the trunk or under a seat so you don’t have to take out the dashboard usually to hook it up. It’s the best deal out there and a snap to hook up and use.

    http://mp3yourcar.com

  • http://link taufic

    i just have a question for those who have hooked up their ipods on the stock head units. i have an 03 bmw 330i, w/o dsp/ w/o a cd changer, w/ a harmon kardon system. im planning to connect a 30 gb ipod to the stock head unit but am so confused with the tons of aftermarket connectors out there. i saw one running at $100 at a local best buy store in southern california. its iSimple ipod interface for 1997-2005 bmws made by peripheral electronics. does anyone know if this specific connector works on an 03 bmw 330i? if no one has encountered such a product, would anyone suggest a good connector at that? the one with the least complications? would anyone suggest just hooking up a cd/mp3 changer(alpine cha-S634) rather than an ipod interface since ive read a lot of electronic problems with the ipod and head unit? or maybe just simple changing the whole head unit to lets say an alpine 9857 so there wont be a risk of any electrical/electronic issues?

  • dave

    I am trying to find out where the cd changer cable is on the Mini Cooper S Convertible with HK HU. Anybody know?

  • Victoria

    I’m currently waiting on the 2007 328xi coupe and I was wondering if it was worth calling up my dealer to ask if they could install something to connect my ipod to the cars music system. But i do have the navigation system and was wondering which people think would be the best option for me. But I live in L.A so, by the sounds of it, the FM adapter doesn’t seem like it would be too good, which is a shame cause at home in my mini its fine. But please if anyone has any ideas, they would be appriciated!!!! Cheers

  • Doug in LA

    My question is opposite of anything above (I think). I bought a used 2004 325i with iPod attachment dangling in the glove compartment. But my AM radio reception, which I use while commuting, is next to nil. The dealer says it is that way because the previous (original) owner put tinting on the rear window, covering the built-in radio antenna. Is he telling it like it is, or is the installed iPod, which I will never use, cutting off the AM signal?

    Right now my solution is to wear a headphone radio, which gets stares, and the reception isn’t that great.

    Any way to bring the AM radio signal into my car without costing very much?

    Thanks! Doug in LA


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