Reader Review: R56 iPod Adapter

For those of you wondering about the OEM iPod Adapter and how the installation goes, MF reader Stephen Phillips has you covered with this great review!

One of the unfortunate side effects for those of us who took early or first delivery of a 2007 Mini was the lack of accessories that could be included in the car at the time of ordering. One of the biggest areas that seemed to have no options available was in the audio department. The prospect of receiving the next generation iPod adapter seemed a daunting task. Luckily, my salesmen, Dave, assured me that as soon as it was available, he would notify me. Late May, nearly four months after taking delivery, they became available and I began my quest to have the iPod adapter installed in my R56 Cooper S.

The Install

Mini quoted me $375 for the adapter and between 2 and 4 hours for the install. This may vary from dealer to dealer because the part is still so new that they don’t seem to have a proper pricing structure for the installation. Word to the wise, make sure your car has the CD Changer Prep in the car. If not, it could be even more expensive. My car’s spec sheet said it did, but it turns out that it did not. Those of you with the locked upper compartment, make sure you specify that you want the ten dollar stowage box installed and the cables routed to that. The standard installation puts the iPod in the already too small glove box. Unfortunately BMW/Mini sent my dealer the wrong software update for my radio and ended up with an error code. Two days later, Mini figured out the problem and reloaded the correct software. After having the car for a week, they ironed out all the kinks and I received my car back with the iPod adapter properly installed. At this point I must thank all of the guys at Morristown Mini (especially Dave and Fred ) for their help and patience with me, seeing as I called every day asking for an update on the car.

The Interface

Those who own or have driven a 07 Cooper know interface of the new 07 radios is not the most intuitive. Navigating the radio stations and the CD player can seem a little overly complicated . With the addition of the iPod adapter the interfaces dials and buttons start to play a bigger part in the operation of the radio itself. If you want to try this out for yourself burn a Mp3 Cd in Itunes (Windows Media Player does not organize the music the same) and insert it into your cd player.Tthe menu system is the same except for the ability to sort the music.

Upon plugging the iPod in to the adapter a mini logo appears on the iPods Lcd and warns you to not disconnect the iPod. Interestingly it only says to not disconnect when the iPod is selected as a the current audio selection, i.e. you can disconnect it if the FM Radio is playing.

The iPod takes the place of the CD changer in the interface selection menu.

Options 1-6 allow you to browse your music via Playlist, Artist, Album , Genre, Podcast, and Audio Book.

Thanks for sending this in Stephen! We’ll have more about this adapter and how it works with the Nav equipped R56 in the coming months.

  • Ron

    Nice! The improved ipod interface alone is tempting me to get a new MINI…

  • lavardera

    If you burn your MP3 disc from iTunes you can get it to place all the tracks in folders labled by the album, and then the interface behaves like the ipod. From iTunes you should sort your track list by album before you burn the disc, and it will organize the disc the same way.

  • Nice write up. I wish I had this interface in my R50.

  • TomB

    Nice write up. This is the first time i have seen a picture of that extra compartment for the iPod. Pretty slick. That new speedo is so lame though. I would like to see some photos of the Nav Interface with iPod integration. Actually, anyone have decent photos of the entire speedo-center stack with nav and auto AC? I don’t think I have seen what that combo looks like, and I hear it is the best looking version of the stack available.

  • Has anyone tried it with the iPhone?

  • Mark H

    I’ve tried the 2007 iPod harness with the iPhone. The iPhone displays a message that the adapter is not an approved on and it gives you the option to turn off the phone portion of the device. It worked fine when I turned off the phone functionality, but when I tried leaving the phone on I had problems after that with it jumping out of programs and back to the main menu after a couple of seconds. A soft reset cured the problem. I’d recommend leaving a dedicated iPod in the dash and sticking to using the iPhone with your Bluetooth preparation.

    Two aditional notes regarding the iPod harness. First, it uses the dash unit’s shuffle algorithm instead of the iPod’s so you often get clusters of songs from the same artist/album instead of a more eclectic shuffle. Second, when attached to the navigation system it only displays a certain number of items in the menu, probably due to a memory limitation in the head unit. If you have a 60GB or 80GB iPod that is pretty much full you are going to exceed that limit and will only be able to navigate through a portion of your tracks. Fortunately shuffle uses the entire library. One side affect of this memory limitation is that it takes some menus quite while to load. Your best bet is to stick with an iPod Nano. You should not hit the memory limitation and the load times from flash memory should be quicker that from the hard disk of one of the larger units.

  • j

    alright folks. time to break this down.

    i have the nav interface, the ipod adapter, the auto ac, and the iphone.

    off the bat, yes josh, the iphone does work with the ipod adapter just fine. when plugged in, the iphone gives a warning stating ‘this device might not be compatible, do you want to enter airplane mode?’ at which point you simply tell iphone ‘no thanks’.

    however, iphone or ipod attached, they both suck while using the adapter, in my humble opinion. here’s why:

    -takes forever to load

    i haven’t timed it, but it takes at least a minute to two just to load the names of the artists. even more when loading by song title. if you’re thinking, ‘well maybe he has a lot of artists’ – good question . . . . however, irrelevant. see my next point.

    -limits you to 255 artists (and has other limitations as well)

    there is a limit of 255 artists, which i found after some reasearch on mini2, explaining why i couldn’t scroll to my W’s and play some ghostface (i like to keep all the wu together). why on earth would they limit what the adapter can read in when ipods are known for being able to hold tons of your music? perhaps because they know about it taking forever to load? (i have about 300 artists in my library – so i’m not trying to load thousands of bands, just a few more than the limit)

    -has an unintuitive UI

    with so many artists and songs available to an ipod, why not allow you to scroll through sections by letter? if i know i want to listen to a band that starts with S, why do i have to scroll A through R? this wouldn’t be much of an issue if it wasn’t for my fourth observation below.

    by the way, once i actually get to the artist i want to hear, every song is smashed together in one big list with no indication of which song belongs to which album. obviously a problem since most people have multiple albums by the same band.

    also, how hard would it have been to program an extra category into the stereo so when you have the iPod plugged in, you navigate to a section called iPod? instead of CD2, CD3, CD4, etc. etc. this is a silly little gripe, but relevant as my motoring advisor was completely in the dark about how to teach me this backwards implementation.

    -is slower than molases scrolling through artists/songs/whatever

    testing this with my iphone (since it only has about 75 artists) to make sure, i confirmed the scrolling is always slow and painful to find what you want to play.

    i will admit – i have no idea if these issues pertain to a non-nav system. they could be dependent upon the fact i have nav – but nonetheless, it leaves me feeling like the $ spent wasn’t worth it AT ALL. in fact, i really wish i could just have my aux adapter back and spend the $ on something else for the car.

    sorry this post is so long – though you all would appreciate an honest, real-world opinion based on using it for a while with nav.

  • James

    My R56 was delivered in March with the nav system and ipod adapter installed. In fact it only cost me $250 installed, because the dealer didn’t realize that it was a new unit for the ’07s.

    Sometimes it’s a little slow switching modes, but basically works pretty good.

    I have to agree with the comment about having appropriate labels (like genre, artist, rating) instead of CD1, CD2 etc. But overall I find it quite worthwhile to have, particularly with the nav system.

  • Revhed

    I too have an R56 with Nav and iPod adapter and I think it was a good investment.

    I previously had an R53 with iPod and it is a big improvement over the old one (unlike the hi-fi stereo sytem that in my view is not quite as good as the HK system in the R53).

    I use an old iPod Mini 6gb and I haven’t really been bothered with the load times, although I usually listen by choosing a playlist, rather than a specific track or artist.

    No question that there are areas for improvement, but it’s the integration that I love – The diplay is great and use with the nav unit controls easy. Being able to use voice commands to switch between modes and for various other functions seals the deal.

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  • Michael

    Hi J

    Considering your comments above, however Is it true the USB connection has a far superior sound quality over the AUX? Tonight i experimented with an MP3 disc, original CD & The ipod encoded @ 192kbps running via the AUX, and i must admit the ipod sux compared to the rest! You can’t beat direct digital formats. So in saying that, i guess a direct digital connection with the USB would be better yeah?


  • j

    hey Michael – honestly, i don’t think i’m at liberty to say as i goofed and didn’t get the high-fi system in my R56. i had it in my R52.

    also, i’m fairly bad at distinguishing different qualities of audio in general, so perhaps someone else could help with your question . . . ?

    p.s. i’m really surprised more people don’t find the system as annoying as me – but to each his own. oh and speaking of my non-high-fi system – can anyone point me in the right direction for bumping the quality of my audio system up in my R56? i don’t know anything about the subject other than it’s not possible (according to my tech at mini) to retrofit the high-fi system. thanks in advance!

  • Just an FYI – I’ve been using my iPod adapter (w/Nav and HiFi) for a few hours and love it. No issues whatsoever.

  • j

    no issues whatsoever meaning you aren’t experiencing the same issues i listed or you are satisfied (and loving it) regardless?

  • no issues whatsoever meaning you aren’t experiencing the same issues i listed or you are satisfied (and loving it) regardless?


    -takes forever to load

    Mine is loading quickly. I’m guessing it’s due to only having 5gb of music and that the iPhone is solid state.

    -limits you to 255 artists (and has other limitations as well)

    I won’t hit this with the lack of capacity in the iPhone.

    -has an unintuitive UI

    I think as a whole there’s a lot of room for improvement in the entire interface – not just the iPod adapter. However it’s miles ahead of almost anything else out there and a huge improvement over what came before it.

    -is slower than molases scrolling through artists/songs/whatever

    I haven’t had this issue yet.

  • Nigel

    I am adding this adapter in the spec sheet of my new Clubman.

    Has anyone here ordered the HD or Satellite radio options?

  • j

    ah, well, i suppose my issues are largely based on using an ipod with more capacity and a moving hard drive than something smaller with solid state – but as you said, there’s a whole lot of room for improvement.

    and honestly, as someone who’s never used another system in another car or the mini-based predecessor, the fact it’s ‘miles ahead’ of almost everything else, in your opinion, is irrelevant to me and my opinion on it being a crappy value due to my issues.

    oh well. i digress – i don’t think they are going to let me pay to uninstall it 😉 seems like most people on MF are pretty happy with it and, like i said before, i am just surprised there aren’t more complaints. maybe i should hang around mini2 more . . . . nahhhhh ;p

    i’ll just deal with it and cross my fingers for a software update!

  • there’s no reason you can’t complain here 😉

  • I have been looking around on forums for the past hour to see if I could find any others out there who are experiencing the same frustration as myself and finally I found at least one person on here – phew!

    I am referring to J’s comments above – well at least one of his points. Let me fill you in.

    I had my iPod connector fitted yesterday into my brand spanking new Mini Cooper D (I love it by the way!). Anyway I have waited since January to get the iPod adapter fitted (BMW had not sent the latest firmware upgrade to the dealerships). So its in and I connect my other new funky toy – an iPod Touch 16GB model.

    Yes it works and it took me a while to work out that CD1, CD2, CD3 etc offers different methods of navigating your iPod library. I was somewhat relieved because initially I thought you could only list all of your tracks alphabetically by song name!

    After playing with it for a few hours now I am a little annoyed. I might be different to other users but to me, the most intuitive way to choose music on an iPod is to:

    1. Navigate to the artist
    2. Choose an album by that artist (if you have multiple albums by the same artist that is)
    3. Select a track from the album in the order they appear on the original CD

    Make sense? Can you do that using the Mini iPod interface? NO! The closest I can get to it is this:

    1. Select CD2 which allows me to list artists alphabetically (all good so far)
    2. Select the artist I want to listen to
    3. Then I get a list of all of the songs on my iPod by that artist listed alphabetically.

    I can’t choose an album and I can’t then browse to a track on that album.

    This is so counter-intuitive to me. The silly thing is that it can’t be that difficult to make this functionality available. Surely it works on a simple tree type navigation system – click artist – expand tree to albums by artist and select album – expand tree to list of songs on the album – select song!

    I would like someone to tell me I am being stupid. Is it something to do with the way songs are imported into iTunes maybe?

    Other than that, the sound quality is excellent and I’m happy I don’t have to drive and try and use the iPod interface anymore (too scary at 80MPH!).

    Come on BMW sort this one out for us.


  • Nice article about iPod interface and Mini with NAV/stereo…..

  • patrik

    The R56 iPod Adapter is the worst piece of engineering I have ever encountered. The limitations are akin to the RAM limitations of the 8-bit CPUs in the 1970s era computers. Yet, here we are seeing the dreaded 255-character/line limit on 2007 technology. (Remember when Windows WFW 3.11 could only display 255 characters, and various other limitations of 16-bit software/hardware?)

    It’s a shame that I won’t be able to get a refund on the labor charge I had to fork out because they couldn’t have the iPod Adapter installed at the factory. And I also couldn’t get the Sirius system pre-wired either.

    We have the Nav on our MINI as well, so I’ve always wondered if that’s the issue, as most others speak highly of this adapter on the standard radio configuration. It’s that, or they listen to one song named “Air” by “Air Supply,” which means they never scroll down to, let’s say, the Ws and quickly find this Adapter’s Achilles’ heel.

    MINI really screwed this rollout up. I call my dealer every week to see if there’s a software patch they can apply to the iPod Adapter to bring it out of 1975 to 2008, to no avail.

    Take a pass if you haven’t bought it already.

  • Jeff Dohnt

    Thanks Guys! I have an ’08 R56 Chilli and was “instructed” (threatened with my marriage) if I had bought the Nav system when we ordered our second mini (due to the Stupid $2k price tag). I came VERY close to getting the iPhone Kit as a replacement toy… That aside, I’ve been looking into the iPod attachment for my iPhone (16gig) to install myself and after reading all that stuff about lag, display issues and sorting logics… my mind if made up.

    I’m just going to burn a butt load of MP3 Cds from iTunes!

    Get your act together Mini. (Kia, Daewoo, Suzuki, Toyota, Mitubishi have all managed to do it without the $300+++ Price tag!!!)

    Thanks for the great writeup!

  • N_F_S

    You don’t know if the 255 list limitation is because de adapter or because the Radio.

    Try to burn a mp3 cd with more than 255 artists and you’ll see the problem.