Stream Net radio to your car stereo – for iPhones

One Holy Grail amongst music aficionados is an ability to listen to their favourite music station whilst driving along. Some radio stations – Chill, for example – aren’t available via FM but DAB and Internet or some even only via the Net.

So how do you access the internet from your car radio? One specialist – Parrot – promises to offer a 3G dongle for its Android based car music centre, the Asteroid. Except both products– unit and 3G dongle – still aren’t shipping until June [2011]. The good news is that TechEye spotted a potential answer for iPhone owners at the recent Digital Summer event in London’s Marble Arch. It’s the O-Car from Oxygen Audio. Basically, it’s an amplifier into which you fit the Apple handset (3G, 3Gs & iPhone 4) and that makes use of the car’s existing speakers.

All iPhone owners need to do to use this, is download a couple of free apps from the iTunes App – one to tune the unit’s own radio and the other to calibrate its amplifier.

The iPhone has to be inserted into the correct jacket first, but then you can control your music centre via the iPhone’s touch screen.

The biggest advantage – pointed out to TechEye by Oxygen’s UK distributor, Armour Auto, is that any audio content available from the iPhone can be streamed to the car unit. And that includes Internet radio.

A neat feature is that the docking station can be turned through 90 degrees and tilted backwards for more easier viewing of the iPhone’s screen.

You may be wondering why Oxygen bothered putting a radio into the car unit when a FM radio capability is a standard iPhone feature. Well the reason is that Oxygen’s radio supports RDS (Radio Data System), so that the FM radio station that you’re listening to can be interrupted by local traffic information (etc).

Another reason for purchasing and fitting the O-Car unit is that it also incorporates a Bluetooth hands-free kit with an external microphone supplied.

Let’s get back to the viability of listening to a Net radio station while driving along. In theory, it should work best when driving around town because of the larger number of base stations serving up a 3G data connection.

If you can get an HSDPA link, it will definitely work. There’s another interesting parameter to throw into the equation.

At high speeds, cellular works best with a 900 MHz connexion. Which means – Vodafone and O2 in the UK. Moreover, O2 claims to be the only network in the UK currently serving up 3G at 900 MHz in the UK. The rest have to use 2.1 GHz.

So budding Clarksons who want to test this whole theory will not only have to blag a vehicle and an O-Car but on O2 USIM.