How to Connect a Smartphone to a Car Stereo

Introduction

Smartphone connected to car stereo.
Connecting a smartphone to your car stereo is a great way to listen to music, audiobooks, podcasts, talk hands-free while driving or even charge your device. There are a few ways to accomplish this but the way you make the connection depends on the capabilities and specifications of your smartphone and car stereo. Make sure you check what these are in your devices' documentation so that you make the best decision before you make any additional purchases.

You can connect a smartphone to your car stereo using:

  • Bluetooth
  • USB cable
  • 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Car brand specific media input
  • Adapter, FM Transmitter, Car Kit that uses one of the above types of connections.

? Which connection type would like to learn about?

  1. Bluetooth
  2. USB Input
  3. Audio Aux Input
  4. Media Input
  5. Other

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Smartphone connected to car stereo.
Connecting a smartphone to your car stereo is a great way to listen to music, audiobooks, podcasts, talk hands-free while driving or even charge your device. There are a few ways to accomplish this but the way you make the connection depends on the capabilities and specifications of your smartphone and car stereo. Make sure you check what these are in your devices' documentation so that you make the best decision before you make any additional purchases.

You can connect a smartphone to your car stereo using:

  • Bluetooth
  • USB cable
  • 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Car brand specific media input
  • Adapter, FM Transmitter, Car Kit that uses one of the above types of connections.

To continue, we need to know what Operating System your smartphone or tablet has.

There are 2 main Operating Systems for smartphones currently available, Android and iOS.

Android Smartphone
Android smartphones are produced by multiple companies, such as Samsung, LG, Motorola, Sony, Nokia, Lenovo, and HTC.Android Home Screen
iOS Smartphone
Apple is the only company that makes iOS smartphones.iOS Home Screen

On The Bluetooth Device

Set the Bluetooth device in pairing/discovery mode.

This process varies depending on the type of device you have. Some devices require a PIN or a passkey to be entered to be able to pair them. Refer to your device's documentation for these details.

On The Android Device

Depending on what device (Smartphone or Tablet) and which generation you have, the menu theme and options might look slightly different on your screen. However, the steps should be similar across all Android devices and generations.

  1. From the main screen of your Android device, tap on the Apps button.
    Android main screen with Apps icon highlighted.
  2. Then look for and tap on Settings.
    Android Apps screen with Settings highlighted.
  3. Then go to Bluetooth.
    Android Settings screen with Bluetooth highlighted.
  4. Make sure the Bluetooth feature is enabled by flipping the On / Off switch to the On position then wait for the Bluetooth device to show up in the list.
    Bluetooth device selection screen on Android.
  5. Tap on the Bluetooth device in the list to pair with it.
  1. Set the car stereo source to the Bluetooth.
    Car stereo source set to Bluetooth.
  2. Play your media from your smartphone, directly from the car stereo or make hands-free phone calls, if supported.

On The Bluetooth Device

Set the Bluetooth device in pairing/discovery mode.

This process varies depending on the type of device you have. Some devices require a PIN or a passkey to be entered to be able to pair them. Refer to your device's documentation for these details.

On The iOS Device

Depending on what device (iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch) and which generation you have, the menu theme and options might look slightly different on your screen. However, the steps should be the same across all iOS devices and generations.

  1. From the main screen of your device, look for and open Settings.
    iOS main screen with Settings icon highlighted.
  2. After that go to Bluetooth.
    iOS Settings screen with Bluetooth option highlighted.
  3. Make sure that the Bluetooth feature is enabled by flipping the On / Off switch to the green position then wait for the Bluetooth device to show up in the list.
    Bluetooth devices selection screen with toggle switch highlighted.
  4. Tap on the Bluetooth device in the list to pair with it.
  1. Locate the USB Input socket on your car stereo or dashboard.
    USB Input on car stereo.
  2. Plug one end of the USB cable into your smartphone and the other end into the USB Input of your car stereo.
    Smartphone connected to car stereo through USB Input.
  3. Set the car stereo source to the USB Input.
    Car stereo source set to USB.
  4. Play your media directly from the car stereo.
    Music playback controlled from car stereo.
  1. Locate the Aux Input socket on your car stereo or dashboard.
    Car Stereo Aux Input.
  2. Plug one end of audio cable into the headphone socket of your smartphone.
    Audio jack plugged into smartphone.
  3. Plug the other end of the cable into the car stereo Aux Input socket.
    Audio jack connected to car stereo.
  4. Set the car stereo source to AUX Input.
    Car stereo set to AUX mode.
  5. Play the media on your smartphone. Turn up the volume on your smartphone to around 75% and then adjust the car stereo volume as necessary.
    Media playing on smartphone.
  1. Locate the Media Input socket on your car's dashboard or inside the armrest box or glove box. The socket label and type varies by car manufacturer.
    Media Input socket on car dashboard.
  2. Plug one end of the Media Interface cable into your smartphone and the other end into the Media Input socket or your car.
    Smartphone connected to car Media Input.
  3. Set the car stereo source to the Media Interface and play your media directly from the car stereo.
    Car stereo source set to Media Interface.

Other ways of connecting a smartphone to your car's stereo are by using Adapters, FM Transmitters or Car Kits, which in turn employ the other types of connections described in the other choices:

Refer to the manufacturers specifications and instructions to learn more.

  • Adapters come in different forms, have different features and may require extra installation.
    • Input Adapters add an Aux, USB or manufacturer specific input to your car stereo if it doesn't have one. May also adapt your smartphones output to the car stereo's input.
      Car Stereo Aux Adapter.
    • Bluetooth Adapters plug into your car stereo through an Aux or USB Input and add wireless capability to it. Pair your smartphone with the Bluetooth Adapter to play audio or make hands-free phone calls.
      Car Stereo Bluetooth Adapter.
  • FM Transmitters, just like Adapters, come in different forms and have different features but don't require extra installation. They connect your smartphone to your car stereo in two steps:
    1. First, you establish a physical (Audio Aux or USB) or wireless (Bluetooth) connection between the FM Transmitter and your smartphone.
    2. Then you set your car stereo's FM Tuner to the same frequency the FM Transmitter is emitting.
      Car Stereo FM Tuner set to same frequency as FM Transmitter.
  • Car Kits may connect to your car's stereo through any of the above methods and allow you to make hands-free phone calls while driving.
    Hands-free call showing on car stereo display.
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