Good Approach for E65 iPod/iPhone Integration
I recently purchased a 2006 750i. It has the Bluetooth for Phone built in and that worked just fine with my iPhone 4 for telephone calls. However, since this version of iDrive does not have A2DP Bluetooth support and there is no AUX IN port, it is not possible to play music from the iPhone (or iPod).
I spent countless hours reading through forum posts on the options for iPod integration. I wanted to be able to hear the audio and have the iPhone be charged. I have about a 45 minute commute each way to work, so charging the iPhone is important.
I considered the BMW OEM iPod kit that replaces the CD changer. The cost to get it installed from the two local BMW dealers was in the $700 range. Since I already had Bluetooth for phone, that seemed like a lot of money to spend. The kits from Mobridge and Dice were available locally for about $800, but the Car Toys gave me no confidence that they knew how to install them, and I didn't want some guy who never did it before messing around in there breaking things. Unlike many cars, if the iDrive computer unit is disabled, the car is seriously compromised, so I deemed it too big of a risk.
I went on Amazon and searched for an FM transmitter kit. I had heard some bad reviews of this technology, but, since Amazon makes returns easy, I decided I would try one out and just return it if it worked poorly.
The one I settled on was the "New Potato Technologies TuneLink Auto for iPhone" kit which was $89. Since I am Amazon Prime, I got free shipping.
The thing is pretty unimpressive to look at. It looks like a cigarette plug adapter and has output for AUX, which is useless in my case, and a USB connector which charges. I have the TuneLink plugged into one of the two 12V plugs on the back of the center console. I have the iPod Dock to USB cable run up through the doors of the console and the iPhone connector is in front. I plug the iPhone in and sit it on the console as it drives. Since the plug is secured between the doors of the console, it doesn't slide around much and stays connected.
The TuneLink connects to the iPhone via Bluetooth and retransmits whatever audio over FM. In Denver, I was able to find about 4 or 5 stations that passed the signal clearly. The strange thing is that the channels you would think are "clear" did not work well. The very staticky channels did not work for me. Instead, i was able to find a few channels that actually had FM radio music but the Tunelink was able to better saturate those channels than the ones that had static. This is counter-intuitive, I know. I thought I was going to have to return the unit, but I experimented and found it worked like this. Could it be that it's better to have some frequencies that are "clear but weak" vs. "staticky but strong"? Who knows? So that is the first observation to consider.
The TuneLink requires that you install an App on your iPhone/iPod. Initially, you use the App to set the frequency. The other thing the app does that is useful is to tell the iPhone that the A2DP connection is present. This saves you the step of having to "direct" the music to the TuneLink every time you want to use it. You can set the App to auto play upon pairing or not.
For practical purposes, I set my first FM preset to 94.9, and set the Tunelink to that channel. If I want to hear the iPhone audio, I can use the voice activation to say "radio" and "FM" or "frequency 94 point 9" and it tunes there. Or, I can just pick FM from the iDrive Entertainment menu. Simple enough.
As far as audio quality, it sounds clear to me. I am not an audiophile. There is a very occasional bit of static but only a few seconds over a 45 minute drive. I am primarily using the iPhone to play Audible books on tape. For music, I would imagine that if you take compressed MP3 audio, send it over compressed Bluetooth A2DP and then transmit over FM, it's not going to be good enough for a lot of people.
Should you buy the $90 cheap solution or the $700 OEM kit? I think the TuneLink is easier but I suppose if you're inclined to use the iDrive to navigate your playlists, you might prefer the OEM solution. I am totally unimpressed with iDrive and think it's hard to use, so I would prefer to navigate on the iPod itself. Not having to go to the dealer and lose the car for a day is worth something as well.
Anyway, for those people who need a solution and don't worry so much about audio quality, the TuneLink is a decent option.