Eric Lim

Unsolicited commentary and thoughts

iPhone in my Mazda3

IMG_2372

Even before I had my iPhone in my hands, I was already looking into how to get it connected to my car. My Mazda3 is from 2004, which apparently is just before everyone’s car started coming with aux-in connections and Bluetooth, as my car has neither.

Aux-In

I remembered reading way back when I still had a functioning iPod that people had developed modules that would connect to the back of my car’s stereo and trick it into thinking a CD changer had been attached, while providing either a USB iPod connector. Recent searches didn’t come up with a lot of new developments, so I went with a tried and true solution.

The requirements I was looking for in the connection: 1. Retains the steering wheel controls for changing tracks. 2. Charges the phone. 3. Would not completely take over the phone, so I could still use it for navigation and phone calls.

I ended up going with the GTA Car Kit because it fit all of those requirements, was rather inexpensive, and had decent reviews.

Mount and Holder

As for the mount, I wanted something as minimal as it could possibly get. I was avoiding the vent-mounted docks because I think it’s ridiculous to block an air vent in that way, and I also didn’t want something that was going to obstruct any of my controls.

I came across the custom bezel mounts made by Bracketron, which is a piece of metal mounted to a pre-existing screw in the car. It would require removing the car stereo to get to the screw, but not a big deal since I had to do it anyway to install the GTA Car Kit. The one for the Mazda3 mounts up near the head unit and the glove compartment, which I thought was a perfect spot.

Of course, this is just the mounting bracket and not a holder for the iPhone. The bracket itself came with pre-drilled holes that would fit an AMPS pattern. This basically means that they’re drilled to a specification other manufacturers have agreed upon, so I was free to find a AMPS compatible mount to go with the bracket.

Again, I wanted something slim and discreet. Pro.Fit seemed to offer that with the miCRADLE 4. It’s made to fit my iPhone very snugly, and absolutely won’t fit if there’s a case on the phone. +1 for going naked with my phone.

Installation

The entire installation was rather painless. I’m not going to go into too much detail as there are instructions out there on the web as to how to remove the head unit from the Mazda3. The tricky part came when deciding how to run out the cable from the head unit to the phone.

Most of the guides I had seen suggested running it into the glove compartment (nope, gotta be able to see my phone) or running it out of the little coin box next to the cigarette lighter. That wasn’t a bad option, but I’d rather not have that little door open all the time. Instead I went with drilling a hole into the side of the center console on the passenger side and just threading the cable out that way. Not entirely discreet, but I think the end result was fine.

Showing the view from the passenger side.

Close up of the cable coming out the side of the center console.

Front view

Showing the clearance between the glove compartment door and the bracket. Plenty of room.

Driver's point of view.

I ran into one slight problem with the phone holder – the cutout at the bottom for the dock connector wasn’t wide enough to accommodate the connector that came with the GTA Car Kit. Some sand paper and a nail file worked wonders though, and now I’ve got my phone integrated with my car.

Monday, February 27, 2012
Filed under: Apple Review Tech