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December 5th, 2015

Apple: The Cutting Edge On Your Throat…

[UPDATE…]  Actually…the Apple “Lightning To Thirty Pin” connector Does  provide full iPod Out integration with accessories after all. I went ahead and spent fifty bucks on one at my local Apple Store because I’d started reading enough positive reviews of it to believe it was at least worth the risk. On the one hand were the initial reviews like this CNET one which flat out says the iPod functionality is missing. On the other were comments in various support forums including Apples, which indicated that at least for some folks it was working just fine. One of these said they had a Mercedes ‘E’ Class of the same year as mine. There were plenty of others though, who said it wasn’t working at all.

So I took a chance, bought one and plugged it and the new iPhone into my Mercedes, and as it turns out, everything works just as I would expect now.  So either Apple had a change of heart, or the initial reviews got it all wrong, or more likely Apple as is its wont gave out rather limited information regarding its hardware and the media just filled it the blanks however they thought best.

So everything is working now with the new iPhone and Spirit. I have all my menus back, my playlists, the alphabetic searching through things using the dashboard keypad. It’s all there, just as it was with the 4s. Fifty bucks for the adaptor, but that’s how it rolls with Apple.

I’ll say this though. I’m noticing a much improved sound quality out of this new iPhone…even through the car stereo. Bluetooth sound is even a little better…at least as far as streaming Pandora and Internet Radio.

So…(ahem)…as to the bitter heated rant I vented below about Apple breaking things and not giving a flying fuck…

never mind


Mostly. I’m Still not happy about how Apple likes to break things. It’s a chronic problem with them. But at least this upgrade turned out to be not so disastrous as I’d initially thought. The angry rest of this  post is after the break, if you still want to read it. And I will not this: not one word from Apple in any of the support forums was ever, to my knowledge, heard. They could have made things a lot clearer regarding this adapter and maybe there wouldn’t still be so much angst out there over the new connector. I still stand by my characterization of the Apple Complaint Department. And for any iPhone or iPod accessories that won’t take the Apple  adapters because of form factor or because of other issues…well…you’re still SOL…

So I bought an iPhone 6s, largely because I needed the extra 128g of music space. There’s a lot to like about this new iPhone. Lots of nifty new features that I’m sure I’ll eventually come not just to appreciate, but to believe are essential to my very existence. That said,  I kinda liked some of the old features too.  When the first iPhone came out, I was delighted. Finally here was that all-in-one communication, information, entertainment widget I’d been waiting for. At the time I had an iPod, a cell phone, and a Palm Pilot device. One was my portable music player…much Much nicer than my old Sony Walkman. One kept me in touch with family, friends and co-workers. One kept my contacts, notes and appointment book. The iPhone 1 brought that all together, and what was more, into a compact pocketable form that was, in the Apple way (when Steve Jobs was running it) simple, elegant and beautiful.

But for all Apple did that made you love it, there was always that dark side of its personality that kept you from loving it too much. The control freakery. The way it just breaks  things randomly and then  ignores the cries of pain from its customer base. I always picture the Apple Complaint Department as a boarded up window with a sign on it that says “FUCK YOU”.

So I bought a new iPhone. So…as I feared it would…it breaks the iPod integration in my Mercedes. Because Apple just likes to break things. Because…Apple. In this case, the breakage is the new “Lightning” connector. That’s “Lightning” as in: your old accessories have been struck by Lightning and now they’re dead. So now you have to buy all new ones. You’re welcome.

But a 60 grand automobile upgrade isn’t in the budget. I appreciate that Apple probably thinks my four year old iPhone 4s was horribly old and obsolete. That seems to be the lifespan of digital computer devices (the iPhone is basically a pocket computer). But the Mercedes is only 3 years old and it’s a fucking Mercedes-Benz diesel sedan!  People buy those for their legendary  durability. When I was a teenager the saying was the first hundred thousand miles on a Mercedes diesel is just for breaking it in. And  I  mean to put a shitload more miles on mine than that.  

So I have to work with what I’ve got. I have the 6s Bluetooth working, so I can stream Pandora and other internet radio apps exactly the same as I could with the iPhone 4s I’m replacing. That’s fine. I can stream my iTunes music too, but Bluetooth doesn’t give you the dashboard iPod controls. And there’s the big problem. The dashboard controls are important, because otherwise you’re always having to fiddle with the phone itself to do things, like browse your music library or select a new playlist. That’s a highway safety issue. It makes playing music in your car sound system  a lot  like texting while driving.

Hello Apple…highway safety is a thing.

Yes…we took away your dashboard integration. Our advice is to replace your car with a newer model that works with our excellent hardware. We are not responsible if you decide to use our devices  in an unsafe manner. We are certainly not responsible for breaking  the previous safer functionality. We are Absolutely not responsible for our policy of preventing anyone else from restoring  that safer functionality.

See…the solution to that…in Theory…would be to get a Lighting cable for the Mercedes. But Mercedes USA does not offer the new Apple “lightning” connector cable for cars of my year. They may or may not have them back in Deutschland, I have no idea at present.  But this isn’t a Mercedes thing. This is an Apple thing. Bad enough that Apple just breaks things. The company is a great big control freak too. And that combination of breakery and control freakery really screws the customer in the following delightful way: The new connector port is proprietary (of Course!) and to insure its total control by Apple it digitally handshakes with whatever you plug it into, so only Apple approved accessories can use it. And as far as I can tell, not only isn’t Apple allowing adaptors with full iPod functionality to be sold, it isn’t even providing them itself at its usual inflated prices either.

Apple’s does market a generic Lightning to 30 pin adaptor, but in the Apple way its functionality is limited. Because you should really be buying all new accessories. It only gives you an analog audio signal and power for charging. There is a set of functions above and beyond that, which go by the term “iPod Out”. iPod Out allows in car stereo systems to control the iPod functionality and present menus of your music lists and such. Apple is apparently not including that in the adaptors it sells. And it seems that Apple isn’t allowing third party adaptors to include it either. Or at least, you can go looking for it. Good luck. I’ve been trying for days now.

So “Lightning” effectively breaks the iPod integration on most cars. Bear this in mind: It doesn’t have to. Even if Apple didn’t want to provide it, you can be sure other third party makers would be happy to see one to those of us with oh so very ancient and out dated automobiles. Such as my three fucking year old Mercedes-Benz. But…proprietary. Digital handshaking. No…you really should buy that 60 grand automobile update. We don’t care if we made your in-car stereo system  less safe to operate than it was before. It’s the customer’s responsibility to  buy a new car whenever they buy a new iPhone.

I will work with it. I didn’t get myself in the career path I did, and the job I have now, because I’m helpless in the face of new technology. I still have my iPod Classic so for now I can use that to play my iTunes library. I am So Glad I still have one of those!  I can get a USB charger for the car and plug the new iPhone into that to keep its battery charged while I’m streaming Pandora or some such. It means I have to carry two devices in the car now, but that’s do-able.

At some point, hopefully, maybe, a Lightning to 30 pin adaptor will become available to give me back my dashboard iPod controls. I’m guessing at least sometime after Apple has screwed all the people who ran out and bought a bunch of new “Lightning” compatible accessories. Maybe they’ll call their new connector “Assault Rifle”.

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