The Truth About Cars » iPod The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:36:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » iPod Hammer Time: Old Tech / New Tech Tue, 29 Oct 2013 11:00:18 +0000

Ah, the good old days. A time when smartphones were just PDA’s with hormone imbalances.

A time of basic cell phones, brick-thick cameras, and camcorders barely big enough to require a hand strap.

I remember all this old tech like it was yesterday, and for one simple reason: I still used all of them until recently.

Until about a month ago, I used the same basic cell phone I got for free back in 2008.

Absolutely nothing special, the bare bones MetroPCS phone enabled one-handed dialing and texting without even looking at the screen.

One thumb and dome. I mean, done.

That primitive device was brutally brilliant for yours truly because it was essentially “dope resistant”. It withstood a 45-MPH launch from  a Lincoln Town Car’s hood with nary a scratch.  I lost it dozens of times, once for two days. Yet I would invariably find it again and continue to beat it like a red-headed stepchild.

In time it was scratched, kicked, dropped, thrown, and beaten all to hell.

I treasured it. With each passing month, that miniature screen would get a little bit more faded and dim. Sometimes – not often…maybe once a month – the screen would freeze up or a button would stick.

No worries. At least not for a guy in a time warp. Even a few minutes of downtime each month was not nearly enough for me to invest in modern smartphones. Five-hundred dollars for a friggin’ phone? Ha! Not from this frugal zealot!

Then something happened…


I left it on top of a Subaru Outback and gave the keys to one of my customers. After a ten-minute test drive I heard the words that would change the course of my technological future.

“Steve, I really like this Outback. But I heard this strange clunking sound when I made my first turn. Are the CV joints okay?”

“Ummmm… I think it was my cell phone.”

A futile search on the nearby intersection yielded nothing more than a shocking amount of litter, and mild amusement from the passersby.

The time had come.

It was September 19th, 2013, and the cost of not having a phone for my business was far more dire than the relatively low cost of buying a good phone…a damn good phone…maybe even…the best phone?

So I powered up my fully-functional 2001 Pentium 4 with Windows XP and Googled “cell phones” and “best.”  A relentless assault of one-worded responses confronted me:


It was not because the iPhone was better than the Galaxy S4, which was better than the HTC One, which was…. what the hell are all these things?

No, it was because Apple was releasing the new iPhone 5C and 5S models the next day.

So I went to Wal-Mart.

And the AT&T store.

And T-Mobile.

And Best Buy.

But the iPhone 5S was nowhere to be found. It was worse than Chrysler’s release of the new Jeep Cherokee. I couldn’t find this thing in my neck of the woods to save my ass from first base.

I had to do something, anything, to get a decent cell phone.

I Facebooked. I called friends. I contacted people that I’m not even sure are my friends anymore.

One guy offered me a phone, but batteries were no longer available for that (2007) model.  However, the teenage girl working at the battery store was my savior.   She ducked in the back and emerged with something small, pink, and adorned with a Hello Kitty sticker.

I quietly sighed, but left with a new battery and the following phone for $40.


The damn thing’s called a lollipop.

Back in 2010 these phones were state-of-the-art…for the low end. But it could do pictures, voice, and even send your photos off to Kodak.

Kodak! Damn!  I was hitting the big time!

Within two days, I had it deciphered and was busy texting and calling away. The flip design would keep the sub-two-inch screen in stellar shape. All would be well again in my world.

Until, that is, I attended a nearby media event. Here, I realized brutal truth of my Luddite life.

I was the sole guy at the event without a smartphone. Not only that, I was the only journalist not typing away before the event began.

When the new car rolled out, they simply  snapped photos with their phones and sent them.

To online publications…to their social media pages…and probably a half-dozen other places thanks to various apps.

Me? I go and unsheath a 2005,  5-megapixel Sony digital camera, whose lens extends like a three-inch probe. I wait for the right exposure, take two pictures, and then the thing spontaneously seizes up in my hand like the relic it is.

Confession time: It wasn’t always like this for me; I used to be a hardcore technophile.

Party on Wayne!

Party on Wayne!

Twenty years ago, I was the first student at my college with a laptop. Thanks to it helping me overcome a fine motor impairment, my grades skyrocketed.  That’s Wayne by the way…

Technology was a beautiful thing in my life, and I almost accepted an offer with an IT consulting firm before my love for cars took over.

The car business, and the interrelated world of auto auctions, became my career, and I eventually became a ”tool guy” technologically.

If the hammer works, just keep on using it. Because “new” means “money”. And “nearly-new” means “nearly free.” And “old” means durable and often perfect for my limited needs.


A lot of long-time auto enthusiasts look at cars in much the same way. Older vehicles, especially those past a decade or even two, can perform the same functions as new models for a fraction of the cost.

Then again, you do miss a few pieces of technology as you go back in time: navigation, stability control, airbags. Everything from the steel polymers used to make vehicles, to the maintenance requirements for a daily driver, have changed substantially within the last ten years.

So here’s my question: Where do you draw the automotive line between old and new? Does a car with ABS, traction control, and dent resistant panels, like a 1992 Saturn, earn the right to be seen as a contemporary? Or does it have to Sync, Link, CUE and Think with mobile and hands-free technologies?

Where do you draw that line?

Oh, and if you happen to have a spare gold iPhone 5S with 30 times more gigabytes than my “pre-Ipod” computer, feel free to let me know.

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When Will We Get A Decent iPod Interface? Thu, 15 Sep 2011 17:49:44 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

[Ed: The above video is not intended as a specific example of the problems we faced, but a general illustration of the wider issue]

While on a junket for the Hyundai Veloster I was treated to yet another instance of The Most Infuriating Thing About New Cars – the lack of any decent way to connect your iPod to the in-car entertainment system.

As TTAC Editor-In-Chief Ed Niedermeyer and I toured Oregon’s various scenic byways in the newest Hyundai, our musical selections were repeatedly interrupted due various errors, whereby Ed’s iPhone was unable to sync, refused to completely sync, or randomly re-synced. Our attempts at listening to the new Bon Iver album, or Burn After Rolling (the listenable mixtape made by limp-dick rapper Wiz Khalifa) were interrupted by a blast from XM’s pop station, as the iPod integration took a giant shit on us. Nothing spoils the conversation like having your ambient rock or gangsta rap interrupted by Katy Perry or Lady Gaga.

In the pre-USB port days, there were two options – you could use an “iTrip”, a crude device that plugged into a cigarette lighter and used a small radio transmitter to broadcast your music over a dormant frequency. Tuning your radio to said frequency allowed you to have your own private radio station, although it was frequently interrupted by transmissions from competing commercial stations, especially on road trips where frequencies changed every so often.

The other option was the auxiliary port – a 3.5 mm audio jack that plugged into the car stereo and allowed you to control your iPod without any aural interruptions like an iTrip. The only problem is that these were extremely rare in the pre-USB era, and have failed to become ubiquitous.

My guess is that the USB/touch-screen integration is a response to fears of possible litigation via crashes caused by distracted drivers, who could ostensibly fiddle with their iPods while it’s plugged in to the auxiliary port. BMW once offered an iPod integration system that forced you to create pre-made playlists and didn’t allow for any browsing of the music library, which I suspect was done for this reason.

The big problem is that most iPod integration systems are varying degrees of garbage. Currently, Ford’s SYNC system is the worst, despite its ubiquity, and every Ford product I review, I try and bash it. I would stop, but I’ve yet to have a SYNC system that works properly, without being a massive distraction and malfunctioning on multiple occasions. None of my passengers, from my technologically savvy 18-year-old brother, to my own friends (who are supposed to be “connected”, “plugged-in” Gen-Y types) can figure it out, and if they do, they inevitably get frustrated with the confusing menus, lack of a “back” button (a crucial feature when your iPod has 10,000 songs and you don’t want to scroll through endless menus to find one damn song) and the occasional disconnection because “SYNC failed to connect to your portable audio device”.

For all the marketing pap about reaching out to a generation of buyers who care less and less about cars, the one thing the OEMs need to do is the one thing they are constantly fucking up. For Gen-Y, the most important part of the driving experience has nothing to do with dynamic. They just want to listen to music painlessly. And not get violated at the gas pump . Being able to drive something with a bit of panache isn’t a bad thing either.

Hyundai managed a gentleman’s C on those criteria. Let’s see who gets an A+.

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Nissan To Make Quick Bucks Out Of Leaf Quick Chargers? Sat, 22 May 2010 07:55:47 +0000

Nissan won’t sell their much ballyhooed pure plug-in Leaf until December. But a successful launch wants to be well planned, and Nissan thinks of everything. They won’t sell you the Leaf just yet. But you can already buy the charger. If you bank account is properly charged.

In Japan, Nissan started sales of quick chargers for the Leaf, The Nikkei [sub] reports. It won’t be as quick as gassing up your car. The gizmo will fill up your battery to 80 percent of capacity in half an hour.

Nevertheless, Nissan doesn’t anticipate the machine to be a runaway seller. “Nissan is targeting sales of 100 units in the current fiscal year,” (which lasts until March 31 of 2011) says the Nikkei. Why the diminutive sales target? Money. The standard model costs 1,470,000 yen, which converts to shock and awe inspiring $16,371 at today’s rate. Yes, you read right. For the charger, not for the car. And that’s for the base model. If you want a “cold climate” charger, be prepared to pay $17,190. The “hot climate” charger inexplicably sets you back a cool $19,294.

Now we are beginning to understand what Nissan meant when they said they’ll use the “iPod model” when marketing the Leaf: They’ll sell you an expensive charger.

The less well heeled will not be left behind. Nissan will make the charger available at 200 of their Japanese dealerships. It will work with electric vehicles of other automakers, Nissan said. For a full half hour, you’ll be at the mercy of a salesperson until your car is back to 80 percent charge. Now that’s an ingenious way of driving traffic.

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Nissan To Use iPod Model To Market Their Leaf Tue, 09 Mar 2010 13:16:16 +0000

By the end of the year, Nissan will, a bit belatedly, introduce their total plug-in, not range extended, all electric Leaf. They will also open a huge data center.

According to The Nikkei [sub], the location and other stats of the data center are strictly confidential. “But sources close to the company say the facility is equipped with quake protection and information-leak prevention systems so powerful it could even handle state secrets.”  What do they need it for?

Nissan supposedly wants take a completely new way of selling vehicles. They want to use what they call an “iPod model” in the car industry.

“From now on, we will market cars based on the value of the information they provide,” said Toru Futami, expert leader at Nissan’s IT & ITS engineering department to the Nikkei.

Details are as shady as the exact location of the data center. The Nikkei could divine that “by connecting the facility and its cars through a high-speed wireless network, Nissan is able to receive driving information in real time. The system enables the driver to easily get information about such things as traffic jams and the location of charging stations.” Hmm. Big deal. Here’s another one:

“Because the data center stores a vast amount of information, including the number of times the car battery has been recharged, drivers will be able to calculate such things as how many more years a battery can be used and what value to place on it when the car is resold.” Nothing you need a big data center for, and nothing that would revolutionize the car market.

Now if Nissan could charge the Leaf while driving, that would be something. Don’t laugh. Theoretically possible. But then, reality sets in: Charging a Blackberry via WiFi in 3 hours is not the same as charging a 24kWh brute of a battery. So what do they really need that data center for?

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