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In-Car Infotainment Systems - What You Need to Know

CarPart  ·  February 3, 2022

In-Car Infotainment Systems - What You Need to Know

The value of your car isn't just about how much power is under the hood. It's also about the experience you have sitting in the cabin. A big part of that experience these days comes from in-car infotainment systems that entertain and keep you connected to the outside world.

In-car infotainment gives you access to entertainment and information right at your fingertips. You can play music, videos, and other forms of audio-visual entertainment through a touchscreen at the centre of the dashboard. You also get navigation info to help you reach your destination quicker.

This guide will show you what in-car infotainment systems are all about. First, we'll start by exploring their history. Then, we'll dive into the features they offer you and your passengers.

Let’s get to it.

What Does Infotainment Mean in a Car?

The term 'infotainment' is coined from information and entertainment. In a car, it refers to the system that gives you access to both. 

Infotainment systems have always been a standard feature in vehicles, but the modern ones include much more tech and connectivity than those from decades ago.

How In-Car Infotainment Systems Evolved

1. In-Car Entertainment Systems or ICE

Depending on how old you are, you might still remember what you'd call ICE or in-car entertainment, which only provided radio and music back then. 

For decades, radios were a standard feature in cars, later evolving into radio cassettes, CDs, and more recently, music played on USB flash drives. 

2. TV Screens and Video Games 

In-car entertainment systems continued to evolve to include more items as standard features or aftermarket upgrades. In the early 2000s, TV shows and movies, like Pimp My Ride and Fast & Furious, made it cool to add TV screens to the entertainment system. 

Some modders even went so far as to connect video game consoles to the system. Of course, those were aftermarket upgrades and not the kind of thing you’d expect directly from a car maker.

3. In-Car Infotainment Systems

These days, the latest models come with infotainment systems, not only for entertainment, but also for navigation and connectivity.

By 'connectivity', we're talking about Bluetooth, the internet, and smartphone connectivity, rather than the AUX ports of the past. Now, you can play music and transfer data to and from your car's infotainment system directly.

Some cars use generic operating systems for their in-car infotainment setups. 

However, carmakers now compete by developing proprietary systems exclusively for their vehicles, like BMW’s iDrive system and Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI).

What Are Some of the Best In-Car Infotainment Systems?

Some of the best proprietary in-car infotainment systems include: 

  1. Chrysler’s Uconnect 
  2. Ford’s Sync 3 
  3. Hyundai’s BlueLink 
  4. Audi's MMI® or Multi-Media Interface
  5. BMW’s iDrive 
  6. Chevrolet’s MyLink

These systems come standard for most models, especially the more recent ones.

What Features Are Available in In-Vehicle Infotainment Systems?

In-vehicle infotainment systems are lightyears ahead of the entertainment systems we saw in the past. 

For starters, they offer greater variety and higher-quality entertainment that make radio cassette players fade in comparison. What’s more important is that these systems provide you access to information, thanks to their internet connectivity and GPS.

Must-Have Features of In-Car Infotainment

Let’s take a closer look at the features you’ll get from in-vehicle infotainment systems these days.

1. Audio Playback

Of course, you can’t stare at a screen the entire time you’re in a car. That’s why both in-car entertainment and car infotainment system alike will always have their roots in audio-based entertainment.

So, the first thing you'll find on all infotainment systems is several audio components. They feature speakers throughout the cabin that play music, podcasts, and audiobooks from various sources.

You can play music from:

2. High-Resolution Touchscreen Monitors

At the centre of any of these systems is the infotainment screen. That typically takes the form of a high-resolution touchscreen mounted in the middle of your dashboard, looking much like a standard tablet.

The touchscreen plays many roles. For starters, it allows you to control all the system's functions, such as managing the audio playback or connecting your phone to the system via Bluetooth.

Besides that, it’s also where you’ll view any videos you’d like to play in the car (for your passengers, of course).

3. Smartphone and Internet Connectivity

As we saw above, connectivity is a big part of these systems’ value offering. To be more specific, the systems connect directly to your smartphone and the internet.

Smartphone connectivity allows for music playback and data transfers between the two devices.

On the other hand, internet connectivity is crucial to downloading data, whether for entertainment apps, navigation systems, or browsing the internet.

4. Navigation System

Lastly, the touchscreen monitor is also there to provide you with information. It’s mostly used in accessing navigation info to make sure that you’re on the correct route.

This function can come from the system’s built-in features or third-party apps you install on the system.

5. Voice Recognition

More recently, one feature that's spreading quickly is voice recognition. People are getting used to using their voices to control their smart devices, and they expect to do the same with their in-car infotainment systems.

Seeing this demand, manufacturers of newer systems now integrate microphones and voice recognition features in their products. With voice recognition in place, you can interact with the system even while you have both hands firmly on the wheel.

Are There Aftermarket In-Car Infotainment Systems?

Yes, you can buy an aftermarket in-car entertainment system and retrofit it into your car. That’s true even if your car is a relatively older model.

When shopping around for these systems, it’s best to start with familiar names in the in-car entertainment business, such as Kenwood, Sony, and others.

You'll likely recognise these brands from back when they produced in-car entertainment systems. The ones that are still around have also kept up with the industry and now offer in-car infotainment systems that you can instal in your vehicle.

Sellers and installers who work on in-car infotainment systems tend to specialise. Typically, you won’t find them offered at a standard workshop that changes your oil and does repairs.

You can search the Directory at to find the nearest accessories shops in your area

If that’s not feasible, you can send us a request for parts, and we’ll help you locate a seller for you.

By Ray Hasbollah

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