The defunct iPod classic is still the best iPod for your car

Sections: Features, iPod, iPod classic, iPod Family / Legacy, Opinions and Editorials

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My new car, as I mentioned in an article last week, does not have CarPlay. It’s a 2015 Honda Fit, which comes with HondaLink. CarPlay, it’s not, but I’m mostly pretty happy with it so far. I can stream the music from my iPhone via Bluetooth, but I don’t have that much music on my iPhone. Its 64GB (or 55.9GB, if we’re going to be honest with ourselves) is reserved for apps, photos and videos, which currently leaves me with 31.8GB of available storage. That’s not enough for my music.

This is where my old 80GB iPod classic comes in…the classic I hadn’t turned on in about three years before this past Tuesday.

iPod classic

Honestly, I was surprised it even booted up once the battery started charging, and I was even more surprised that all of my old music was still there (twice in its lifetime the iPod crashed on me and I lost everything on it).

The problem was that the music was outdated. There was music on there I never need to hear again, and there was plenty of stuff on my iMac hard drive that had to be transferred. This, then, lead to a week-long project of getting the old iPod classic ready for its new life in the Fit.

I had previous always chosen to manage the music manually, as not everything on my computer needed to be in the car. This time, however, I decided to let iTunes handle everything. I dug through my entire iTunes music collection to check the stuff I wanted, uncheck the stuff I wanted to archive, and completely throw out the Van Halen.

Regarding that, I once knew a woman who ate some steak that was so bad she swore off meat for the rest of her life, even though she’d previously enjoyed it. I never understood that until I saw a video of the newly reformed Van Halen playing live.

Anyway, I dumped a bunch of other stuff, too, then took a ridiculous amount of time adding release dates and album art to those songs that didn’t already have it. Iset iTunes to only sync the checked songs, and now everything’s pretty tight. The point of all this is that when the iPod crashes again (and at its age, I assume it will), I can just wipe the hard drive, reformat it, and sync it back up. No music lost, no playlists to recreate.

The Honda Fit gives me a couple USB ports for connecting the iPod classic. One is under the dash behind the cup holders, and the other is in the storage compartment between the front seats. I’ve been using the storage compartment, letting the iPod classic rest protected under its cover. HondaLink mostly does a good job of reading the classic and pulling in the info, going so far as to display the album artwork, which is cool.

But there are a couple problems, too. Although I can skip tracks and adjust the volume with the HondaLink touchscreen and the steering wheel controls, I can’t pause the music. I can pause music coming in from the iPhone, so I have to wonder what’s so hard about doing the same with the iPod. I can’t even mute it. Also, the HondaLink touchscreen is not the best way to get to the music I want. To use a touchscreen, you have to look at it, and that’s not wise while driving. My old Kia Soul had iPod connectivity, and I could control at all with knob presses and turns. Easier, faster, and much, much safer.

Another problem stems from the iPod itself. Although it did start up after years of neglect, it doesn’t like to stay running. I had it at a full charge (or thereabouts) when getting home from work at 5:30pm on Friday; by Saturday morning at 11:30am when I got back into the car, the battery was completely depleted. This isn’t a problem on work days when time between trips is around 11 to 12 hours, but the poor iPod just can’t retain power for much longer than that. Looks like a visit to OWC is in order. A new battery kit is only $17.99.

So, how about you? You could stick with the iPhone or even the iPod touch, but those touchscreens aren’t great at handling the abuse they’ll take in a car. And because the devices do so much more, it’s hard to keep them maintained as efficient music catalogs. The iPod nano is a better choice at only $150, but it also only holds 16GB, well below the 50GB of music taking up space on my classic. And the iPod shuffle? At a max of 2GB, you may as well just stick with CDs. Disturbing, I know.

As such, a used iPod classic is still the way to go if you want your entire music collection available at all points in your car. You can get a solid 80GB model for around $100 on ebay or Amazon, or even better if you can just dig your old one out of the drawer. You may find there’s some life behind the click wheel just yet

…which is more than we can say for Van Halen. Yikes!

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  • Tom Swift (and his…)

    This also goes for unused iPhones. I have an after-market JVC iPod-capable stereo in the VW, which has a rear-connected cable for an iPod OR iPhone…

    Some years ago I had dropped my iPhone 3G3 and shattered the glass. I attempted to repair it myself but failed at it. It sat in a drawer until I had the idea to recycle it as the car’s music HD. Wiped it clean via iTunes, re-labeled it “VW Music Server” and plugged it into the car. Has been working great ever since. I have not had a battery problem yet.

    The best feature is that when the car is in the garage I am able to WiFi sync with it and add or delete music whenever I want to from my home office. This is valuable since the 3G3’s storage is very, VERY, small. :-)

    Also, even thou the 3G3 is not available to make phone calls on, it can still be used to make an emergency 911 call if needed.

    • Kirk Hiner

      Excellent points. I still like the classic for its hard drive space, but if you got an unused iPhone or other iPod around, you’ve got music storage. That’s especially cool for finding a way to make use of an iPhone with shattered glass. If you have the right audio system, you’d never need to see the iPhone screen.

    • Globe Gadget

      Why not use audio streaming services like Spotify? That way you won’t have to download any of the songs you listen to. Could get expensive if you have a good data plan however.

  • jonothan.RT

    Awesome idea, by using old iPod classic on Car, much safe. Pity that I have sold my old classic after exporting songs from it by using PodTrans. Maybe I should buy another old one at Amazon…pity again..

  • alex_a

    This is the setup I use, however in both 2013 Civic and CRV, the car will stop recognizing iPod — on average I have to reboot it every week, sometimes more often. The head unit will keep the *entire* playback history (but not the position in navigation menu!) between the reboots, and I think after awhile it just runs out of space to maintain that history and crashes.
    Honda, of course, denies any problems.

    • Kirk Hiner

      I have the EXACT same problem, so you can tell Honda that next time you see them. I originally thought it was a problem with my aged iPod, as it never happens with the iPhone, but the iPod never does this unless connected to the Honda.

      • alex_a

        Yea, many people reported it on various Honda forums, but car manufacturers are really good at passing the buck when it comes to software. Pretty much need to buy a new car to get any software update. Which is exactly why Tesla will eat their lunch in every price range they get into.