AM radio, eight-track, cassettes, CDs. The progression of in-car audio
technology hasn�t seen many seismic tranThe progression of in-car
audio technology hasn�t seen many seismic transformations over the
years. That is, until the rise of smartphone technology.
The proliferation of Apple, Android and Windows phones are so closely
baked into our lives, it�s hard to think how we�d survive without one.
It�s our hub for talking, texting and conversing with friends over
social media. And it is fast replacing our CD collection, whether
that�s through ripping the CD collection or downloading.
The last few years have seen the rise of streaming services. Operators
such as Spotify and Deezer make it possible for you to play music
directly from your phone as well as downloading it to play later.
Integration with home audio systems is more elegant than ever and most
high-end audio systems from manufacturers across the board support the
technology. The reasons for that are clear. According to eMarketer, a
digital research firm, there are almost 31 million smartphones in the
UK, representing 48.4 per cent of UK residents and 60.4 per cent of
all mobile phones.
According to research company, ABI Research predicts that almost 51m
cars with live streaming capabilities will be sold worldwide by 2017.
Rara is a relatively recent entrant, to the increasingly crowded
market, but claims it is one of the largest by territory reach - it
operates in 32 countries. The format of the standard system is
familiar. Like Spotify, Deezer, Soundcloud and a number of other
services, it allows users to stream and simultaneously download audio
directly to a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone.
But where it differs is that thanks to a recent deal will BMW, Rara
offers Europe�s first in-car, on-demand streaming service. That means
that while other systems rely on the user�s smartphone to stream
audio, which is then sent to the car�s audio system, the audio stream
can be sent straight to the car via its own 3G connection.
The system is available as an option in a range of models stretching
from 1-series to7-series and X5, which all use BMW�s Navigational
system Professional. It is yet to roll out on i3, i8, X1 and X3
models, and Rara won�t be drawn on an agreement withMini.
The system costs �325, which includes the system, 12 months' Rara
subscription and unlimited data with no additional roaming fees in
France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Netherlands. Year two and beyond
costs �225 annually, is understood to be renewable through BMW
dealerships, but as it hasn't been rolled out long enough to be a
concern, there's no firm view.
By contrast, computer-only contracts cost �4.99 a month, while
�all-device� contracts cost �9.99 a month, but both could be subject
to additional data charges, depending on the mobile or broadband
The system is fully integrated into BMW�s iDrive system, and works
through head-up displays. The always-on audio-only connection allows
users to search a library of 22 million tracks from major labels and
leading independents. Users can �favourite� tracks and build playlists
via their computer, tablet or phone which can then be played in-car.
Album artwork is downloaded and displayed, and all tracks that are
streamed are automatically downloaded onto a hard drive meaning audio
can be played without a data connection. It will progressively
download tracks, and won�t stop playing a downloaded track until the
next has sufficiently downloaded. In a demonstration, Rara proved it
is entirely likely that an entire album will be downloaded before the
first track finishes playing.
Rara�s bosses refused to be drawn on deals with other car
manufacturers, but the technology barrier is surprisingly low: the
prerequisites are 3G connectivity, similar processing power to that
offered by smartphones and a hard drive. The EU is understood to be
pushing on with plans to make e-call systems, which dial the emergency
services automatically after a crash. Adoption of such a system would
push the industry on the path to in-car mobile connectivity, a path
which technology such as that provided by Rara will surely benefit