June 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Music Car Control Player App Counters Highway Noise with Speed Data

music car control best iphone apps fo not crashing your carThe primary focus of most apps designed for in-car listening is to optimize playback controls for safer operation.

Many stop short of considering the less life-threatening but also irksome issues that one encounters on the road — like highway noise. Music Car Control takes it one step further in combatting this annoyance with a straightforward player front end that combines simple gesture controls with speed-based volume automation via input from your iPhone’s GPS.

Many new cars offer a similar feature, but if your wheels aren’t quite so shiny, now you too can enjoy velocity-dictated volume: quieter in parking lots and louder on the freeway.

The app’s simple layout displays album art and large text, with no buttons to accidentally hit when using gesture controls to swipe songs forward or backward. At start-up, Music Car Control ($1) prompts you to load a pre-created playlist from your phone’s iPod app, but you can also build an on-the-fly playlist within the app.

Pro tip: If you accidentally navigate to the previous track from the first song in a playlist, the playlist will appear to disappear. Swiping forward again does not return it, and the app will prompt you to load a new playlist. However, a single tap revives the playlist and brings you back to the first song.

Other car player apps we’ve seen offer as many as 20 elaborate swiping gestures, but Music Car Control keeps it simple with only basic controls. Swipes to the left or right change the track, swiping up or down controls volume, and a two finger twist brings you to Settings, where on-the-fly playlists can be created, speed-based functions controlled, and a few other settings like Shuffle and Repeat Playlist are accessed.

The speed-based volume automation, which is the neatest feature about this app, is a great solution for highway driving — particularly for motorcyclists, anything with a rag top, or smaller, cheaper, sonically-uninsulated cars in which highway noise can seriously degrade audio quality.

The accuracy of the iPhone’s assisted GPS isn’t quite as sharp as your typical dashboard-mounted unit, but should be able to get you in the ballpark speed-wise enough to control volume appropriately — just don’t try to use this app’s readings to get out of a speeding ticket.

I’d be interested to see as well if the speed functions still work outside your service range, as theoretically they should, because GPS information comes from satellites, not cell towers, but we didn’t get a chance to test that (let us know if you do).

Note: Though you can still install this app and use it as a player on the iPod Touch, the speed-based features won’t work, because those devices rely on the location of Wi-Fi hotspots rather than GPS.

The “take home,” as they say, is that Music Car Control’s speed-based volume function isn’t just about convenience, it’s also about safety, because you don’t have to ride the volume fader every time you pull into a parking lot or hit the freeway. Gesture controls are quite handy for making the touchscreen operation easier while driving, but we give extra credit to Music Car Control for thinking outside the box and trying to tackle another common cause of distraction behind the wheel.

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