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How to control your music apps in the car

Streaming down the highway

The beauty of streaming content through apps is that it lets you hear the stuff you already love, plus new stuff you’re probably going to love as soon as you hear it. It’s like having a friend with an awesome record collection. 

With your phone connected to a new stereo (an unlimited data plan will really help) you can take control over your apps and enjoy music and more whenever you're in the car. Here are three ways to get your apps involved in your car audio experience. 

driving a car from driver's POV, and several audio streaming app icons.

Direct control over Pandora and Spotify

A growing number of stereos let you control two of the most popular smartphone music apps using the buttons on the faceplate. Just plug in your iPhone® or pair your Android™ phone via Bluetooth®, then put the phone away and handle everything the old-fashioned way. It’s a smart, convenient way to enjoy your music.

Pioneer DEH-X4900BT

The Pioneer DEH-X4900BT has built-in controls for Pandora and Spotify

[See our full selection of stereos that can control both Pandora and Spotify]

Awesome for Apple or Android 

Lots of DVD receivers work with both Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, so even your friend with the “wrong” phone can stream music while you’re road-tripping. If you only want one option or the other, you'll have more stereos to choose from when shopping.

Both platforms give you easy control over your phone’s Audible, iHeartRadio, Pandora, and Spotify apps. Apple CarPlay tosses in options like Apple Music® and Podcasts, while Android Auto brings Google Play™ Music and TuneIn Radio to the mix. 


This JVC KW-V830BT DVD Receiver works with lots of popular music apps

[See our selection of stereos with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto] 

Bluetooth makes it better

One of the many great things about Bluetooth is that it lets you stream pretty much anything through a compatible stereo. This is especially great if you use apps like Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Tidal, or the SiriusXM app. And whether you’re streaming music from an app or enjoying your favorite podcast, a car stereo with Bluetooth lets you manage basic commands like track up/down using their intuitive controls, and often display song titles and artist names.

Kenwood Excelon DPX792BH

The Kenwood Excelon DPX792BH gives you Bluetooth control over your programming

[See our selection of car stereos with Bluetooth streaming]

A fun over-the-air/app combo: SiriusXM

For anyone looking to enjoy a vast array of content, SiriusXM satellite radio is a great option. Its wide variety of music, live sports coverage, news, talk, and entertainment has understandably attracted millions of subscribers. The most common way to get it through an aftermarket stereo is with an add-on, over-the-air tuner.

What’s nice, though, is that certain subscribtion packages also give you access to the SiriusXM app, which provides even more channels. So you can listen over the air in one car, stream the app via Bluetooth in another, and dig into the app’s extra channels wherever you are. 

SiriusXM add-on tuner

Many aftermarket stereos will work with this SiriusXM aftermarket tuner to deliver awesome over-the-air satellite radio programming.

For Dave, it's all about Spotify and Apple CarPlay

Dave adjusting his stereo

"As a bona fide Spotify junkie, I’m in love with Apple CarPlay. Spotify is fully integrated into Apple CarPlay, so I can navigate my playlists and saved albums on my stereo’s touch­screen. My phone stays safely stowed away while it’s charging, and I can listen while I use Apple Maps for navigation, since Siri politely interrupts the music to give me directions."

— Dave Brown, Crutchfield Home A/V Editor

Questions? We can help

If you need any help choosing the best radio to match your listening habits, contact one of our Crutchfield advisors

  • eric j peay from columbia

    Posted on 8/14/2020

    Well what kenwood Exelon 5 volt head unit with a cd/dvd player will fit In a 2020 jeep wrangler sahara? Or some thing simular? I love your new 12'' kicker comp Q sub woofers!!!!! With 850 RMS power per sub real nice. What amp will power two of them nicely? I love kicker amps. clean and low distortion.

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 8/17/2020

    Eric, When you enter your vehicle's info into our Outfit My Car tool, you'll see which stereos fit your car, plus the correct harness. If you have any questions, our advisors are available via phone or chat.
  • Commenter image

    Jon Paulette from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/9/2018

    Yvette, Not at all, but there are some things you'll need to know before you install anything new. This is one of those times when it's probably better to have a conversation with a real live human. Give us a call and talk to one of our advisors. We can help you choose the right gear and give you the right advice on how to install it.

  • Yvette from Mt Kisco, New York

    Posted on 4/7/2018

    Are you saying you have nothing available in car stereos for my 2004 Mercedes Benz ML 350?

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