The way in which we listen to music in vehicles has changed quite a bit over the past 60 years. For the longest time, radio was the only way of to jam to your favorite tunes, but the invention of the 8-track, cassette and compact disc revolutionized people’s ability to listen to music they wanted to on-demand. Nowadays, the majority of new cars feature an auxiliary port (or USB port) that allows you to connect your iPhone (or other music playing device) so that you can listen to any of the hundreds or thousands of songs you have saved.
However, one of the big dangers of using your iPhone to play music while driving is the distraction it causes by making you focus on your device instead of on the road. To help make it a bit safer to drive and control your tunes at the same time, developer Ryan Oksenhorn created CarTunes, a gesture based music player for your iPhone. Find out more after the jump.
AppStorm does not condone any activity that distracts a driver from the responsibilities of operating a motor vehicle. While CarTunes does aim to make it safer to control your iPhone while driving, it’s important that you always follow state laws when using your cell phone while driving.
When you start up CarTunes, you’ll be taken through a tutorial that demonstrates some of the basic functionality of the music player and how to access your music library. What’s interesting about the tutorial is that it doesn’t provide instructions on how to perform all the gestures (it is provided in the App Store description); luckily, you have me as your guide and I’ll touch upon each one of CarTunes lovely gesture offerings.
While no app can make is absolutely safe to control your iPhone and drive at the same time, the concept and execution of CarTunes is such that you never really need to take your eyes off the road. Once you’re familiar with the moves needed to control your music, it will simply become second nature. To play or pause your music, the most important functionality of any music player, simply tap on the screen.
If you wish to skip to the next track, flick to the left; to reverse the action and return to the previous track (or go to the beginning of the song if you’re more than couple seconds in), flick to the right. You can rewind or fast forward through a song by swiping and holding the perspective gesture, but both are done at a single (slow) speed. To change the volume, swipe up or down on screen with a single finger.
CarTunes offers the option to shuffle your music, which is helpful if you’re into playlists or just listening to all your available music. To turn on shuffling, perform a two-finger flick to the left and you’ll see the shuffle icon (crossing arrows). If you wish to turn off shuffling, perform the alternate action of a two-finger flick to the right (verified by the presence of two straight arrow).
If you’re the sharing type, you can perform a two finger flick downward to share the current song on Twitter. One final gesture, and arguably my favorite, is the ability to play the album from the song that you’re listening to, which is done by pinching on the screen. As someone that’s really into listening to albums straight through, I’ll sometimes attempt to get out of my comfort zone by listening to my library via shuffling (adventurous, I know). More often than not, I’ll change my mind once I hear a song I really love and the desire to listen to the entire album becomes overwhelming.
To access your library, perform a two-finger vertical flick. I find most of the gestures to be easy to perform, but I’m not a huge fan of needing to use two fingers to access the library (especially when you need to flick vertically). Users that keep their iPhone in a dock or cradle while driving shouldn’t have issues with this gesture, but most of the time I keep my phone laying on the passenger seat, which makes it somewhat awkward to pull off this move. To return to the music player, flick down from the top of the screen with one finger.
The library is divided up into five sections — songs, albums, artists, playlists and podcasts. Interestingly enough, gestures do not play a role when browsing through your library; instead, you need to tap the small icons at the top of the screen to navigate between each section. While I can only speculate why Oksenhorn didn’t allows users to simply flick left or right to change sections, I suspect it was done to deter users from browsing the library while driving (a very distracting activity).
Playing a song is as simple as tapping on a song of choice in the Songs section. If you prefer to play an album, you’ll need to go to the Albums section, tap on the album and then tap on the song of your choosing. If you’re want to play music by Artist, tap the third icon, tap on the artist’s name and then choose an album (or tap the shuffle option if you just want to play songs by the artist).
One of the really nice things about CarTunes is that you can customize quite a few things; unfortunately, you’ll need to travel to the Settings app to make any of these changes. Perhaps it’s just me, but I find it surprising when developers use this option when it’s much more convenient for the user to tap an icon to access settings from within the app.
Most of the available customizations deal with CarTune’s appearance, starting out with a variety of font options (seven in total) that range from simple to elegant to urban. In addition, you can turn off/on the progress bar and time indicators. My favorite customization is the color matching feature, which will make the progress bar and text color match a color in the album art. Finally, you can turn on a clock, which shows the current time (useful since the status bar is not visible while in CarTunes).
As I stated previously (and can’t state enough), there is no app that will make it 100% safe while driving and controlling your iPhone at the same time. However, the gesture controls used in CarTunes take a step in the right direction and is about as safe as you can get, short of voice controls. While the focus of my review was based on using CarTunes while driving, it’s really a great app to use as a full-time replacement of the standard Music app.
Full disclosure, I am a subscriber to Rdio and use the iPhone app for all my mobile music listening endeavours, so I’m unable to take advantage of CarTunes and all that it offers. But, if I ever find myself at a point that I’m no longer subscribing to Rdio (or any other music subscription service), CarTunes is most certainly became my go-to music playing app.