Apple CarPlay Audiobook Workaround

CarPlayApple’s CarPlay solution does fantastic things for the daily commute by bringing the iOS experience to the dashboard.  Many car manufacturers have already signed up to bring CarPlay support to their lines in the near future.  Some have already integrated CarPlay into existing models.  It’s a technology to consider if you’re in the market for a new car.  But many will be interested in adding CarPlay to their existing ride by way of a third part, or aftermarket, headunit.  Numerous aftermarket stereo manufactures have already released systems that support CarPlay.  The most recent hardware supports CarPlay as well as Google’s alternative: Android Auto.

In an effort to cope with an 2 hour+ commute each day, I added a Pioneer AVH-4100NEX to my 2007 Trailblazer.  An impressive aftermarket car stereo, it has a fast, responsive touch screen and excellent CarPlay support.  Siri can be activated with a long press of a button on the bezel of the headunit.  As is the case with all of the current Pioneer models, the iPhone must be attached to the headunit via a cable in order for CarPlay to work.  Apple has added Wireless CarPlay to recent versions of the iOS but Pioneer models such as mine lack the wi-fi capabilities required to leverage the wire-free version of CarPlay.  So, in the case of my AVH-4100NEX, the USB cable is my friend.

 

screen_messages_2xCarPlay makes playing music from my iPhone a dream.  The CarPlay user interface is easy to navigate and provides easy access to all the music stored on my iPhone.  Third party apps are gaining CarPlay support, too.  As they do, they get their application icon on the CarPlay screen just like the apps Apple supports out of the box (Music, Audiobooks, Maps, and Phone).  Pandora and Spotify have recently made their way to the dashboard.  So has Audible.

After using CarPlay for nearly 6 months, one glitch continues to cause me trouble: audio books.  Through multiple iOS updates, audio book support in CarPlay continues to have a major issue.  When CarPlay was first released, audio book support was provided through the Music app.  With an update to the iOS, audio book support was moved out of the Music app and into iBooks.  When this happened, Apple placed a more appropriately name AudioBooks app on the CarPlay screen.  The books accessible from this app are those loaded into the iPhone and otherwise played through iBooks.  But after multiple iOS updates, iBooks/Audiobooks continues to have a serious bug.  The app randomly and routinely loses its place in the book!

If you want a problem that gets frustrating quickly, try losing your place in a 15 hour-long audio recording.  The first time it happens, you grind your teeth while fast forwarding through the book and trying to find where you left off.  The second time your place is lost, you’re blood pressure is going to spike to a new high.  The third time it happens?  Well… lets just say you’re wishing very bad things on the developers responsible for audiobook integration on the iOS team.  And a word of caution—when you lose your place in an audio book, you can’t find it again while driving.  Pull over or switch over to music until you’re parked.  If you try to scrub through a book or fast forward through that much audio while driving, you’re going to get yourself (and others) killed.

As I stated, this remains a long-standing issue for the iOS.  Is it unique to CarPlay?  Based on the frustration I’ve observed on message boards, I think this goes beyond the dashboard.; perhaps an iBooks related issues more than a CarPlay problem.  Whichever it is, having this happen while driving turns a small technical glitch into a potentially disastrous issue should the driver not have the metal fortitude to wait until parked before seeking their lost chapter.

Whatever the cause, I have finally found a workaround.  It’s the reason of this now long-winded blog post.  How do you prevent the Audiobooks/iBooks app from losing your place?  The only surefire solution is to ditch the pair of apps entirely.  This is easier said than done since Apple isn’t generous when it comes to allowing non-Apple apps access to the dashboard via CarPlay.  The good news is that the Audible app has been approved for use with CarPlay.  And it can play mp3 audio books loaded via iTunes.  So you’re not stuck with iBooks horrible audio book support.  Best off all?  Whatever the hell continues to be wrong with iBooks, Audible doesn’t randomly lose your place in the book!

The Audible app isn’t without its own quirks.  First of all, it prefers to play books you’ve purchased from Audible.  That’s understandable.  But it seems to urge this by only providing access to Audible provided books via the dashboard interface.  Interestingly, it turns out that if you’re playing a non-Audible book via the Audible app when you plug the iPhone into the CarPlay USB cable, the book will pickup playing through the car’s speakers.  You’ll even get the ability to control the book via the dashboard interface.  Oddly those controls are only present for Audible provided books unless you know to plug-in an already playing book.  It’s an odd work around, but hopefully an issue Audible will address in an upcoming release.  Either that, or maybe Apple will one day get its act together and fix what’s wrong with its own audio book support.  iBooks is supposed to sync your play position to the cloud so you can pickup where you left off on other devices.  Not only is that broken, but it seems to be working against users if forum feedback is any indication.

Of course, if you’re buying your books direct from Audible (Audible.com—a devision of Amazon), you’re golden.  No problems at all.  I’m still looking for a way to make my mp3 audio books look like they came from Audible.  Presumably it’s only matter of adding the appropriate meta tag(s) to the digital files.  If I can sort that out, my non-Audible books will show up in the app’s main list without any foolishness involving the timing of when I plug into the car.

Admittedly, this is a lot of screwing around just to keep from loosing one’s place in an audiobook.  But I maintain that, once it’s happened to you once or twice, these silly little workarounds seem trivial and a small price to pay for maintaining one’s sanity…and perhaps preventing a horrible fiery car wreck.

Come on Apple!  Let’s get this sorted out.  Have you seen how many people are complaining about this issue in your own forums?  Wow!

8 Responses to Apple CarPlay Audiobook Workaround
  1. Kenny Reply

    I’ve had the AVH-4100NEX for about a month now, and I’m having this exact issue. I purchased this specifically to aide my audiobook listening during my daily commute. It’s driving me crazy. My aux cable in my old stereo was much better and less hassle. I think I’ll see if I’m passed the return deadline.

    • Steve Manke Reply

      It’s disappointing. I checked yesterday and see that new firmware was released in Dec 2015. I have it on a memory card and will install the update this weekend. But for what it’s worth, playing books through the Audible app has been a great fix for the issue.

  2. Ren Reply

    I have a Kenwood DDX9702s. With my CarPlay Audiobooks app, I don’t lose my place, but audio will skip, jitter, and sound like CD with lots of scratches on it. It will happen for seconds at a time. If I listen to the audiobook through regular headphones, it doesn’t skip like it does in carplay so I know it’s not a problem with the audiobook download. I hope Apple can fix this issue with the iBooks.

    • Kenny Reply

      I found something that helped is to disable and then re-enable Carplay.

      I was also having trouble getting Pandora to stop playing. For example, if I had previously been playing Pandora, and I was listening to an audiobook, it would try to launch Pandora when I tried to play the audiobook, or it would launch Pandora when I stopped playing my audiobook, and my audiobook would reset to the start position.

      One thing that helped was to disable Carplay temporarily in the settings of the AVH-4100NEX. This prompted that it would first shut down everything that was running. I then re-enabled carplay and it has worked okay since. Hopefully, this is not a step I have to repeat every time I use Pandora.

    • Steve Manke Reply

      @Ren,
      I haven’t read much about the Kenwood solutions. Have they been pushing out firmware updates? I’m also curious if you see the same issue playing your books through the Audible app. The app will see non-Audible books, they just show up under the iTunes tab. It was an effective workaround for me. Been using that for months now.

  3. Kenny Reply

    Oh, and I installed the Dec. update and found no change with my audiobook.

    • Steve Manke Reply

      Bummer. I was hoping that would be the proverbial silver bullet. I have the update on an SD card waiting to be installed this weekend. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. Adam Reply

    Sounds like a great little gadget wish I had it in my car to sync my iPhone music with my stereo would be so much easier than using my cigarette lighter with my MP3 FM transmitter which is how I have it set up right now.

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