Using my iPhone with Toyota’s Display Audio system

closeHey, just so you know ... this post is now about 9 years and 2 months old. Please keep that in mind as it very well may contain broken links and/or outdated information.

A few weeks ago I traded in my trusty old 2003 Toyota Highlander (174,000 miles) for a new 2013 SE model. In addition to all the automotive and mechanical advances in a 10-years’ newer SUV, I finally have built-in Bluetooth and iPod integration! (I know, welcome to 2008, right? 😉 ). Toyota’s Display Audio system has a lot of cool features, but as with any “new” technology, it’s not without its share of end-user frustration.

My base Display Audio system (without Entune which lets you run apps for things like weather, traffic, and streaming audio by using your smartphone’s data connection) allows for Bluetooth audio and hands-free phone connections, and includes a USB port for iPod/iPhone charging/control (or music playback from a thumb drive) and an aux jack for other audio devices.

Pairing my iPhone 4S (and iPad) with the Bluetooth system was quick and simple.

The system even downloaded my entire contact list, missed calls, etc. for display on the touchscreen:

Annoyance: contacts are sorted by first name only!

I can use the steering wheel controls to answer an incoming call, but don’t have the built-in voice control to initiate a call (although I can use Siri instead, more on that later).

On the audio side, when my iPhone is connected via USB I can control playback with my steering wheel controls, and I get the title/artist information on my display, even with cover art!

I can also browse my iPhone’s media contents by Playlist, Album, Artist, Song, etc. etc.

I know none of this is cutting-edge, earth-shatteringly cool tech, but it’s new to me! As I mentioned earlier, however, I’ve found my share of frustration with using my iPhone with Display Audio:

  • First off, when playing audio (via USB or Bluetooth), sometimes if use the radio knob (or steering wheel controls) to change the volume, the audio will pause. To resume audio, I have to press the Pause/Play button on the steering wheel or radio touchscreen twice, or use the controls on my iPhone’s screen.
  • More annoying, when I get back into the car and my iPhone reconnects to Bluetooth, for some reason it automatically starts playing music. This wouldn’t be bad if it would resume the last thing that was playing but for some reason it always starts the first song alphabetically in my music library, which happens to be “Abracadabra” by The Steve Miller Band. It also seemingly happens randomly, like when my iCatcher podcast app finishes one podcast and should be starting the next. Over the past few weeks I have heard the intro to this song over and over and it’s driving me crazy! Sometimes the volume is up loud because I was listening to a softer podcast or whatever and the intro blasts out of the speakers. Augh!
  • When connected to USB and playing video podcasts or other videos (locally stored, Amazon Prime streaming, etc.) the audio is out-of-sync with the video. When using Bluetooth, the sync is fine.
  • No covert art is displayed when using Bluetooth:
  • my third-party podcast app (iCatcher) doesn’t show cover art over USB

Neither Bluetooth or USB is perfect for audio playback. If I use Bluetooth, I don’t need to use a cable (except for charging)  but then I don’t get cover art and the random pausing when changing the volume seems to happen more often. If I use USB I get charging, cover art, and less random pausing, but out-of-sync audio when playing video content (although granted that’s not a huge deal since I’m not watching video while I’m driving anyway). I like to keep my iPhone connected to USB (so it charges while I commute) and to Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls. Each iPhone app lets me select an output for audio:

But it never seems to remember my selection so I’m constantly changing the output on my phone and then the source on my radio. Lots of fiddling every time I get into the car.

The biggest problems, though, occur when trying to use Siri (or voice dictation) for hands-free control of my iPhone when driving. Both features seem to default to Bluetooth when available. At first, that seemed great because Siri’s voice would come through my Highlander’s speakers and I could use the car’s microphone. However, the Toyota Bluetooth seems to get confused when Siri takes over. The music pauses (as it should) but then the display changes as if a phone call is in progress (which it must assume since a hands-free Bluetoooth connection is initiated by Siri). At this point Siri beeps but then freezes and the Bluetooth disconnects and the music resumes. The same thing happens when trying to use voice dictation (the microphone button on the iOS keyboard).

Basically, the Display Audio Bluetooth system and Siri just don’t get along and I couldn’t find a way to prevent Siri from using Bluetooth. Since I’m jailbroken, I tried the Bluetooth Service Manager to disable the HFP (hands-free) profile, but it didn’t work with iOS 6 and I couldn’t find any other way to prevent Siri from using Bluetooth. The only method that seems to work is starting Siri and tapping the hands-free icon to turn it off:

Siri hands-free

Then Siri will use the iPhone’s internal speakers and microphone instead of the hands-free system in my Highlander. This means the audio is a lot quieter, and the voice recognition might not be as accurate since the microphone is farther away from my mouth, but at least it works and that’s the important part. The annoying part is I have to do this every time I get into the car because again Siri won’t remember my selection and defaults to Bluetooth. If anyone knows a way to permanently disable Bluetooth/hands-free for Siri (or, ideally, a way to get Siri to work properly with the Bluetooth in my Highlander), drop me a line in the comments please!

Finally, since I didn’t need my Belkin TuneBase FM anymore I had to find a different way to mount my iPhone for easy access while driving. I considered this CD-slot mount, which had a lot of great reviews on Amazon, but in either orientation it would block one of two screens in my center console. I ended up with a cup-holder mount instead and am extremely happy with it.

Despite all the quirks and frustration the Display Audio system has caused me, I still love my Highlander and am hopeful that maybe some future software updates (for both the iPhone and Display Audio) might smooth over some of the bumps in the road I’ve experienced so far.

Update 01/27/2014: since upgrading my iPhone 4s to iOS 7.04 (jailbroken) my handfree experience with Siri in my Highlander has gotten remarkably better! I can now consistently “summon” Siri and the handsfree Bluetooth connection will stay active until I dismiss her. I also no longer seem to have the random pausing issue when using the steering wheel volume controls. All-in-all, much better! Unfortunately, I still have the “Abracadabra” issue. I’ve also switched to a magnetic, CD slot-mounted phone mount, instead of the cupholder one. A slim piece of metal goes inside my iPhone case and it just sticks right to the mount for easy placement and rotation. The location of the CD player above the DisplayAudio screen does block it a little, but it’s not too bad.

magnetic iPhone mount

33 Comments

  1. I came up with a solution to “Abracadabra” playing all the time and driving me bonkers: I created a 30-second blank MP3 named “AAA Silence” which puts it alphabetically before “Abracadabra.” So now that track of silence will play instead, giving me time to resume playback of what I actually want to listen to.

    • I’m not clear on your question. You can connect your iPhone via USB to charge the device and play the audio over your speakers, but the video will not appear on the radio’s display, only on the phone itself.

      I found this post over on the Toyota Nation forums where someone figured out how to hook up an AV input to the Display Audio system, but it requires some serious custom wiring and was too much for me to attempt on my brand new Highlander.

    • Two things I can think of:

      • you need to turn on “Display Captured Image” in your DisplayAudio settings under Setup > General
      • your album art isn’t embedded in your MP3 files (by default iTunes uses cached images stored only in your iTunes library)
      • I have an issue with inconsistent album art display over bluetooth. Some of my music will display album art and some will not.

        I’ve tried using mp3tag to embed the artwork within the mp3/m4a music files, but still have no luck with certain albums. The weird thing is the artwork that is displayed through display audio in my car is sometimes different than what I see tagged through the same songs on mp3tag. Where is this artwork coming from? I even checked for hidden files in the folders and can’t find them.

        I don’t see an option for “display captured image” when I go to setup/general. Is my display audio firmware out of date? Is there a way to update it? Or is that just an option that is not available with my car?

        I have a 2013 Corolla S. My phone is an HTC one GPE with 4.4 kit kat.

        • I’m not sure what to tell you. I don’t get any cover art over Bluetooth, just over USB. Also, I’m using an iPhone, not Android so I don’t know if there are any differences there in how it handles Bluetooth audio. The different album art is interesting … it’s got to be somewhere (in a hidden folder, embedded in tags, etc.).

          Finally, I don’t know if the Display Audio versions are the same across model lines (i.e., Highlander vs. Corolla). I can’t find a version number easily in the main menus, but I did find this method of getting into the “back door” diagnostics:

          • turn headlights to DRL OFF
          • turn key to ACC
          • turn headlights up to ON, down to OFF three times while holding AUDIO or SETTINGS button
          • to exit the screen, hold the settings button for a few seconds or turn the key to the lock position

          From there I was able to get this version info:

          • Here’s an example of the album artwork that is different than it’s embedded art. The album is Plastic Beach by Gorillaz

            and here is a screenshot from mp3tag which shows different artwork.

            I bought this album through itunes. I did a quick google image search to find the artwork that is displayed in my car and it appears to be the cover for the Deluxe version of the album, which I do not have. I triple checked to make sure there’s no hidden files and couldn’t find anything. Weird, huh?

            If i go to settings/general/system information it says my software version is 2.1.0

            I tried direct connecting through USB and it actually displays the correct album artwork. It’s only through bluetooth that it displays incorrect album artwork and/or no artwork at all on some albums. It’s not a big deal, just a minor annoyance as i’ve been trying to find an answer on this for months!

            • Oops, sorry I tagged the wrong photo in that 2nd picture. That 2nd picture shows the album folder with hidden files turned on in Windows 7

              Here is the correct link for the screenshot of mp3tag:

  2. First off, I can tell you have a different version of Display Audio from me since you have XM and an Apps button and the screen looks different. I’m guessing that means you have Entune? I just have the base system, so the software is probably slightly different. And, since you have Entune, I know that can use the internet connection on your phone to power those apps like Pandora and such, right? So maybe the audio system (over Bluetooth) is pulling album art from over the internet, instead of using the embedded image? Just a guess … is there any option in the settings that looks like it might be related to that?

    (Also, I updated your comments to include the in-line images instead of links to the Photobucket web page with them on it … hope that’s alright).

    • Yes, it does have Entune, although I have never tried using the app.

      I feel the only explanation I can think of is that it is pulling artwork from my phones internet. I don’t see any options in the settings about it unfortunately.

      I appreciate all the help and appreciate you responding so quickly! Thank you! (and thanks for fixing my HTML, didn’t really know what I was doing on that part)

  3. I am an owner of a 2013 RAV4 and I got inlove with the audio, specially because I can see the albun art from my phone music selection.

    I just bought a 2014 HIGHLANDER and I got just dissapointed that I can not see the albun art while using my Z10 via bluetooth.

    According with the manual the radio only displays JPEG pictures, I tried to save the albun art as JPEG but the WINDOWS 7 save all JPG formats as group.

    Any how if somebody knows the trick to see albun art using Bluetooth please let me know.

    Also the rear camera looks very blurry in compares to the RAV4 which is smaller, at the begining I thought something was covering the camera, however seems the higher screen has a poor definitions, also bit dissapointed, in general I am happy with the car, but I got some dissapoitments in some aspects.

    Best Regards.

    • I’ve never gotten cover art to work over Bluetooth (and I’m using images embedded in the MP3 files), just when connected over USB. As for the camera, my 2013 HL is the first car I’ve owned with a backup camera so I have nothing to compare it to. That being said, I do think the image is a little grainier than it should be.

    • i do have a 2014 Highlander and I don’t have any of the issues mentioned above. I see all of my art either via Bluetooth or Entune. Backup camera is crisp. There are settings for it under setup, display.

      I have to say that I also recently bought a 2015 Corolla S-Plus and it comes with the base 6.1 inch display radio without Entune. I have the same issues described by everyone on here. I want to see my music art so I’ll start working on how else to get it over Bluetooth. There’s got to be a way.

      I love both of my vehicles but my 2014 Highlander Spoils me with the huge 8.1 inch screen with Entune.

      If I figure anything else out I’ll make sure to post it.

  4. Thanks for the article. I’ve experienced many of the same issues. Wondering if you found this since the IOS 8 update. I used to be able to select podcasts (on bluetooth) using the radio selection, but since the update I can no longer do this. Music works fine, but I now always have to choose the podcast on the iPhone, or ask siri to call it up.

  5. I have a 2013 Toyota Camry. We just got it last week. My kids watch a lot of videos and there is a lag between Audio and Video. It did not do this on the Dodge Charger.. We rented one 3 weeks ago for a trip. It only had the usb plugin. It also does not do it on a Bluetooth jam speaker. Things I tried..
    IPhone 6 plus
    IPhone 5s
    Ipad
    Does this on both stored movies and streaming
    Does this both on USB plug as well as Bluetooth
    We have entunes ver 2 something.
    Have not tried audi plug that’s next.
    I have a service appt for next Thursday.

    Could it be firmware?

    • I still have the out-of-sync audio issue when playing videos on my phone connected to the Highlander’s audio system via the USB cable. Over Bluetooth, it is much better. Occasionally it will get out-of-sync but usually pausing and resuming the playback of the video fixes the problem. Again, I don’t have Entune.

  6. Earlier this year Toyota announced it will support Apple’s CarPlay initiative, which could fix a lot of the problems I (and people commenting here) have experienced with DisplayAudio and Entune. Wouldn’t it be great if, once available on Toyota cars, we could upgrade our existing vehicles to it? I know that will never happen but it would be nice …

  7. Hi,
    I have a problem with my 2015 Hilux SR5. It does not play all the songs when connected. It shows the songs are there but when I select one it plays a different song from the album. It’s frustrating when its on RANDOM as it only plays a small selection of songs. Do you have any suggestions please?

  8. I am trying to find how to change the name of my iphones that are connected to my Highlander’s audio system (it’s the base audio in a 2013 highlander) the iPhones themselves have a name (and had the name at the time of set up) but the car displays them as iPhone 2, and iphone 3. Tried what the manual said, but i think it was for the entune system because there was not the option to rename.

    • I noticed after upgrading to iOS 10, the name of my iPhone 6 Plus was reset back to “iPhone.” But after changing it, the new name properly shows up on my Highlander’s radio (non-Entune):

      Have you checked your devices to confirm they actually have names that are not the default? You could also try unpairing the devices from your stereo and re-pairing them to see if that helps.

  9. Does your Siri make calls that then connect to the car? I have never been able to get this to work (it immediately disconnects). I reached out to Toyota and they simply noted that the car is not compatible with siri calling. Seems ridiculous. The rest of Siri all works and connects to the car, it is only trying to make calls. Does not work.

    • Using Siri (for calls, or commands like “remind me to “) when connected via Bluetooth to my DisplayAudio system is hit-and-miss. Sometimes it will work flawlessly. Other times it will connect and immediately disconnect like you’re describing. Same thing for voice dictation (using the microphone on the keyboard to dictate text). It is definitely frustrating.

  10. My 2013 Toyota Camry SE has a problem of showing the name of song that’s playing on car display sometimes it will show.it most of time it wont I’ve tried disconnecting and reconnecting it and it still does it and reason for this?

    • My only explanation would be that DisplayAudio has a lot of bugs in it. I don’t have any experience with it beyond the 2013 model year like you and I have. That being said, I haven’t had an issue with the song title/artist not displaying correctly. Are these MP3 music files you’re playing off of your phone? And they have the proper ID3 tagging?

  11. I have a 2015 Highlander Platinum. When I connect via Bluetooth with or without the USB cable my audio volume for music is super low. I can crank the volume all the way and it’s still low. Is there a fix for this? Thanks

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