With internet access, many additional sources of audio and video programming are available. Pandora, IHeartRadio, Spotify, YouTube, Napster, Tidal, AppleMusic and a host of other streaming media services can all be accessed with an internet connection. At home, you may access these services using a broadband connection to the internet. You may have audio equipment that’s connected directly to the cable (your home audio system) or you may have audio products that connect wirelessly to a WiFi router to receive the audio signal. Alternately, you may choose to stream the program to your phone using your mobile data plan and then stream the audio signal to the speaker using the Bluetooth transmitter in your phone.
Since a broadband connection over cable isn’t an option in a car, you’ll have to access the internet using mobile data. The most popular way to access internet content in the car is by using the mobile data plan for your smartphone. Alternately, a few new aftermarket head units include the ability to connect to the internet by plugging in a USB modem, just like you would plug one into a laptop. Some radios will connect via WiFi to a mobile hotspot. In that scenario, the hotspot would receive data from the internet and other devices in the car could receive the data via a WiFi connection to the hotspot.
Because you’ll access the internet using a mobile data plan, it’s important to consider the amount of data that you believe you’ll use and purchase a plan that will accommodate your listening habits. Many of the streaming services stream the data at different rates depending on the kind of connection you make. At home and over a cable modem, the service may stream at 320kBPS, but over a mobile data connection, the stream will be lower resolution. Depending on the bit rate, the sound quality may suffer, but you’ll use less data.
To get an idea of how much data you’ll need to purchase to support your music streaming habit, consider that a 10GB data plan will allow you to stream the best resolution available (320kB/second) for about 70 hours if that’s all you do with your phone. Data consumption rates for video are much higher.