I have been driving my new 2004 Acura TL with integrated Bluetooth for three weeks to the day (I blogged this car back in early November), and thought that I’d share my experiences thus far:
* First and foremost, this is the perfect use for Bluetooth, the integration is smooth and clean, and in the not so distant future this will undoubtedly be a standard feature on lots of cars.
* Pairing (the process of linking Bluetooth devices) was really simple (even easier then pairing my laptop or headset), press the mic button, say “phone setup pair” and follow the audio prompts, simple as that.
* Sound quality is great, I hear callers perfectly, and can use the car volume controls (stereo or steering wheel) to adjust sound volume. Remote parties all seem to hear me well (a couple of times I was asked if I was using a speakerphone or something, so callers occasionally can detect that I am using something other than my phone).
* Not all phones publish the same data via Bluetooth, I have a Sony Ericsson T68i which publishes cell strength, battery life, roaming status, and more, and so all of that information shows up on the car display (I still get a kick out of seeing the cell and battery indicators on the LCD display under the mileage, too cool!). Other phones publish less data.
* The voice control works very well, no training required, and when my daughter said “call home” it understood her even though it had recorded me saying “home”.
* The phonebook is not as clean as it should be, managing entries feels clumsy, and too often new entries are rejected because the name (the recorded name) too closely resembles some other recording (or digits, or one of the predefined terms). I often have to record the same entry several times for it to “take”, that’s a pain.
* Bluetooth does not expose the phonebook on your phone, that is a shame, it would be nice to be able to synch the phone and car phonebooks. The truth is, I should be able to use the phone phonebook, if your phone has voice control (as the T68i does) and the headset already allows calling by saying the name, then the Acura should also pass that request to the phone the same way. This is technically doable, but the Acura does not support it (and only allows dialing local phonebook entries by name). This is a flaw, and one that I hope other implementations will fix.
* Yesterday the car would not detect the phone, and I had to re-pair the two (although, to be fair, I have to do that sporadically with my Sony Ericsson Bluetooth headset).
* All in all, I love this feature, and would recommend that any heavy cell phone user who is in the market for a new car seriously consider Bluetooth connectivity. Cell phones in cars is not a new idea, but not needing a specific phone or specific carrier or a specific phone number is very new and long overdue.