What is it?
Bluetooth® is a wireless technology standard for transferring data. It is commonly used in cars to make hands free phone calls, but it can sometimes also transfer / stream music, all without you having to take your media device out your pocket!
What does it look like?
Bluetooth is a wireless standard, so you can't see it, which makes it hard to say what it looks like!
Occasionally cars with a Bluetooth connection will show the Bluetooth logo to let you know that you can connect Bluetooth compatible devices.
Some cars use other logos that can be a clue. For example many of Fiat's cars use Microsoft's Blue&Me system, which combines a USB and AUX input along with Bluetooth.
Another option is to try and look in your car's settings, as normally there will be a Bluetooth option if you car has it fitted.
How do I connect to it?
Many more modern cars allow you to both play music and make calls from your device wirelessly via Bluetooth. If you aren't worried about calls you can also play music from other Bluetooth devices such as the iPad, Kindle Fire HD or more recent iPods.
To use Bluetooth for audio in these cars you will need to follow these general steps. The exact menu systems can differ from car to car so it might be worth checking your manual for specific guidance. Generally once you have set the system up you can skip steps 1-4.
i. Activate Bluetooth on your smartphone or media device (normally in the settings menu).
ii. Go to the Bluetooth menu in your car (normally in the settings, often under phone or audio).
iii. Select the Add a Bluetooth device option from your car menu and then search for Bluetooth devices.
iv. Select your device from the list in the car or select your car from your device. At this point the car may ask you to input a code into your car and or phone.
v. Now the devices are paired you should be able to make and accept calls and play your music through your car system (if it supports audio).
vi. To play audio you will need to turn on your stereo and select the Bluetooth option as the source.
vii. At this point with most cars if you play a song on a connected device the car will do the rest.
viii. To make a phone call, just go to your car's telephone menu and select a contact. If you receive a call, your car will ring and you can choose to answer or ignore.
Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard. As a result if your device and car both support Bluetooth they should be compatible with one another.
Please be aware that some cars (particularly older models) may only use Bluetooth for hands free telephone calls however and will not support audio / data streaming. You should be able to get clarification from your manual or dealer.
Which of my devices' features can I use?
Bluetooth is a wireless bi-directional connection with quite a bit of functionality. You can transfer audio from your media device to your car, so you will be able to play music, audiobooks or podcasts through your car's speakers. You can also transfer the audio from other applications like Google Maps™ or Spotify. Also once paired, devices normally connect automatically with Bluetooth, so they can pick up where they left off. Bluetooth can also be used to make phone calls hands-free from your car system, again wirelessly with your phone left in your pocket.
Will I be able to see information from my device on my car display?
Yes. Bluetooth can transfer information from your media device to your car's display. This might include song titles, artists, and albums when playing music. When using phone features it may include information about your contacts, who is calling you, or text message you have received.
What if I want to make phone calls?
Most cars fitted with Bluetooth make it easy to make and answer phone calls hands-free. You can normally do this using your cars controls (often with steering wheel mounted buttons).
What about navigation?
Many modern smartphones have built in navigation (or navigation apps from third parties such as TomTom). If your phone is connected via Bluetooth then often then the audio from these apps when in use will be played through your car speakers. You can use a mount so you can see the map in your line of vision.
Will I be able to select the music being played using my car's controls?
Yes, to some extent. Bluetooth connections normally allow you to control playback through your device but also offer limited control through the car. For example you can normally select the next or previous song using your car's controls, but can't select a new playlist (you would have to do this on the device itself).
Will it charge my mp3 player / smartphone?
No, because Bluetooth devices connect to your car wirelessly they can't charge your device. However there is nothing to stop you charging your device simultaneously with a suitable charger and charging cable. There are lots of options to choose from!
What about sound quality?
Bluetooth audio streaming sends data as compressed wireless digital transmissions to your stereo. Normally the resulting sound quality is good. Having said this it can depend on the version of Bluetooth your devices transmit and your car can receive. Some users also occasionally report issues with intermittent connections.
If you have a car and music device that both support Bluetooth audio streaming then this is a great option to enjoy your tunes on the move. One of the great things about using Bluetooth is that you can be listening to a playlist via your headphones at the Gym, then you can get in your car and it will continue playing from right where you left off (without you even needing to remove your phone from your pocket).
- Bluetooth technology is fitted to many modern cars and media players.
- Wireless connection - can connect whilst leaving your device in your pocket.
- Can transfer audio from other applications such as Google Maps or Spotify.
- Some integration with car controls, or you can control via media player.
- Integrates with cars for hands-free phone calls.
- Not all cars have Bluetooth fitted or support music streaming via Bluetooth.
- Bluetooth can reduce the battery life of your media player.
- Will not charge your device (but leaves charging socket free).
- Often control via car is limited (can't select playlists).
- Occasionally users report issues with reliability of Bluetooth connections.