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Bluetooth gets real

Gadget hasn’t been kind to Bluetooth in the past, mainly because we couldn’t find much we could do with it. Finally, Bluetooth is getting real, and with the Motorola Bluetooth Wireless Car Kit it doesn’t get more useful. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK takes it for a ride.

Not at all. It requires the expertise of an installation specialist who not only understands cars and cellphones, but also Bluetooth itself. The hobbyist or electronics fundi could handle it, but not the likes of (most of) you and I.

Yes, once installed, it tends to operate totally seamlessly. Keep it in your pocket, bag or boot, fire up the ignition, and a blue dot lights up on the dashboard ‚ or wherever the control panel has been fixed ‚ with a beep that tells you your phone is talking to your car. The most astonishing experience is delivered when you are talking on the phone while getting into the car. You turn on the ignition, and the call is immediately handed over to the car speakers, without even a moment’s loss of signal. The person on the other side is usually not even aware of the fact that you just put the phone in your pocket and simply carried on talking. Of course, that can be disconcerting when you have company and the call had been, up to that point, private. The voice tags are fairly easy to set, but you will need to refer to the manual or the basic instructions offered by the installers each time you want to set up a new number for voice dialling.

Almost. The first few days were sheer bliss as I learned to forget about my phone but still have full access to it. Then suddenly, one day, the battery died in the middle of a call. I’d become so accustomed to the battery being recharged in the car kit, I’d forgotten that it now needed overnight charging in that long-forgotten charger. The phone also created endless hassles when I chose to stick it in the car kit for charging or access to my numbers list, and then remove it again. Sometimes it hands back to the Bluetooth car kit, and at other times it simply refuses to recognise it. You are forced to go back into the phone’s menu, select Bluetooth, and then find the right menu option and the right setting to get it to detect the wireless car kit again ‚ and it doesn’t always oblige. Or you’re talking on the phone via Bluetooth when you arrive at your destination. You turn off the car, pull the phone out of your pocket and put it to your ear as you walk away ‚Ķ only to discover that the conversation is still taking place through the car speakers. In fact, you’re stuck with the car-as-phone until the conversation is over. As seamless as the handing over is when you climb in, so un-seamless and unseemly is its behaviour when you get out.

Yes, it is highly innovative in the manner in which it recognises the entire car as the vehicle, so to speak, for voice. The control module and the microphone go wherever suits you and, as with conventional car kits, the radio speakers become the output. That may not be conceptually different from the old way, but when you climb into a car and it starts speaking to you without any manual intervention, the car becomes the phone.

At R2500 upward for most Bluetooth car kits on the market, it is not a cheap option. If you consider, however, that conventional car kits cost about half that, and you would have to buy a new car kit if you undergo a radical upgrade of your cellphone, it will eventually pay for itself. And its cool appeal makes up for the long wait to get that return on investment.

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