Bluetooth Blues: Why Won't Your Phone And Car Play Nice?

February 8, 2010

If you upgrade to one of today's most popular high-end smartphones—like the iPhone or a Blackberry—from a standard flip-phone, you might be surprised to find that you can no longer take advantage of some of the features in today's most technologically advanced vehicles. Even in Ford's full-featured Sync system, we've observed, you can't access features like text-message delivery or Sync's quick text-response features with the iPhone (when we could with cheaper flip phones).

And in recent months, we’ve encountered more cases of the Bluetooth Blues. We’re not completely sure whether to blame the vehicles or the handsets, but has encountered plenty of issues with spotty incompatibility between handsets and vehicles, and issues in which they won’t pair at all—including from this reader who purchased a new 2009 Audi A4. We’ve definitely detected tones of frustration from project managers and company officials who have told us, in varying ways, that Apple (or Blackberry, or Palm, or -insert major brand here-) “insist on doing things differently.”

Hands-Free Texts? Yes, But…

Driver behind wheel, from Ford Sync Rock On ad

Driver behind wheel, from Ford Sync Rock On ad

Enlarge Photo

At this time (Ford's master chart of handsets was last fully updated on January 11), only 19 models out of the 142 listed are compatible with Sync for SMS text messaging. And to confirm that we're not just technologically inept, among the many not supported: the iPhone, along with everything on the list from Palm and RIM. The latter includes all Blackberry models.

Going forward, compatibility looks poised to improve, however; that’s fortunate as seven states now ban hand-held cellphone use while driving and text messaging is banned for drivers in 19 states plus the District of Columbia.

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