Bluetooth Car Kits are getting smarter, and most of them now support synchronising the contacts stored on your phone to the car kit to enable faster dialling, caller display, and enabling voice control – even on phones like the iPhone 3G that doesn’t support voice dialling. As great as this is though, it’s not quite as straight forward as you’d think as there are two different ways that phones and car kits talk to each other. I’ll apologise now if this gets a little confusing, but I’ll try and keep it as simple as I can.
Although Bluetooth is a pretty generic technology, there are a number of different bluetooth profiles and each bluetooth device uses different ones. The two that are needed to synchronise your contacts between your car kit and your phone are either PBAP – Phone Book Access Profile or OPP – Object Push Profile, but in order for it to sync, both the phone and the car kit need to support the same profile.
- OPP – Object Push Profile – This is an older Bluetooth Profile, so should be supported by most phones and car kits that support contact sync. If the car kit supports the OPP profile then it is capable of receiving information that is sent or ‘pushed’ to it. In order to send your contacts to a car kit that uses OPP you will need to initiate the transfer of your contacts from your phone, either one by one or all at once. The only downside to this is that not all phones support sending your entire phonebook in one go.
- PBAP – Phone Book Access Profile – This profile is one of the more recent Bluetooth Profiles, so not all phones or car kits support it. The advantage of the PBAP profile is that you don’t need to send your contacts to the car kit, the car kit will retrieve them from your phone automatically every time you connect.
Bluetooth support is limited on the iPhone and although it’s improving, it still doesn’t support all Bluetooth profiles – in particular the OPP profile. There is no way of sending any information from an iPhone over Bluetooth. This means that if you have a Bluetooth Car Kit that only supports OPP, you’ll only be able to use the car kit for calls, although features such as last number redial should still work fine. The iPhone does support the PBAP profile though – in fact it supports it brilliantly, so if you want to be able to sync your contacts make sure that the car kit you buy supports the PBAP profile, it should be listed in the technical spec of the user manual.
I’ve got the Parrot MKi9000 installed in my car and every time the car is started and my iPhone 3G connects, the kit checks my phone for any changes and and updates itself. Like I said before, the iPhone supports PBAP brilliantly, and when paired with a compatible car kit it gives you control over the information that is synchronised with the kit. You can chose which groups of contacts to sync – if any, as well as recent calls and favourites.
From personal experience I’ve found that the best car kits for syncing your contacts are those made by Parrot. As well as supporting the iPhone fully, they also feature Text to Speech technology that announces the callers name when you receive a call and some will allow you to use voice dialling – even on the iPhone. It does this by matching the wave print of what you say against the Text to Speech wave prints for the contacts stored in the car kit. Most voice dialling kits require you to train your voice to them or to record your own voice tags for the contacts, and this normally doesn’t work too well. The current Parrot car kits that do all this are listed below. If you want more information on any of the kits, just click on the image or read my post on Parrot Car Kits.