5 Ways to Use Bluetooth in Your Car

A look at a few ways Bluetooth has revolutionized the driving experience.

Asian woman driving convertible car with bluetooth headset

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Virtually every phone sold today comes with a built-in Bluetooth radio, and an ever-increasing percentage of car infotainment systems, aftermarket head units, and add-on devices also make use of the protocol, leaving us with a vast array of different ways to use Bluetooth while driving. Here are five of the best ways you can use Bluetooth in your car.

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Make and Receive Phone Calls

man using cell phone and driving car
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For many years, phone calling was the primary use of Bluetooth in the car. Most factory head units and aftermarket stereos also use Bluetooth to host calls made from your phone. If your car's head unit doesn't support Bluetooth you can buy a Bluetooth car kit, which adds the wireless functionality you're looking for.

This profile is referred to as the Hands-Free Profile (HFP). Most phones, head units, and many Bluetooth kits with HFP allow you to place and receive calls, dial numbers with voice commands, and access your address book.

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Send and Receive Text Messages

man in suit texting while driving

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Synonymous with "texting," SMS is the primary messaging function for most phone users. While you should never text while driving, it is nonetheless common to receive texts while driving, which can be distracting. Luckily, Bluetooth has a texting workaround that allows users to send and receive texts without taking their eyes off the road.

Many infotainment systems and head units have the Message Access Profile (MAP) Bluetooth functionality. It allows users to display text messages received on your phone. When paired with text-to-speech functionality, and either speech-to-text or a variety of pre-programmed canned replies, Bluetooth texting allows users to text in a hands-free environment—exactly what's needed while on the road.

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Stream Music Wirelessly

iphone playing rock music through bluetooth connection in car

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If your head unit and phone both support the Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), then you can wirelessly stream stereo audio to your head unit. This is a great way to listen to any music or audio you have stored on your phone. You can also use it to stream music and podcasts, provided you have the data allowance or downloaded content ahead of time.

If your phone and the head unit also support the audio/video remote control profile (AVRCP), you can take it a step further and actually control playback from your head unit. This profile allows some head units to display metadata, like artist names, song titles, and album artwork.

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Pump the Internet Into Your Car

Girl with headphones using digital tablet watching video in back seat of car

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Some infotainment systems and head units come with built-in support for Pandora, Spotify, and other streaming apps. Without pre-downloaded content, however, you'll need wireless data to use them. As long as you're comfortable using data, you can broadcast any audio content from the internet through your car speakers. One alternative is to use a mobile hotspot instead, but for that your head unit will need to be Wi-Fi-compatible or work with some other kind of hotspot protocol.

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Diagnose Your Engine Problems

Woman on phone under the hood of broken down car

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If you have an Android smartphone, you can pull codes, check PIDs, and possibly even diagnose your own check engine light—all via an OBD-II Bluetooth adapter. The key to these handy little scan tools is the ingenious ELM327 microcontroller. All you have to do is download a scanner app, plug one of these scan tools into your car’s OBD-II connector, and pair it to your phone. Then you can diagnose any check-engine problem—or at least attempt to.

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