Using Toyota Entune

Toyota officially introduced Entune at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January 2011, making it available for purchase on 2012 model year vehicles including the Prius V Three (pronounced "vee," not Roman numeral "five"), the Tacoma pickup and the popular Camry.

Pricing varies by vehicle and trim level. It'll be available on both Toyota's Display Audio and Premium HDD Navigation head unit systems.

"The head unit price will vary depending on the model, as it will sometimes be packaged with other options," says Greg Thome, manager of Toyota Division Communications. The first three years of Entune service are free, but after that, Toyota says an access charge will apply. "Some models will have an Entune-capable [Display Audio] head unit standard, like the Prius V Three model," Thome says.

Using Entune isn't all that complicated: You simply download the Entune application from an "apps" store such as iTunes, Android Market or Blackberry Appworld to your phone.

As of October 2011, phone compatibility was still dicey: We tried entering a few not-as-popular phones on the Entune Web site compatibility checker and got the message, "Sorry, your phone and vehicle combination has not been tested."

Thome explained that Windows Mobile phones, for instance, do not have the flavor of Bluetooth needed (called SPP) to support Entune -- but if that ever changes Toyota would cater to them with Entune as well.

Once the app is on your compatible phone, you synchronize your phone with the Entune head unit, either by establishing a Bluetooth wireless connection between the two or by connecting them with a USB cable.

From there, it's simply a matter of pressing the hard "APPS" or "MAP" button on the dash to bring up an on-screen menu of your options. With distracted driving a real and prevalent problem on the roads, many initial observers have questioned the wisdom of shoving even more data at drivers in the form of telematics devices like Entune. Toyota's answer has been to use voice-recognition software, selectable from a button on the steering wheel, so that drivers don't have to take their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road -- as much.

Overall, the controls and commands appear to be pretty intuitive. But, if you are the instruction manual reading type (or just curious), you can find complete directions on the Toyota Entune Web site.

So, will people actually buy telematics systems such as Entune in significant numbers? If the adoption curve is anything like those for in-car navigation and DVD players, it's probably safe to say they will become more affordable and more commonplace before long.

For more information on the Entune system and other automotive technology topics, follow the links on the next page.