There are a few things to consider before you can connect your smartphone to your car. First, make sure your handset has Bluetooth capability. Then, ensure that the systems you're considering are compatible with your particular phone. They're generally sold in two main ways: as a factory-installed option or an aftermarket add-on.
Aftermarket add-ons are relatively inexpensive and compatible with almost any car, but they typically lack the functionality of a factory-installed system. One way to install Bluetooth connectivity into your car is by purchasing a new stereo or a unit that can be hardwired into your current stereo. These systems, which play calls through your car's speakers, are manufactured by companies like Alpine, Parrot and Motorola. They automatically upload your contacts to support audible caller ID and voice-activated calling. They can also play music wirelessly from your phone, which, like the music from your car stereo, is automatically muted when you have an incoming call. A cheaper alternative is to buy a unit that doesn't require any special wiring. These units offer similar features to their hardwired counterparts, but the sound is played through a visor or windshield-mounted speaker. They lack the ability to mute your car stereo when you receive a phone call.
Factory-installed systems are becoming more common, and not just in luxury vehicles. A popular example is Ford's SYNC, launched in fall 2007 in collaboration with software designer Microsoft. Like the after-market units, SYNC offers music playback and voice-activated calling. In addition, users get audible text message readback and voice navigation, as well the ability to provide vehicle diagnostics and call 911 when the airbags deploy. Newer models can also link with apps like Pandora, which streams music wirelessly. Such systems are now available through nearly every major car company, including Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, BMW, Audi, Volvo, Volkswagon, Nissan, Chrysler and GM.
The first time you use your phone in the car, you must pair the devices to ensure that they recognize each other in the future. This involves a brief initial setup, but when you're done, your phone will automatically connect each time you get in the car. After a few hands-free commands, you'll never want to handle your phone while driving again.