[This is a reader-contributed article]
For the longest time my wife has wanted a hands free system in her car so that she did not have to use a headset or handle the phone while driving. Her description always included a cradle setup, but she did not know where to put the cradle in the car (a 2002 Audi A6).
For her birthday this year I finally took the initiative and did some research. I found that there are some very good bluetooth solutions out there. My wife’s Treo 700p is — mostly — bluetooth capable, but more on that later.
For various reasons, including good reviews, reputation (Motorola seems to know a thing or two about voice communications), features and price I went with the Motorola IHF1000 Car Kit.
There really didn’t seem to be much to the kit when it came in the mail, though: an interface (they call it a UIM for “User Interface Module”), a control module (a rectangular black box), a 5W speaker, a microphone and a wiring harness. I thought the speaker was redundant since I had planned to use the car’s audio system for receiving calls, but that plan changed as installation progressed…
Upon seeing the wiring harness and taking look at the installation diagram, I held out a hope that I could just plug the connector into the stereo and be done with wiring. That would potentially take care of finding power (both switched and constant), eliminate the external speaker, and tie into the muting feature of the stereo when a call comes in.
Of course, getting the head unit out of the stock Audi audio system is not done with tools you just happen to have around the shop. I had to order two sets of euro DIN radio extractor tools. They were about $5 for each set, but $7 to ship. About a week later I had them in hand and was ready to start the install.
Much to my surprise the radio extractor tools actually worked and the radio came out with no problems. However what I found on the other side did not match up with the harness that came with the IHF1000. After more research I found that I could get another harness and relay kit for about $80. This would give me all of the benefits I was looking for (no external speaker and clean wiring), but my wife was getting impatient and did not want to spend the extra $80.
So the installation went forward.
Every wiring connection made involved cutting wires on the Motorola supplied harness and making the appropriate attachment to various points in the car. One set of wires that I inadvertantly cut went to a connector on the external speaker.
You don’t want to do that!
It was easy enough to fix, fortunately, but I admit, it did make me look silly.
The first connection was to the “mute” input on the factory stereo. This has turned out to be well worth the time and effort to get the radio extraction tools. It’s very handy to have the stereo mute whenever a call comes in, when you want to make a call, or when the system is otherwise talking to you.
The rest of the installation was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. It turns out there were plenty of hiding places for the wiring and I could tie into the fuse box pretty easily for both the constant and switched power. Even the external speaker turned out to be a good thing!
Even though it’s only a 5W speaker, the sound is very clear and it is tuned for the microphone that comes with the kit. I installed it in the passenger side footwell, in the corner under the dash, pointing roughly towards the driver. You can barely see it, and that’s only when you’re looking for it.
As a quick test I did some driving around talking to a friend of mine through my Motorola V710 phone. He said that he could not tell that I was in a car, and it really didn’t sound much like I was on speakerphone. Cool!
Once it’s installed, setup is done almost completely by voice. There’s a big blue button in the middle of the UIM that gives you access to the “main menu” or “phone setup”, depending if a phone has connected yet.
For the V710 pairing the phone to the hands free kit via bluetooth was a piece of cake. You just follow the instructions for pairing and a few seconds later I was making calls.
The voice recognition is excellent. There is no per user setup, so it’s a “universal recognizer”. For dialing a number you press the blue button, the system greets you, you tell it “dial number”, it asks for the number, you tell it the number (I use normal voice and cadence, just like I was talking to a person), it repeats the number back, and then I finally tell it to dial.
You can also record names in your own voice. So you record yourself saying “Dave” and assign his number to that entry. When you wanted to call him, you just say “Call Dave”. The system asks if you want to call “Dave” (in your own voice – which is kind of weird until you get used to it), and you say “yes”. It then makes the call.
You may have noticed that I haven’t talked much about the 700p yet. That’s because it so aptly demonstrated the adage that “nothing’s ever easy”.
The Treo 700p is the Palm OS version of Palm’s smart phone. My wife really likes the unit and uses it for medical reference. If it wasn’t for that it might have found its way under the wheels of the Audi before this process was done.
Even though the bluetooth pairing went fine, it would not reliably make calls through the system, and when it did it would only work in “privacy” mode, which does not use the system’s microphone or speaker.
After hours of trial, error, and research, I found the secret: after turning on bluetooth on the 700p, you must do a soft reset so that the OS will completely release the bluetooth configuration software on the Palm. This means leaving bluetooth on all of the time (unless you like doing soft resets), but power usage is minimal when there is no active connection as the phone bluetooth goes into standby mode.
According to my research, Palm is aware of the bluetooth issue in the Palm OS on the Treo, so there is a scheduled firmware update due sometime in late Q1 2007.
Now, when the system is working, it’s very cool to get into car not even thinking about the phone. A few seconds after turning the car on (and the radio comes on from being left on previously) the radio mutes and I hear the “Motorola Babe” voice come on: “Phone 2 Ready”, telling me that my phone detected the BT device, connected up, and is ready to make a phone call. Then the radio comes back out of mute.
That’s how bluetooth *should* work!