Bluetooth communications between an Apple iPhone 3G and a Ford Audio system
My company car is due for replacement and the lease company has arranged a demonstration car of my choice for a week – so last Wednesday a shiny Ford Mondeo 2.2TDCi Titanium X Sport Estate was delivered to my house. (For readers outside Europe who don’t know what a Mondeo is, here’s an American review of the range-topping Titanium X Sport model – it might also be useful to note that “car” and “estate” are English words for what’s known as “automobile” and “wagon” in some parts of the world.)
Whilst I’m not a great fan of the fake aluminium that car manufacturers seem to plaster all over the interior of cars these days, this car represents a reasonable balance between performance, economy and the need to transport a family complete with all their associated paraphernalia (or garden rubbish for the tip…) – and it’s pretty well-specced too. One of the features that I was particularly interested in was the Bluetooth and Voice Control system.
(The Ford website features a longer version of this video but I couldn’t easily embed it here – and, for the benefit of those with no sense of irony, this is not serious – it is a parody of a fantastic programme that the BBC used to run called Tomorrow’s World.)
My current car has a fully-fitted carphone kit for use with my work phone (a Nokia 6021) but if anyone calls me on my iPhone 3G I have to use another solution. Not so with the Mondeo. In fact, I couldn’t get the Nokia to recognise the Ford Audio system (even though it’s one of the handsets that Ford has tested) but the iPhone was quite happy to pair following the instructions in the owner’s handbook:
- The Bluetooth feature must be activated on the phone and on the audio unit. For additional information, refer to your phone user guide.
- The private mode must not be activated on the Bluetooth phone.
- Search for audio device.
- Select Ford Audio.
- The Bluetooth PIN number 0000 must be entered on the phone keypad.
[Ford Mondeo Owners Handbook (2008)]
Once paired, I could use the car’s controls to make calls and incoming calls on the iPhone were picked up by the car too.
Ford are not the only manufacturer to have such as system, but it is the first time I’ve had it fitted as standard on a car (on my Saab 9-3 I would have needed to specify an expensive stereo with built in satellite navigation to get the Bluetooth functionality) – and Ford do claim to be the only manufacturer to offer the system on small cars too:
Ford is the only manufacturer to offer a Bluetooth with Voice Control System on our smaller cars as well as our larger ones. It’s available on the Fiesta, Fusion, new Focus, new Focus CC, C-MAX, Mondeo, S-MAX, Galaxy, Fiesta Van, Transit Van, Transit Minibus, Transit Connect and Transit Chassis Cab.
(There are some light commercials on that list too.)
The downsides are that my phone has to have Bluetooth activated (and to be discoverable – leaving me subject to potential bluejacking). There’s also a bit of an echo (on both ends of the call) – something I haven’t experienced with the fitted car kit I use with the Nokia in my normal car – but it’s not bad enough to be a problem and, most importantly, the road noise at 70mph didn’t seem to cause too big a problem whilst making a call.
So, what doesn’t work with the iPhone? Despite the audio system somehow managing to detect a couple of my contacts (which I can then select by pressing a button to dial), the Bluetooth Voice Control doesn’t seem to be able to read the phone directory – but it does work if dial by number, as shown in the pictures below:
Also, it would be nice to make the car’s audio system play the music on my iPhone over Bluetooth – except that Apple hasn’t given us A2DP (stereo Bluetooth Audio), so to connect the iPhone to the stereo requires use of a standard 3.5mm headset cable to the Aux socket on the car’s audio system (unavailable on the car I tested because that has a DVD system installed in the front seat headrests instead).
As for whether I will lease this car… well, the jury’s still out on that one. It drives well and I get a lot of toys for my money but the VW Passat Estate, Audi A4 Avant (or possibly A6) and BMW 3 series touring are all on my shortlist. Does anyone know if the iPhone works with the built-in systems in these cars?