Whenever I rent a car, I make sure it has three features: air conditioning, cruise control, and Bluetooth. The first two are modern necessities, and the other makes me feel like I’m living in The Future. The car automatically detects my iPhone, plays music and podcasts, and by using Siri, I can give commands to a car. And now with the Kinivo BTC455 Bluetooth car kit, I can live out my Knight Rider fantasies in my beige Kia.
The BTC455 allows you to retrofit your car with hands-free calling, voice commands, and music playthrough, all without having to install any new components. It comes as three components connected by thin wires (which can’t be taken apart). There’s a standard headphone jack. Power is supplied through a lighter plug, which also has a USB charging port—handy, because the BTC455 must be plugged in to function. The Bluetooth adapter and user interface is a small disc that you attach to your dashboard using a double-sided sticker (two of which are included).
The disk has two small buttons on the top for skipping backwards and forwards, and a large button on the front that functions for play/pause and voice commands via the device’s internal mic. Out of the box, the BTC455 enters pairing mode the first time it’s powered up, making the initial sync a breeze. It also uses Multipoint BT, meaning it can be connected to two devices at once.
The good news is that the BTC455 works like a dream. Once I paired my iPhone, it detected it immediately every time I got in my car. Hit the button and whatever audio you had playing (iTunes, podcasts, Spotify, etc), comes through your speakers. Holding the main button for two seconds activates Siri, although for some reason Siri’s voice is much softer than the music when responding to commands. Still, I was able to make hands-free phone calls, listen to music, and get turn by turn navigation from Google Maps, all without having to take my iPhone out of my pocket, taking off the case, and attaching a cord to the headphone jack (then reversing the process when I got to my destination…if I didn’t forget my phone entirely).
The BTC455 did suffer from a problem that comes from the way my car was built; connecting a device to the AUX jack which is, at the same time, being powered through the lighter causes a high pitched feedback whine through the speakers. Kinivo had an explanation as well as a solution, which, unfortunately, involved buying another piece of equipment. For $10 I got a ground loop isolator, which “breaks ground loops to eliminate engine interference.” It worked. I was slightly annoyed at having to buy the isolator, but also recognize that it’s a problem with my car, not with the device, and appreciate that they told me how to fix it.
The BTC455 is a simple upgrading solution; it’s literally plug and play, and requires no tools to install. It adds hands-free operation to older cars, and even lets you charge your phone while listening to your tunes.
Buy the Kinivo BTC455 Bluetooth car kit
Provides: Bluetooth functionality for hands-free iPhone use in your car
Minimum Requirements: iPhone or any Bluetooth smartphone, car with an AUX headphone jack.
Price: $69.99 list, currently on sale for $44.49