I had mentioned before that we received a Kinivo BTC450 Bluetooth Hands-Free Car Kit to review, and that it might be a good option for anyone whose car has a head unit with an AUX input port, but no Bluetooth voice calling capability. The thing I realized when I actually put the Kinivo BTC450 to use is just how useful it could be if for any reason your phone and your Bluetooth receiver don’t communicate well.
To put the Kinivo BTC450 to the test, I decided that rather than immediately setting up Bluetooth sync between my phone and the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe I tested recently (reviews forthcoming), I would spend a few days using the Kinivo BTC450 exclusively for all my on-the-road calling. Installing the unit was easy. I plugged the power dongle into one of the Santa Fe’s two console-mounted 12-volt DC receptacles, plugged the 1/8th-inch AUX cable into the AUX port nearby, and stuck the multi-function button (MFB)/microphone on the dash near the start/stop button. That last move probably wasn’t the smartest of ideas, hindsight being 20/20, but I somehow managed to avoid turning the car off in mid-commute the few times I placed or received calls while using the Kinivo BTC450.
From there, syncing the Kinivo unit with my phone’s Bluetooth hands-free system was easy. I touched the MFB, performed a scan for new devices on my phone, and within moments, I was fully ready to make or receive calls hands-free. Well, relatively speaking.
I say “relatively speaking” because using the Kinivo BTC450 required a few more steps using Hyundai’s Infinity head unit and eight-inch touchscreen than would be needed if I had synchronized my phone directly with the Hyundai’s Bluetooth receiver. When I received a call, for example, I would have to hit the button labeled MEDIA on the head unit. Luckily in the Santa Fe, this brings up a menu listing all available media options no matter what screen you were on at the time the MEDIA button was pressed. Had it done like some others I’ve tested that cycle methodically through each media outlet available whether there’s anything plugged in to each of those outlets or not, this process would have been infinitely more frustrating and would have led to most of my calls received via Kinivo going to my voicemail before I could cycle from USB or AM/FM to AUX in time to answer.
So after hitting MEDIA I’d have to punch the AUX icon on the touchscreen. Then, the screen would show a message saying an external device was connected in the AUX port — which was crude, sure, but about all one could hope for since a tiny audio cord can’t carry textual data the same way a USB or even Bluetooth connection can. At that point, I’d finally touch the MFB to answer the call.
The same process was necessary to dial a call, only there wasn’t the urgency that comes from possibly missing an important call. And let’s remember, again, that the audio jack can’t carry data like, oh I dunno, caller I.D., so I could never be sure if a call was important or not without pulling my phone out of my shirt pocket, where it stays 99% of the time, and glancing at its tiny screen — a distracting and dangerous pursuit when driving.
Now, having said all that, I have to admit my experience was largely a positive one. The Kinivo BTC450 worked exactly as the packaging described, and I could easily hear those who called me while I was using the unit. Those who I talked to reported they noticed no difference between the Kinivo BTC450′s microphone quality and that of most built-in Bluetooth calling units in other cars I’ve tested. It bears repeating that your frustration level with using an aftermarket Bluetooth hands-free car kit like this will be directly proportional to your head unit’s ease of use and/or your familiarity with how to best get yourself to the AUX input feed as quickly as possible.
The positive experience made me realize that anytime I have difficulties in getting my dumb phone to communicate with a test car’s factory Bluetooth head unit, then the BTC450 would make a good fall-back plan. For cheapskates like me, spending $40 on a Kinivo BTC450 Bluetooth Hands-Free Car Kit for Cars with Aux Input Jack (3.5 mm) – supports aptX is a lot more palatable than spending $300 on an aftermarket Bluetooth-capable head unit or $30,000 on a new car with all the latest Bluetooth capabilities.
Disclosure: Kinivo provided the BTC450 Bluetooth Hands-Free Car Kit for reviewing purposes.