Months ago, I published what I think was the first-ever detailed overview of exactly which Bluetooth technologies are included with Windows Phone. Since then, I’ve had a chance to test Windows Phone in a few modern automobiles, which Bluetooth connectivity and USB/line-in-type connections for playing device-based media through the vehicle stereo. Here a few comments about these capabilities.
USB. Windows Phone does not yet support USB audio-out, I believe. At least I’ve not gotten it to work. However, I know that Microsoft is using USB audio- and video-out with their own devices, in fact, that’s how they’re doing all of their onstage public demos. This internally developed software is very buggy and it’s not clear what form it will take when it reaches the public, but I’ve been told it’s coming.
Line-in. Windows Phone does of course work with any standard line-in port, and I’ve used this system successfully in two recent vehicles, a 2011 Chevy rental and a 2011 VW Jetta Sportswagen TDI. No surprises here.
Bluetooth audio. Windows Phone can play music content over Bluetooth and this appears to work pretty well to very well depending on the vehicle. I got some drop-outs on the Chevy, but so far the VW has been crystal clear. As expected, the audio playback mutes when a call comes in, and then fades back in when the call is over. It’s very nice.
Hands-free Bluetooth calling and address book integration. I was also able to get this to work just fine with both vehicles. In both cases, you link the phone to the car using Bluetooth and then download and sync the address book. This lets you give voice commands (“call Steph at home”) and use the phone in a hands-free mode, which is arguably a lot safer than other methods of using a phone while driving. Both cars have hardware buttons for controlling some aspects of this functionality, including navigating through the address book if required. In the VW, this is particularly nice, with many phone details appearing right in the center of the instrument cluster. As you can see below, this even includes battery life and 3G signal strength.