Driving Bluetooth

This is like one of those stories James Burke was fond of telling, using his “ping pong history of ideas” approach to alternate histories of how we came to be who we are and think the way we do. Similar tales can be told about how one comes to a particular idea, either within one’s own network or across the larger network we now call the internet.

In this particular chronicle, I decided during a drive home from Lily’s gymnastics class that having some sort of hands-free speakerphone set up for the car would not only be safer for all concerned, but it would allow us to make phone calls to catch up with people and to pass the time stuck in Johnston Street traffic more sociably.

My first step was to search for an all-in-one device that would enable us to power (charge) the phone, output audio to the stereo, and provide a decent (better) microphone for the phone… but it doesn’t exist, because apparently Apple does not allow telephone audio to pass through the dock. *Why?* I don’t know. It seems like an entirely arbitrary limiting of key functionality.

To create a speakerphone-like setup with an iPhone, you have to use Bluetooth. Okay, so my next step was to find a well-received, and reviewed, bluetooth speakerphone for cars. I think I found one in the BlueAnt Bluetooth Speakerphone. We will try pairing that with the Kensington LiquidAUX Car Kit that comes with a remote. It’s not an ideal solution, but there doesn’t seem to be an alternative. Even the much ballyhooed TomTom Car Kit requires bluetooth connectivity for speakerphone functionality. Sigh.

Having signed up for Bluetooth in the car, I imagined the hassle of turning Bluetooth on when we get in and turning it off again when we get out. *Wouldn’t it be nice*, I thought, *if there was a way for the iPhone to recognize when it needs to turn Bluetooth on and off. Say, like when it’s docked.* That would make sense wouldn’t it? As someone who tries to get as much usage out of a charge as possible, I like to keep the various radios in the iPhone off when not in use.

If you are wondering what those various radios are, here’s a short list: 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS. None of them are easily turned on nor off. They all require multiple steps:

* **3G**: Settings –> General –> Network –> Enable 3G
* **Wi-Fi**: Settings –> Wi-Fi –> On/Off — Choose a Network
* **Bluetooth Settings** –> General –> Bluetooth –> On/Off
* **GPS**: Settings –> General –> Location Services (On/Off)

Of all the radios, only GPS is three menus deep. All the rest require **four menu levels** of navigation. (Worse, Bluetooth is simply an on/off selection and could be made one step shallower like GPS.)

So, no, the iPhone is not “*dock aware*” in terms of preferences. But can something like Bluetooth be made to “surface” a bit so that it’s easier to toggle on and off?

Or, just as good, how about a Location/Profile application/setting where one could set up what should be turned on for various locations, e.g., Home, Car, Out, Hiking, etc.

* At home I would like to have on: **3G** and **Wi-Fi** (connected to my home network).
* In the car I would like to have on: **3G**, **GPS**, **Bluetooth**.
* Just being out, all I need is: **3G**.
* If I’m hiking or doing field work, I want on: **3G** and **GPS**.

None of this strikes me as terribly hard or terribly complex.

Alternatively, perhaps the Bluetooth radio does not drain the battery as much as the Wi-Fi radio does.