GPS has become a default feature of smartphones and tablets these days. Bluetooth, Wifi hotspot, and good music capability are other features that are becoming common. But to make full use of these in the car you need certain accessories.
It is very important for you to keep your phone at eye level while driving so that you can look at maps and directions. Mobile cradle (mobile stand) not only keeps the phone in front of you, it also prevents the device from tumbling off the dash board.
For this you have to buy a cradle that can stick to the car’s windscreen with a vacuum cup. You can change the position of the vacuum cup, but in the heat of summer these cups can deform and lose their ability to stick. The other problem is that your phone will heat up in direct sunlight. You should be careful while buying cradles and look for ones that are of good quality and perhaps even some with replaceable cups.
There are other types which stick to the car’s dashboard, but these cradles stick using double sided tapes. These tapes are not reusable, but they are not costly either.
The good part is that these cradles can be put near the car’s music system and 12V cigarette lighter socket, making it easier for you to connect the phone to a car charger or wire it to the music system.
A third type of cradle is one that fits on the AC vent of the car. It will keep your phone cooler and will be nearest (compared to other two) to the 12V socket. However, the phone will be below your line of sight, and you will not be able to change its position.
Another interesting type of phone cradle is one that fits directly into the car’s 12V socket. It has the same disadvantage as the AC vent cradle has though. The other drawback with this type of cradle is that very few are available in the market. For people keen on this type, Belkin makes some high quality ones.
The GPS on your phone is not just useful for finding directions, it also gives you exact speed and distance travelled unlike the car’s speedo meter which gives you some error (in the range of +-5 Kmph).
These cradles start at Rs 250. If you buy one from your phone manufacturer, it will cost more but will be worth it as the cradle will fit well and there will be proper connection options for the charger and GPS antenna; the bad news is that not all manufacturers have cradles in their portfolio.
Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Asus sell cradles starting at Rs 750.
If you plan to use the GPS and other features of your phone while driving, you will need a car charger as continuous use of Bluetooth and GPS drains the battery very fast.
Again, there are several options in the market. Prices start at as low as Rs 70 and go up to Rs 500.
The best option here is a charger that has multiple connections. However, these are generally manufactured by local and Chinese companies and can be of poor quality.
Another good option is a charger with a USB port, so you can use your phone’s USB cable to connect it to the charger. There are both cheap and costly options in this variety.
Some phone manufacturers also sell car chargers and these are of good quality, but if co-passengers have phones with different connectors or if you change your phone, the charger will become useless. The only solace is that most phones nowadays come with a mini USB charger.
If you have bought a charger with a single connector and you buy a new phone that doesn’t fit, don’t worry, you can always buy an adaptor socket. These sockets have one type of socket at one end and a different type at the other. You can choose the combination that suits you. The price varies between Rs 10 and Rs 50.
Bluetooth car kit
If you travel extensively, it is good to have one of these. They connect to your phone through Bluetooth and allow you to make and receive calls without having to touch your phone.
Most of them have their own speakers, but some allow you to connect to the cars’ music system, which gives much better voice output.
While buying a car kit, check if it allows you to pair multiple phones and also check for voice command options. An inbuilt screen that displays the incoming phone number will be a plus.
Prices of these car kits usually start at Rs 1,500 and can go up to Rs 3,500. Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Parrot have a decent range of car kits.
Another option for a car kit is a Bluetooth enabled car music system. These systems will not just allow you to pair your phone for calls; they will also allow you to play music stored in the phone through the car’s speakers.
The prices start at around Rs 3,000 and could vary. Some of them don’t have a CD player. This reduces cost and bulk. These devices have options for USB and memory card slots, which are better.
3.5 mm connector cable
These cables allow you to connect your phone to the car’s music system. They have two male 3.5 mm connectors at both ends, one of which you can put in the phone’s socket and the other goes in the music system. This cable will enable you to play music stored in your phone through the car speakers. Prices start at Rs 150.
In case your car’s music system doesn’t have a 3.5 mm jack you don’t have to replace it; you can just buy an FM transmitter. These transmitters are made by many Chinese companies and cost around Rs 350.
Belkin is one company that makes good quality FM transmitters.
These transmitters not only have a 3.5mm jack, they also have a card reader and USB slot. They connect to your car’s stereo through the radio. All you need to do is tune your car’s FM radio to a blank frequency (not occupied by any radio station) and tune the transmitter to the same frequency.
Connect your phone to the transmitter and play your music through your car speakers. These transmitters are powered by your car’s 12V socket.
If your car doesn’t have a 12V socket, you can get one for Rs 150 (every car has space for one). For all these devices you might need multiple 12V sockets, for which you can buy a 12V socket splitter. This has one male socket which goes into your car’s 12V socket, and three 12V (female)sockets where you can connect in all your devices.
Prices start at Rs 350.
One word of caution —do not put two or three high power consuming devices together, your car’s socket might fry.