The in-dash GPS devices in many cars provide an impressive level of integration, combining your car stereo, cellular hands-free capability and other features with the GPS screen. Portable GPS devices can't perform all the same functions, but Bluetooth-enabled models from Garmin and other major manufacturers can pair with compatible cellular phones to provide enhanced features.
1Choosing Compatible Hardware: Not all Garmin GPS devices are Bluetooth-enabled, and not all phones work well with all models. To reduce the element of chance, Garmin's website provides an interactive compatibility guide. Select your phone from the pull-down menus, and the page provides you with a list of compatible Bluetooth-enabled GPS devices. If you're planning to buy a new phone to go with your existing GPS, select each phone you're considering and check it for compatibility. The iPhone 3 and newer models, most late-model Blackberries and most Android phones from major manufacturers are compatible.
2About Pairing: All Bluetooth-enabled devices are theoretically able to connect with each other, even in an area crowded with Bluetooth devices. They do this through a process referred to as "pairing." In some ways, it's like connecting your laptop to the Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop. There, your laptop detects any wireless networks in the area and you select which one you're connecting to. In pairing, one device is set to look for available Bluetooth accessories while the other broadcasts an "I am here" signal. Sometimes using your Garmin to find the phone works better, and other times using the phone to find the GPS is best. Try it both ways, if necessary.
3Pairing Your Devices: To use your phone as the active device, go into the "Settings" menu on your Garmin and select "Bluetooth." Touch the screen to enable Bluetooth, which is turned off by default to conserve battery power. Follow your phone's menus to its Bluetooth settings and select "Search for New Devices" or an equivalent option. Your phone will give you a list of Bluetooth devices in the vicinity, and you can select the Garmin. Alternatively, set your phone's Bluetooth settings to "Discoverable" or "Find Me" and use the Garmin to search for available devices. After they're paired, they'll work the same way regardless of which was the active device.
4Using Bluetooth: Pairing a cell phone with your Garmin opens up a range of new functionality. Although features vary slightly with each phone and GPS combination, most are comparable. The GPS serves as a hands-free speakerphone for making and receiving calls, so your phone can stay tucked away in your pocket or purse. Your Garmin can use the phone to call any points of interest on your route, so you can call ahead to businesses or attractions along the way. It'll also have access to your contacts, so you can call friends or clients with a voice command or touch of the screen.