Supertooth Offers Handsfree Phones to Older Cars

Your car may not have factory bluetooth, but that doesn't mean you can't still enjoy the benefits.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

Though the majority of new cars rolling off assembly line come equipped with umpteen high tech gadgets, that doesn’t really do much for the growing numbers of Americans who are keeping their cars from the 90s an 00s longer. Their fancy friends might have voice-controlled GPS and air-conditioned seats for their bottoms, but that 2001 Corolla isn’t as luxuriously equipped.

To fix that problem, multiple manufacturers popped up to make separate devices that add missing functionality to older cars or economy cars that sell new without all of the bangs and whistles.

Since the mid-1990s, every car sold legally in the U.S. has come equipped with a built-in CPU system to bring common functionality to vehicles. By standardizing this technology, automakers, mechanics and other entities working in and around cars could aim their products and services at a common understanding of what a car’s AI could handle.

Obviously, music stereo improvements have been around for years. Now, plug and play GPS systems, fuel economy monitors and other gadgets can help an aging vehicle technologically muscle up to a recent model.

Supertooth makes portable Bluetooth devices that add hands-free, voice controlled speaker phone functionality to any car with the aid of your smart phone. They can be used in any environment with a Bluetooth connection, but their ergonomics makes them perfect for automobile use.

I had a chance to review two separate Supertooth units to see how easily we could set them up and how well they mimicked or replaced a 2012 voice-controlled speaker phone.

Since I review a lot of cars, I’ve had the chance to work with piles of in-car hands-free phone systems. The process always goes something like this:

1) Turn on the smart phone Bluetooth.
2) Work through the car system’s Pairing procedure.
3) Load your phone book into the car’s onboard memory.
4) Activate the voice control system (usually from the steering wheel somewhere).
5) Use whatever individual voice commands needed to make a call, pick your recipient, etc.

Some systems work smoothly and quickly. Some make me want to beat the dashboard in with a rubber mallet. The Supertooth had to go one of those two directions.

Instead of making it easy and try out the Supertooth HD (their high end unit) and Supertooth Buddy (their entry level system) in a sparkly new, high-tech vehicle. I sat into the weary seat of my 1996 Ford Mustang. I bought that car with the aid of my late father, and I’ve never had the heart to get rid of it.

The HD (about $60 )can be installed in your vehicle with the ease of any add-on GPS or radar/laser detector. You can unplug and take it with you for use elsewhere or leave in the vehicle. With 5 watts of audio power, it’s loud enough to overcome traffic and engine noise as long as the windows are up tight.

Setup was easy and operation smooth. But the real bonus of the HD is the ability to send texts. email, tweets and Facebook updates all via voice control. That’s a feature the big automakers new systems just added in the last couple model years. I managed to do all four without nightmarish frustration. If anything went awry, it was user error.

The Buddy (about $35) is a straight up hands-free, voice-controlled in car phone. It does’t have all of the functionality of the HD, but it stands with the high-end unit in the easy install, easy operation departments.

Either unit does the job. You only have to decide what jobs you need done.