How to Use Bluetooth on a GPS

By Fred Decker

Use a Bluetooth with a GPS unit to dial a restaurant or hotel hands-free.
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Combining Bluetooth with GPS not only enables you to drive hands-free but opens up new navigation functions. Connecting a Bluetooth phone, for example, to a GPS unit enables the two devices to communicate over a short-range wireless network. You can command the GPS by voice through the phone. Connecting the devices involves a procedure called pairing.

Bluetooth Features

Bluetooth-enabled phones and GPS devices don't all support the same features, but most phones turn the GPS device into a hands-free navigation system once they're paired, routing their sound through the speakers on the GPS. Calls will mute briefly when the GPS gives you driving instructions. Most phones also enable you to call out from your GPS to emergency services, points of interest or personal phone numbers you've saved. Some will also give you access to all the contacts on your phone or enable you to dial calls with voice commands. A few will display incoming texts on your GPS, where you can view them easily without handling your phone.

Selecting a GPS

If you already own a Bluetooth-enabled phone, almost any GPS with Bluetooth should provide basic hands-free functionality. To go beyond that, consult the GPS manufacturers' documentation or websites for more complete information on compatibilty. TomTom and Garmin both offer interactive search tools, which enable you to find compatible GPS models by selecting your phone from drop-down menus, while the support section of Magellan's website provides charts of compatible phones for many of its models (links in References). By selecting a GPS that's known to be compatible with your phone, you can take advantage of your manufacturer's technical support as well as enjoying the more features.

Selecting a Phone

If you already own a Bluetooth-enabled GPS and need a phone to pair it with, you can use search tools on some GPS manufacturers' websites. TomTom's Bluetooth compatibility page lets you filter by device, so you can choose your GPS from the list and see which phones are compatible. Garmin's search tool is less flexible, so narrow down your choices to a few phones and start entering them into the tool. Note which ones list your current GPS as a compatible model, and make your final choice from that shortlist. If your GPS is a current model, it should support most Apple, Android and BlackBerry smartphones.

Pairing Your Devices

Before you can use your phone and GPS together, they must be connected or paired. You'll need to enter the setup menu on each device to do this, setting one to look for available devices and the other to wait to be discovered. For example, if you're pairing a Garmin Nuvi with a Samsung Galaxy S3, you'd start by entering the "Settings" menu on each device, then the "Wireless & Networks" menu on the Galaxy. Turn on the Bluetooth on each device, then tap the "Visibility" check mark on the Samsung. Touch the "Change/Add" option on the Nuvi's Bluetooth menu, then "Add Device" and "OK." Select your Galaxy from the resulting list.