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Kinivo Bluetooth car kit adds hands-free calling, wireless music

The advent of Bluetooth systems in cars became a boon for drivers, enabling hands-free phone calls and wirelessly streaming music from a smartphone. But if your car is more than five years old, it likely does not feature this technology. The Kinivo BTC450 makes for an easy and inexpensive way of adding Bluetooth to an older car.

The Kinivo BTC450 is a Bluetooth adapter. Lacking its own speaker, it is designed to plug into a car stereo's auxiliary input.

And therein lies its biggest limitation.

The majority of cars equipped with an auxiliary input but no Bluetooth system were … Read more

Apple envisions ways to find and start your car with your iPhone

Those of us who can never find our cars in a crowded parking garage may one day get a helping hand from Apple.

Published Thursday by the U.S. Trade and Patent Office, an Apple patent application called "Method for locating a vehicle" describes a technology in which your mobile device can talk to your car through a Bluetooth connection to confirm that it's parked somewhere nearby. The parking garage itself would also have its own wireless system to pinpoint the exact location of your car.

A map would then display on your phone to lead you … Read more

VW integrates iPhone with new iBeetle

Old rumors about Volkswagen and Apple collaborating on an iCar will come the closest ever to realization next week, when Volkswagen unveils its iBeetle at Auto China 2013 in Shanghai. The iBeetle announcement consists of a special-edition Beetle, a new iPhone dock, and a Volkswagen iPhone app.

The special-edition Beetle, coming out next year, will feature color schemes inspired by the iPhone. Available in hardtop or convertible form, it will also come with unique wheels.

An iPhone dock in the iBeetle sits at the center top of the dashboard. Volkswagen writes in a press release that "all iPhone functions … Read more

SmartMini Aux adds Bluetooth to cars on the cheap

Most cars these days come with Bluetooth, supporting both hands-free calls and audio streaming. For older cars, GoGroove's SmartMini Aux works as a relatively cheap means of adding these wireless features.

However, the car needs an auxiliary input or adapter for running audio to the stereo.

The SmartMini Aux, constructed of black plastic, looks like an ultramodern drawer pull. Its offset T shape includes a flared base fitted with a Velcro pad for mounting in a car. A long wire tipped with a 1/8-inch audio jack leads out of the base.

The business end, a short, curved bar, … Read more

Messaging app Kik adds 200,000 users -- each day

They're simple, social, and entirely made for mobile, all of which might explain the explosive growth of standalone messaging apps even as Facebook offers a free way to chat on smartphones.

One of the biggies, Kik says that it now has more than 50 million users and that people -- mostly young people -- are signing up at a rate of 200,000 a day. That's twice the rate that Kik claimed when it last released stats. Just last November, the app claimed 30 million users and said that 100,000 people were signing up each day.

"… Read more

Burner brings 'disposable' phone numbers to Android

After enjoying much success on iOS, Burner, the app that provides "disposable" phone numbers, has finally made its way to Android.

Have you ever wished you could have a temporary phone number for things like Craigslist purchases, job searches, or other short-term projects? Well, Burner provides just that. Think of it as an app that can disguise your phone. It gives you a temporary phone number from which you can place calls and send messages or receive calls and messages. Its phone numbers work exactly like the one provided by your carrier, but they stop working after a … Read more

Ford puts a $50,000 bounty on fuel efficiency apps

If you've got an idea for a great app that encourages increased fuel economy, Ford might have a check with your name on it. The American automaker has announced that it is sponsoring a $50,000 Personalized Fuel Efficiency App Challenge to mobile and Web-app developers.

Apps that meet the challenge should make use of data from Ford's Android-powered OpenXC platform, which is able to send over a dozen different measurements from the host vehicle to connected third-party hardware and software in real-time, including the steering angle, GPS position, and vehicle speed. Challenge apps will be judged on … Read more

Gmail for iOS adds more organizational tools

As part of a flurry of changes today, Google updated its Gmail app for iOS.

The core structure and design of the app remain largely the same, but Google added several new useful features that make browsing and organizing your messages easier. Here are the highlights.

You now can jump between messages by swiping horizontally across your iPhone or iPad display. This new action saves you from having to close an e-mail and return to your home screen before you can move on to your next message. The app now supports up to five Gmail accounts. With the Search bar, … Read more

BMW adding Rhapsody and Audible to app roster

NEW YORK--Adding to its existing roster of app integration, which currently comprises Pandora and Mog, BMW announced its next four apps to work with BMW cars at the New York International Auto Show. Music fans will be able to easily use Rhapsody and TuneIn, book lovers can listen to Audible, and Glympse lets drivers share their current whereabouts and destination.

Each app shows up on the LCD in BMW models equipped with the app integration feature, in a format similar to other car applications, such as navigation or the hands-free phone system.

Rhapsody subscribers will get a similar feature set … Read more

New BMW 6-series takes dictation, shows virtual gauges

The tech arms race between BMW and Audi is yielding some amazing cars, such as the Audi S7 we recently reviewed. BMW fights back with its newly announced 2014 6-series, featuring revised cabin electronics that will not only take dictation and send out e-mails for the driver, but also debuts a new digital instrument cluster.

BMW touted the new voice-recognition system for the 6-series in a press release today, noting its simplified voice commands and control over most cabin tech features. The new system will let drivers activate a dictation mode, having the car transcribe e-mails and text messages. The … Read more