Mulling Things Over


A brief note on using smartphones with 2014 Subarus via Bluetooth

We bought a 2014 Subaru Forester last year. This is our first car with a radio that has built-in Bluetooth support, and it has been a bit rocky.

It seems that the Bluetooth implementation is a bit buggy, at least in the radio that comes with the Premium package. I was able to pair my Motorola Droid Razr Maxx  with it, but it was unreliable until I rooted the phone so that I could upgrade the version of Android on it, using the Cyanogenmod distribution. The phone paired fine, and every time I started the car, the phone would reconnect, even to the point of immediately beginning to play music through the stereo right where it had last left off. (If the radio was switched to play  the Bluetooth source, of course.)

So, you would think that this success placed the blame squarely on the older Android version. Given latest developments, you’d be wrong (as I was).

I just upgraded my phone to a Samsung Galaxy S5. I paired it with the radio, and everything seemed fine at first. However, the phone would not connect when re-entering the car later. A couple of times I discovered this while on the road and wanting to make a call. Sometimes I could force it to connect by fiddling around with enabling and disabling Bluetooth, but at least once I had to resort to re-pairing the devices. Obviously not something you want to  do while driving. (In fact you can’t – the Subaru software won’t let you perform many setup functions while the car is in motion, including Bluetooth pairing. Good choice, that.)

Today I finally found a description of a simple work-around for the problem. You can read it here:

Short version: Pair the phone to the stereo using the car’s voice commands, rather than the radio’s button-operated menu.

Interestingly, the voice menu seems to control software that keeps its own separate list of paired devices, and devices paired this way seem (so far) to reconnect reliably the next time that you start the car.

I thought this was worth blogging about, to help out others who might be searching for a solution to this problem.

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