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MINI Bluetooth Kit Reviewed

Here's a review from 1st time contributor Dave Carroll about the highly anticipated official MINI Bluetooth Handsfree Kit:

I had the Bluetooth Handsfree Kit installed yesterday. It costs $450 plus installation labor. It took my dealer less than 2 hours to install it.

It works really well with my Sony Ericsson T610 and I'm very impressed with the voice quality and recognition capabilities. It takes a few seconds to set up once, and from then on it's totally automatic. The voice recognition is much more reliable than what's built-in to my phone.

It does seem to use the oval grille near the sunroof as its microphone. This is not a button, however. The activation button for the system is located on a separate control unit installed with the system.

Not only does it automatically connect and disconnect to my phone wirelessly, but also it automatically mutes and un-mutes the stereo when a call comes through or when you need to make a call. The woman's voice who guides you through the menu options is pretty typical of voice automated systems, but the voice control is extensive, including dialing numbers, using the built-in phonebook, even calling MINI roadside assistance.

I used to have a Bluetooth headset, but I found the sound quality to be poor (lots of echo) and I lost it. It fell out of my jacket pocket when reaching for a glove, I think.

I am disappointed with a few things about the MINI Bluetooth Handsfree kit though:

  • It requires a separate control unit, which was mounted on the passenger side dash pillar. It's a small unit, but it does change the symmetry of the dashboard. I was expecting the extra un-used button on the multi-function steering wheel to be used instead.
  • The night illumination of the separate control unit is GREEN not orange. That is very disappointing, and surprising that BMW did not insist that its vendors use the brand's strong orange illumination color.
  • The indicator LED light is green. It should really be blue, to celebrate Bluetooth.

Perhaps this is the first model and MINI will address these complaints by, allowing the system to use all built-in parts (MFSW) for the user interface, and if not, fix the illumination colors so it really feels like a branded, official accessory. It's way too expensive to not be seamless both operationally and aesthetically. Now you know why MINI didn't put pictures of it in the most recent Accessories catalog!

Pictures are available in my resume photo gallery.

I should also disclose that I'm a Bluetooth fanatic, I use it all day, believe it or not. My phone connects to my 12 inch PowerBook G4 to control my instant messenger status, on-screen caller ID, text messaging, remote control access, you name it. Now that I've Bluetoothed my MINI, I have completed the wireless lifestyle.

Thanks Dave. As an avid Bluetooth user myself (SonyEricsson T616, Apple 15″ Powerbook, SE HBH-65) I've been interested to hear first hand accounts of MINI's new handsfree kit.

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Written By: MF Staff

  • Max

    Does the dealer have to re-flash your car after the installation as with the factory alarm?

  • http://users.adelphia.net/~rocketboy/index.html Rocketboy

    You forgot the link to the gallery!

  • Alex

    what a bummer- I hate that little control pad. My dealer had said it would use the empty button. And I think it's still too $$$. But I want to bluetooth my phone/car so badly… And a question- it doesn't use the radio display at all does it? (like for phone book entries or anything)

  • GJR

    Too much $$$ for me too.

  • R

    What does Bluetooth do?…….R

  • Jim

    Does the control pad interfere with the glove box? I do wish that it would use the dead button on the MFSW.

  • Rodney

    Yep a real disappointment. Come on MINI, that much money should yield a more factory look. Obviously this was a hasty addition to the MINI gadget arsenal. Geeks like me have much higher expectations! :)

  • http://www.dolch.net Matt Dolch

    I was seriously considering the kit, but after seeing how poorly it was implemented- I think I will pass for $450 and labor (yikes!). I was expecting something discreet and matching… What would have been better is a new trim piece around the speedo/vents with built in buttons… Or something that hung under the toggle switches, perhaps use the “blank” buttons by the parking brake???

  • Dave

    Thanks for the review! I've been dying to hear more about this!

  • ANTSMINI

    Wow, that is the poorest OEM installation Ive ever seen. Totally unsightly. MINI really screwed that one up. Was a cool idea though. Ill stick to my bluetooth headset.

  • http://www.minisoforlando.org James

    I bought my Nokia 3650 mainly for the Bluetooth feature with the idea that I'd use it in my MINI. But I won't be adding that to my interior.

  • Michael

    Glad to see Bluetooth is becoming more coming, however I'm very disappointed by this implementation… Makes more sense to get the Sony kit instead…

  • Iain Gillott

    R,

    Bluetooth has been around for a number of years but has only recently had any real impact in the market. Bluetooth is a communications standard that allows for short-range communication between mobile devices. Printers, ear-pieces and car installations are the most popular these days.

    With Bluetooth, you do not have to use a wired ear-piece while in the car. Just leave your phone turned on and when you enter the car, Bluetooth will connect your phone and your car, so that ou can control the phone through the car stereo or other buttons, as discuused here.

    The problem with Bluetooth, apart from some interference problems, is cost – the volumes are still low at present and hence the mobile handsets are more expensive (you have to buy a new handset with Bluetooth installed) and the accessories are – 4450 in this case.

    Hope this helps.

  • http://www.cardomain.com/id/theshawnster Shawnster

    They could not even match the led lights on the thing to the amber color? Damn… I wanted that thing and now I am pissed after seeing it. They should have made one that links to the nav system like on the acura tl.

    Shawn

  • R

    Thanks Lian, I never heard of it before. Most be living in a cloud.

    Hey maybe they could put isight/chat in the MINI, can you imagine that mess…I just got mine this weekend, so kool….R

  • Randolph Lee

    Count me in the Bluetooth gadget gang :) Apple 17″ powerbook here as well! I also have the tiny Socket Bluetooth GPS with the Route66 2004 mapping Software for OS-X

    For my NOKIA 3650 (sinc it with my address book and my iCal and use it as the modem whenon the road away from Broad Band and Airport nodes) I am using the Nokia Bluetooth Handsfree kit with the prewired adapters from mikeythemini on MINI2.com Mike Wildman. http://www.newministuff.co.uk/ works fine and the Switch goes over the knockout on the euro drivers parcel shelf he gives instructions here http://www.newministuff.co.uk/fittingahandsfreekit.htm and I put the microphone behind the grill in the Sunroof switch housing just like the BMW/MINI unit This is what the switch on the NOKIA looks like http://www.newministuff.co.uk/nokiack1wbutton.jpg and if I did not have the heated seats I too would have put it here just on the other side

    The support that Mike provides is top notch and well worth the extra $25 it cost to source it from him in the UK ~R~

  • DANIEL

    Would I be able to get this for a 2002 MINI S?

  • scott

    I've been waiting to see what the install would be. Definately a dissapointment.

    They think enough ahead to save a spot for the mic but not enough ahead to figure out where to put the controls?

    |sn

  • Dave Carroll

    To answer a few questions here:

    Yes, the MINI Bluetooth Handsfree kit is available for installation on 2002 MINIs and up. Mine is a 2002. Only cars with the Harmon/Kardon sound system will be excluded from this accessory.

    No, the kit does not at all interfere with use of the glovebox. The installation may not be aesthetically pleasing, it is totally functional. In fact, i've already discovered it's useful to give passengers easy access to the controls. All the better for a co-pilot to be involved in motoring, of course.

    This is a must-have gadget for Bluetooth early-adopters. It's really not that bad, extremely cool and my fiancee actually likes the green illumination. Go figure. Given that I'm not the only one with complaints about the kit, it wouldn't surprise me if MINI goes back to the drawing board on this one. It has been reported on the Owner's Lounge that MINI is working on a newer version that will work with Harmon/Kardon. I'll get the updated Bluetooth kit with an improved control module on my next MINI. I have no regrets about scoring this gadget, imperfect as it is, despite the steep price. Us early adopters have a duty to show the boardrooms and marketers we dig this stuff.

  • Greg Shives

    I had the Bluetooth kit installed in March and I was also very disappointed at the aesthetics of the implementation- particularly given the price. If you can get over the looks, it is an awesome Bluetooth handsfree device. I also have a Sony Ericsson HCB 30 and it is pathetic compared to the MINI kit. The voice command function is very reliable and the sound quality for the person you are calling seems to be much better than many similar devices. Better mic maybe? My big concern is the limited phone compatibility. My SE 610 works great with it but my SE P900 does not. No one seems to be able to answer what happens when phone models change and it's obvious all Bluetooth phones are not the same.

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    Here's a good explanation of why the P900 won't work with the MINI's hands free kit: http://cellphones.engadget.com/entry/5337880577834212/.

  • http://www.georgeco.biz George Hovis

    I too am digging this Bluetooth thing. I just put a GlobalSat Bluetooth GPS in the boot of my MCS. I ran the antenna like I saw done by someone who installed XM radio — behind the antenna and under the headliner. It's powered from the charger port in the boot for now and stuffed away in the side storage area. I use my BT enabled Palm T2 for mapping. Now I can get lost with a degree of precision previously unknown before.

  • Marcus

    Thanks for the info! Let us know if you hear anything more on a new version.

  • Pete

    Wow. Just wow. After using this unit for a couple of days (installed in my '02 MCS), I can honestly say it's the best thing since sliced bread.

    Beyond that, it's amazing how a company like MINI can come out with something that again TOTALLY differentiates them from any other $17,000 car out there, and their enthusiast community “their biggest fans” will find something to complain about. No wonder Consumer Reports rates the cars so badly for reliability; every dash or boot rattle gets written up at the dealer, things that a Kia customer would not give a second thought to.

    Get over it! It's a car. It's a great, fun to drive, unique car that attracts attention everywhere and has more bang for your buck than anything on the road. There are more optional features available from the factory and as accessories from the dealer than probably any other make out there; so what if the LED colors are different? At least it's offered.

    Think about this: Maybe they're different on purpose, so that you don't lose your phone controls in a sea of orange. Kind of defeats the purpose of a handsfree kit that you don't have to be connected to if you have to search for 10 seconds to discern the phone controls from the radio. Why can't we look at what's right about something instead of ALWAYS focusing on what's wrong?

  • Minibeast

    Anybody have the installation instructions from the MINI Bluetooth kit? Upgrading my stereo system and need the Mute/Speaker Leads to finish the install.

  • J

    I've had the Sony HCB-30 bluetooth kit in my Cooper for about a year. Its very functional and works with a wide variety of phones. I assumed the official MINI kit would integrate with the dead MFSW button. Since it turns out to have an extra control panel. I don't see much attraction compared to these other aftermarkte kits. With an interface cable from mikeythemini, the sony unit mutes the stereo, causes it to display PHONE, and routes sound over the audio speakers. In this case, bluetooth works very well. (And all the sony lights are blue.)

  • Matt

    I am about to buy a 2005 MCS and I was told at Hank Aaron today that the Bluetooth kit will not work with the HK sound system. Can someone answer this question for me?

  • Matt

    Is it possible to have the HK system, bluetooth enabled, and the satellite radio? Just curious.

  • steve

    Well, another data point on the bluetooth installation…

    I picked up my car after leaving it for the day to have it installed. the first thing I noticed was a wire dangling from the device, disappearing to the right of the support column. They left an enormous loop, just flopping in the breeze.

    I decided to ignore this, and went to push the button on the device, and it fell off.

    It's attached with double back table to a secure mounting bracket. The mounting bracket appears bulletproof…but, the doubleback tape…it is, without a doubt, the MOST POORLY DESIGNED accessory I have ever seen, from an installation standpoint. How any company with any sense of integrity could deliver a device that was stuck on with double back tape is completely beyond me.

    lame, lame, lame….I don't care how good the thing works, it's just pathetic. sheesh…they could have modified something in the new models to make this easier…

    what's strange is that there are two small holes that look as through they were intented to be use to secure the device…but I guess not. I checked the official instructions and it says to use the tape.

    if you do get it, don't fault the service department when the thing starts falling off…

    My suggestion…WAIT for a redesign, or design for yourself a better installation.

  • http://www.parkplaceltd.com David Bruski

    I have been using a blue tooth kit in my MCS that works very well, matches the interior well, is compatible with many Bluetooth phones, and was an exceptional value at $119.00. Here is a link: http://www.mobilphonekit.com/modeljumbotooth.html

    You can buy them on http://www.Mobileplanet.com

  • roy

    Mini Blue Tooth. Just got it installed and tried to get it to connect with a RIM ( Blackberry) 7290 and also a Motorola V-70. neither blue tooth phone would connect. has anyone had a similar problem? Any one have a solution to connection (paring ) problems with the Mini Blue tooth instillation?

    Roy

  • G.A

    Yes you can have an HK system and sat radio & bluetooth sys at the same time all working I have it on my MCS

  • RednWhiteCooper

    waste of money. i’m not too lazy to reach over and press TALK on my phone. i can see some of you older fellas might have a hard time holding up the phone to your ear for more than 30 seconds at a time though =)> hehe

  • rbm4

    I just picked up my 05 MCS the other day and it has 2 buttons for controling a phone on the left side of the steering wheel. Is this supposed to replace the add on control module for the blue tooth phone?

  • Paul Conca

    I just ordered motorola’s BINC. It’s the newest and I think the hottest looking bluetooth handsfree. To come out yet. Still needs to be installed but I have a lot of faith in this product. I believe it is going to be for sure a great buy. I will wright in and let you know the final score after the install.

  • Santiago

    I’ve been thinking of getting a Cooper S when the lease runs out on my BMW E46 and have started doing my research. One thing I would like to get is Bluetooth and stumbled across this page. What I find funny is how different the implementation of Bluetooth is between the Mini and the E46. I would have thought that the implementaiton would have been the same as they’re both BMWs. The BMW does not have a kludgey add-on module. The controls are on the steering wheel and all displays are on the radio (regular head unit or Nav screen). For Bluetooth phone compatibility MAYBE the BMW compatibility chart maintained by X5World.com might help you choose your phones or let you decide if you have a phone that is compatible. X5World Bluetooth Compatibility Chart

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    MINI has since upgraded the kit to something similar to the E46. However it’s not yet available in the US.

  • Jonathan

    The MINI bluetooth control unit on my 2005 MCS is installed on the LEFT pillar. It is discreet and out of the way, and attached with a screw behind the trim (not tape).

  • krenzkes

    I had the bluetooth install on my 06 MCS and it works well with the Audiovox PPC 6600 too. I was told by my MA that a new kit will be coming out in a year or so or $2500 that will make use of the stearing wheel controls. The current 06 models have the controller mounted to the left side of the pillar and it is out of the way but still easly accessable to reach. I’ve had some difficulty with the system not reconizing some commands and it would be better to have a British accent vice American fo rthe female voice the system has for commands.

  • Donna

    Hi I just had the bluetooth installed in my 2005 mini. I wanted to cry when I saw that ugly thing on my mini. When I bought the car they said it was blue tooth ready and showed me the buttons on the steering wheel. I was so mad I had my husband go back into BMW I new I would explode. We then drove to Mini and again asked them what the buttons on the steering wheel was the Manager said its for the blue tooth also my salesman agreed. When they saw my car they were as shocked as I was. I think MINI should be ashamed of there self. When I cool down I will email Mini. My advise don’t buy it.

  • Justin

    has anybody tried to use the mini bluetooth in a convertible with the top down? if so did it work well? could the other person hear you? Email me @ justin.wolkenberg@gmail.com

  • Taylor

    I just asked at the dealer today, they tell me that the Bluetooth kit is $1700 installed, which made me fall over backwards. They said they had to put a ‘computer’ in. Heck, you can by a nice laptop for that price. I’m really amazed that its all that hard to get a car to talk to a bluetooth phone. After all, you can get a bluetooth headset to do it for about a hundred bucks, and I already have one. OK, so the dealer told me that they had another kit for less but it had some extra buttons that needed to be installed somewhere, and did not use the buttons on the wheel. Unacceptable style and even that was $600. Shocking. I’d expect some kind of plug in module and a programming change for $200 tops. Mini – are you listing? Back to my Blackberry in the cup holder on speakerphone.

    I guess we have to discount the claim that the Mini is bluetooth compatible.

  • Pingback: MINI Bluetooth Review on Motoringfile

  • robbo

    hi my girlfrend just bught a mini one on a 57 plate and it has the phone button on the radio but it dosnt do any thing when i press it can any one tell me how 2 connect her phone or is that button just for show plz help thanks


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