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.