Hi everyone. Starting this week, I will be answering reader questions about all things GPS right here on Miss Direction and Crave. If you need product recommendations, have questions about the technology, or ever wondered if a GPS can actually tell you to drive into water, this is the place to be. I'll be posting these Ask the Editor blogs every other week so don't be shy, send in those questions, and I'll do my best to answer them all. So without further ado, on with the show.
Q: Can you help me? I am looking for a GPS that also has hands-free functionality. I live in California and as of July 2008, you cannot use a cell phone that is not hands free. Is there a GPS that has voice function? --Allen, via e-mail
A: Hi Allen. You're in luck. There are quite a few portable navigation devices (PNDs) with integrated Bluetooth, which allows you to wirelessly connect a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone or smartphone to the GPS and use it as a hands-free speaker system. Some Bluetooth-equipped PNDs include the TomTom GO 930, Garmin Nuvi 660, and the Mio C520. Having reviewed a number of these devices, I'd have to say that Garmin and TomTom offer the easiest setup and best user interface for this, but you can also find more options in our roundup here.
Once you pair the PND with your phone, you'll be able to make and receive calls, and if a point of interest lists a phone number, most GPSes will allow you to dial directly to that business with just a tap of the screen. Some devices, such as the GO 930, are even more advanced and will automatically synchronize your phone's address book and call history to the GPS itself.
And thanks for pointing out the hands-free law, Allen. This goes into effect in California on July 1 and joins a number of other states and districts with similar laws, including New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. And while we think it'd just be safer to not be on the phone at all while you're driving, we know this is wishful thinking, so the use of a hands-free system like a Bluetooth-enabled PND can be a good alternative, especially if you need help in the navigation department.