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25/09/2013 08:12 BST | Updated 25/09/2013 08:13 BST

Guide To Staying Connected In Your Car

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Mobile apps on top of speeding car

In-car connectivity can make driving safer, more enjoyable and more work friendly.

Access to entertainment, communications and real-time performance information is proving a hit with car consumers and Telephonica predicts that nine out of ten new cars will offer built-in connectivity by 2020.

However, there are lots of ways to stay connected on the road, whether you’re driving the latest equipped model or your vehicle of choice still rocks a tape deck.

Hardware

If you’re currently on the hunt for a new car, most new models come with Bluetooth hands-free calling and USB ports to connect your smartphone.

Some brands also already offer complete integral connectivity, like Ford Sync, which monitors your car’s health and performance as well as providing video, voice activated calling, audible text messages, wireless Internet through your smartphone and automatic emergency dial out.

Audi Connect also offers wireless networking and voice controls as well as automated headlight control and vehicle distancing.

If you are driving an older model, Bluetooth car kits enable hands-free and voice-controlled phone connection.

Kits range from simple, affordable earpieces, like the Vodaphone Plantronics M25, which also lets you stream music from your phone, to the Parrot Asteroid Smart, which provides hands-free phone, navigation, customized apps and smartphone sync.

A basic cassette adaptor will convert an older car to an MP3 player, but there are also versions available, like the Direct Deck, which can be plugged into your phone for hands-free calling.

Your smartphone

With the right app your humble smartphone can be transformed into its own car connectivity hub.

Some smartphones, Like the Galaxy S4, have a drive mode, which primes your phone to operate via voice commands.

If you use an iPhone, as well as instructing Siri to do your bidding, you can also download the iCarMode app, which will simplify your phone’s home screen to set you up for music, phone and navigation. The app will even help you find your car if you ever forget where you parked.

HERE Drive offers voices navigation for WindowsPhone users and the option to access offline maps to save on data charges.

Using your smartphone as a sat-nav can be tough on the battery, so it’s a good idea to invest in a USB charger if you are planning a long drive.

Another option is to use MirrorLink, which mirrors your smartphone screen with your car’s audio/video screen. MirrorLink was designed with safety in mind and only approved apps can be displayed, so yes to Spotify, but no to Angry Birds whilst driving… Sony, JVC Kenwood and Alpine all produce MirrorLink devices, which are compatible with the latest Nokia, Sony Xperia Z and Samsung Galaxy handsets.

Staying safe

While the safety aspects of connectivity, like automatic emergency dialling, are undoubtedly a plus, having simultaneous access to sat-nav, music, video, calls and Internet can be a distraction from the serious business of driving.

  • All connected drivers should take note of the following safety advice:
  • It has been illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving in the UK since 2003. Even hands-free phone calls can be a distraction, so it’s best to pull over to take or make a call. You can be prosecuted if you appear not to be in control of your vehicle while using a hands-free phone.
  • Never text, watch video or surf the net while driving.
  • If you have a passenger in the car, let them handle navigation, web searches and music choices. It’s the least they can do in return for your kind offer of a lift.
  • If you are using your smartphone for navigation, make sure it is mounted and secure in front of you.

To help you get the most from your smartphone on the road, we've put together a list of some of the most useful apps for drivers.

Anything else you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below.