When Apple unveiled its latest smartphone -- the iPhone 4s -- at the start of this month, eagle-eyed electric car fans will have noticed that a 2011 Nissan Leaf was used in the first ever commercial for Apple’s voice-activated Siri personal assistant.
Standard on every new iPhone 4s, Siri provides iPhone 4s owners the ability to interact with their smartphone without touching the keyboard, supposedly making it perfect for those moments when you need your hands for other things -- like driving.
But while Apple’s advert shows an actor interacting with Siri on his iPhone while driving a Nissan Leaf, it doesn’t show him using the Leaf’s built-in bluetooth handsfree system. Instead, the actor is shown using Apple’s standard headphone lanyard.
That fact has prompted many of you to ask us the all-important question: Can I use my Leaf’s bluetooth alongside the Apple iPhone 4s?
Armed with a 2011 Nissan Leaf and a brand new iPhone 4S, we set out to find the answer.
Music mostly fine
Just like previous versions of the Apple iPhone, the iPhone 4s had no problem connecting to the USB audio input jack of our Nissan Leaf. Our iPhone 4s started to charge, and after a few seconds the Leaf recognized the Apple playlists and started to play them.
Like previous versions, all album information was correctly displayed on the Leaf’s multifunction display, and we were able to navigate through albums and tracks using the standard Leaf controls.
But there’s still one little niggling bug, something we noticed with beta versions of Apple’s iOS5. Turn your Leaf off and then on without disconnecting the iPhone, and the audio from the iPhone gets muted. To remedy, we found unplugging the iPhone, waiting a few seconds and then reconnecting it normally works.
Bluetooth streaming also works as before, with the Leaf seamlessly taking over whatever you were listening to before you got into the car. Audio quality is good over bluetooth, and we’ve not heard any bluetooth artifacts or digital clicks using this method.
Does Siri work?
Move away from audio streaming, and the iPhone 4s is a little less happy about working alongside your Nissan Leaf.
In our tests, we tried various combinations in order to try and get Siri to play nice, but didn’t find a solution that worked all the time.
The problem seems to lie in the way in which Siri is interpreted by the Leaf. Because communication has to be two-way, the Nissan Leaf interprets Siri as a phone call, switching off music streaming and switching over to an active call.
We discovered that if we were connected to the Leaf using the USB cable to stream music instead of bluetooth streaming, Siri often quit before the Leaf had had a chance to switch from music to telephone mode. With bluetooth streaming, the delay was less -- but even when Siri worked we discovered that it wasn’t always clearly hearing what we’d said.
As Apple is keen to admit, Siri is still in beta -- and so it appears is its ability to use bluetooth handsfree kits as a Siri interface.
For the determined it is possible to get Siri to work with your Nissan Leaf, but for now we’d have to recommend that you leave the iPhone 4S in your pocket and concentrate on the job at hand -- driving.