Using The Phone, Navigation, And Microsoft Bing Features
Standard stuff when it comes to connecting your phone: simply use Bluetooth for hands-free dialing and messaging. We didn’t have any trouble getting Uconnect Access to download our phone book or make calls. Messaging was an issue, however. We weren't able to take advantage of the built-in texting support with a reference Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Cyanogen mod. Unfortunately, this is pretty typical with most phones, we've found. Unless you have a BlackBerry, messaging functionality is hit or miss.
Voice quality is pretty good, though. We tried out the phone book voice recognition support a couple of times, but preferred using the touchscreen at a stop instead. It’s not that the voice recognition is inaccurate. Rather, we found that navigating the display was faster than using voice commands and then listening to the prompts back. That interaction doesn't work really well with a screaming child in the back seat, either.
Chrysler taps Garmin for its navigation functionality. The maps look like what you'd find on your typical Garmin portable navigation product, which isn’t a bad thing. Rather than attempting to develop navigation software in-house, the third-party approach works to Chrysler's favor. It provides a familiar interface for anyone accustomed to aftermarket systems.
Actually using the Garmin software is a pain, though. When you’re at a stop, all is good and well. You have full access to all of the platform's capabilities. But as soon as the SUV starts moving, certain features get locked out to keep you from inputting directions or searching for POIs by name. While we understand Chrysler’s desire to curb distracted driving, we prefer Hyundai’s approach, forcing you to press "Agree" every time the system is turned out. Sure beats getting shut-out mid-command. You're thinking, "Tuan, they're just trying to keep you safe!" I usually have my wife in the passenger seat, though. She shouldn't be stopped from using the system, should she? Chrysler does counter this weakness with one-step voice recognition, but again, using it gets super-annoying once you start involving residential streets and their mix of numbers, cardinal points, quadrants, and street type designations.
SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link are integrated with Uconnect Access and the Garmin navigation system. However, as with all of the traffic-reporting systems we've used, relying on those technologies is a dice roll. We simply don't understand the allure of SiriusXM Travel Link. Weather forecasts, sports results, and gas prices are free from your smartphone, and I'm going to assume you already have one of those.
Chrysler integrates a Bing app for extended POI search with reviews. You can look for restaurants, nightlife, hotels, entertainment, shopping, and so on, right from the touchscreen.
The restaurant reviews are a nice touch to help narrow down meal decisions. There are even voice commands and Bing search, too. But there is one very big problem with the Bing app: it's oh-so-slow. We're not sure if development is to blame, or Sprint's spotty network coverage. Either way, something so simple shouldn't be so cumbersome. As with SiriusXM Traffic, it's faster to whip out your phone and peruse Yelp or Urbanspoon.