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GoGroove SmartMini Aux review: Gives cars hands-free calling, wireless music

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The SmartMini Aux supports A2DP audio streaming, as do most smartphones, making it possible to stream music wirelessly to a car's stereo. When streaming audio, the control works as a pause/play button. However, the device has no feature for skipping tracks.

One button to rule them all
Pairing the SmartMini Aux with an iPhone proved easy. Pressing and holding the single control button for six seconds put the device into pairing mode, indicated by a slow blinking blue light. The device showed up on the phone's Bluetooth device list quickly and paired within seconds.

Establishing subsequent connections between the device and the iPhone only required hitting the button on the SmartMini Aux a couple of times. Holding the button down for 6 seconds turned the device on, then hitting the button one more time reestablished its connection with the previously paired phone.

Once connected, holding the button down for a couple of seconds activated Siri on the iPhone, making it possible to use voice commands.

The audio, broadcasting through a test car's speakers, came through clearly. When streaming audio, there were no breaks or stutters, as can happen sometimes with Bluetooth.

The microphone also picked up both voice commands and regular conversation during a phone call without difficulty.

The SmartMini Aux includes an internal battery, so it does not have to be plugged into a charger while in use. As a power-saving feature, it automatically turns off when there is no active Bluetooth connection for an extended period of time, meaning you do not have to turn it off every time you park your car.

During testing, it held its charge after five continuous hours of streaming music from a phone. Letting it power down by itself, it was ready to go again the next morning without a recharge. With that sort of battery life, it can be left in a car and only occasionally need to be recharged, which can be accomplished in the car using a USB adapter plugged into a 12-volt power point.

Limited market
GoGroove's SmartMini Aux works well, but is most useful in cars that have auxiliary inputs but no Bluetooth capability. The bulk of cars that fit those parameters were built between 2004 and 2010. There are solutions for adding auxiliary inputs to cars without them, but it will make more sense to install an aftermarket head unit, which will have more features.

Read CNET's guide on how to hook up an iPod to your car for more solutions.

The SmartMini Aux is not exactly feature-rich, but such things as internal voice command are extraneous when used with a phone featuring its own voice command. The battery life gave the device a low-maintenance character.

Its main drawback is the single interface button, which requires being held down for different amounts of time to activate different modes. A separate on-off button would have made the interface easier to use. And the lack of a song-skip feature limits control over streaming music.

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