A car phone is a mobile phone device specifically designed and fitted into an automobile. The car phone was once, in the late 1970s and 1980s, more popular than the regular mobile phone. However, since the mobile phone boom in the 1990s, when Mobile phones became much more affordable, the car phone has suffered, as most people carry their mobile phone around with them, including in the car. Plus, hands free kits are now installed into many cars, so that the driver can talk and listen to a call while driving.
The original car phone service might now be called a 0G (zeroth-generation) service, where 1G (first-generation) is thought of as the beginning of modern cellular telephone service. In North America, car phones typically used the Mobile Telephone Service (MTS), which was first used in St. Louis, or Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS) before giving way to analog cellular service (AMPS) in 1984. AMPS technology is still used in some countries including the United States. In Finland, car phone service was first available in 1971 on the zero-generation ARP (Autoradiopuhelin, or Car Radiophone) service. This was succeeded in 1982 by the 1G system NMT (Nordic Mobile Telephone), used across Scandinavia and in other often remote areas.
Since a traditional car phone uses a high-power transmitter and external antenna, it is ideal for rural or undeveloped areas where mobile handsets may not work well or at all. However, due to current Federal Communications Commission regulations, carriers must pay stiff penalties for activating any equipment that is not an E911 compliant device, such as analog.
Recently, some automobiles feature integrated, "hands-free" systems to utilize a consumer's cellular phone, via a Bluetooth wireless link or use an integrated transceiver. The systems use an internally mounted microphone, and the car's audio system, and may feature voice activation and control.