We’ve reviewed a number of hands-free Bluetooth devices and have selected those that we would recommend for sale on our Hands-free Bluetooth Product page. Following is a list of features we believe to be important to the purchase decision. Note that we are not necessarily recommending all features listed but just explaining what you get with each. You may simply want an on/off button and a good speakerphone that connects to your phone automatically. Or, you may be interested in having access to your entire phone book to look up the number of a person you need to call. You should understand that there are indications that the net safety benefit of using a hands-free device versus talking on the cell phone directly is reportedly small. Here’s the list of features to consider:
Speakerphone: this feature is just as it sounds. Your cell phone pairs (forms a connection) with the hands-free unit and when you are in a call you hear the caller on the other end over a loudspeaker. Some units provide louder output than others, with the Motorola T305 and T505 reporting the higher volume capability.
Full Duplex versus Simplex: Full duplex means that the both parties can talk at the same time, as is the case with a telephone. If the unit does not support full duplex you have to wait until the other talker is through talking before they will hear you talk. This latter case, called simplex mode, can be annoying but is tolerable if you’re just interested in limited in-car calling. Full duplex mode requires more sophisticated signal processing to avoid feedback and similar audio problems and that may be why it is not included with some of the models that transmit audio to the car’s FM radio.
Caller ID: Most hands-free devices will either display the number of the caller, or in a few cases a text-to-speech synthesizer will speak the number of the caller. You don’t have to take your eyes off the road to listen to the spoken number but it is reportedly trickier to recognize the spoken number than to take a quick glance at a display.
Phone Book/Voice Dialing: You really shouldn’t be scrolling through a phone book display while you’re driving so hopefully this feature is only used while you’re parked or otherwise stopped. Then again, if you’re stopped or parked you can scroll through the one on your phone. Most models offer voice dialing (using your phone’s voice dial capability) which is a safer way to go while driving.
FM Transmission: This is a nice feature if your phone has the ability to play songs through its Bluetooth connection (Bluetooth A2DP profile). By connecting your phone through Bluetooth to a speakerphone that has FM transmission capability, you can select and play songs from you phone that are then re-transmitted to a selected FM station on your radio dial. You get full stereo playback of your music and as much volume on your phone calls as you need. You may not get full duplex operation, however (see ‘Full Duplex versus Simplex’ above).
Power Source: Most of the units we looked at and all of those we list offer a rechargeable battery with a removable charge cord so that you can charge while you’re parked and then put the cord and not have to deal with it while you drive.
We have listed four models that seem to be reliable, worth the money, and designed with some amount of forethought on our Hands-free Bluetooth Products page.
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