Look Ma, no hands!
I am still somewhat surprised to see quite a few people with phones stuck to their ears as they drive merrily along. I guess they missed the memo!
As province after province gets on the hands-free bandwagon there are no hard and fast rules to going hands-free. It doesn’t have to break the bank or even involve any great technical expertise.
Basic hands-free options
What many people don’t realize is that most cell phones already have hands-free options on them. Just look, for example, for the speakerphone option on your phone. The quality may be nothing to call home about — but in a pinch, if you don’t have a better option, it is a way to be safer, obey the law and still stay in touch.
Personally I am a quality snob, (and perhaps a bit frugal) so I would rather use a tethered earpiece, as even the best BlueTooth headset or speakerphone pales in comparison to a simple wired solution.
Most every phone includes a wired earpiece, the only trick, is make sure you plug in before you pull out of the driveway. I have no statistics to back this up, but I am pretty sure fumbling with and untangling a earpiece as your are cruising along at 110kph is not the spirit of safer driving!
I say I prefer a wired earpiece with one major caveat — a really good integrated car system can be marvelous. I recently had the opportunity to use Microsoft Sync for an extended period (one week in a rental car). The car was new and road noise was pretty much non-existent, so we had a best-case scenario. (Adding a car kit to a 1977 Corolla won’t yield the same results.)
Ah the promise of a wireless world, brought to you by the good folks at BlueTooth!
There are now a myriad of options for BlueTooth earpieces. They range from around $20 to well over $150.
Choosing a headset that works for you is a bit of a gamble – so figuring out the style that you find comfortable is, in my opinion, crucial.
The highest ranked manufacturers each bring something a bit different to the table. My personal favorite is the Plantronics Voyageur Pro. It is a bit larger than the more subtle alternatives and looks kind of like a hearing aid with its over the ear design. But I find it comfortable and the quality is outstanding. They can be found for around $75.
At the higher end of the marketplace, BlueAnt has forged an excellent reputation for quality. If you prefer a smaller headset that serves up top quality and an innovative voice command interface, the BlueAnt Q1 can be yours for around $100.
Looking for a bargain? At under $25 it is tough to beat the Jabra BT125.
As I mentioned, a really good in dash solution is a beautiful thing. The Microsoft Sync system installed in most new Ford vehicles goes well beyond simple hands-free operation of your phone. Microsoft Sync connects to your smartphone and integrates it completely. Voice activation is beautiful, caller ID shows on the in dash screen and your entertainment applications (such ANS music) are also integrated.
If you aren’t in the market for a new Ford car you can upgrade your car with a new in dash stereo solution that is just as good. The Pioneer AVIC-Z110BT, for example, sits pretty close to the head of the pack when it comes to a dream in car solution. Bluetooth integration allows you to make hands-free voice calls and have iPod connectivity. The operating system also allows for the drag and drop customization of your favorite features.
Additionally, the voice recognition system turns the AVIC-Z110BT into a navigator/concierge par excellence. As you’re driving along you can simply ask your GPS to find the nearest ATM, and you are on your way. And since the voice activation extends into the iPod connectivity, you can ask for a favorite playlist or artist or song as you make your way to that bank machine.
The 7″ LCD display is bright, easy to read, which is so important in mapping mode. Squinting at a small hard to read screen while trying to determine your next turn can make for a turn for the worse! The screen is touch sensitive, meaning you don’t have to fumble with multipurpose controls, and entering information with the onscreen keyboard is a snap.
Coming from the audiophiles at Pioneer the AVIC-Z110BT is also the heart of a superb sound system that includes a 7-Band Graphics equalizer and 3 sets of hi-volt pre-outs. Optional integration with XM Sirius Satellite radio rounds out the offering — making the AVIC-Z110BT the envy of pretty much everyone.
The bottom line: Regardless of your budget, there are great hands free solutions available to you.
WATCH A VIDEO ON DRIVING AND CELL PHONE SAFETY
READ MORE COLUMNS BY STEVE DOTTO
Steve Dotto is Canada’s most respected geek. For over 15 years, as host and executive producer of Dotto Tech, a nationally syndicated TV show, Steve has entertained and educated millions of Canadians on all aspects of technology. Steve has a passion for understanding the social impact of technology. His DVD Cybersafe with Steve Dotto , teaches parents and caregivers about the opportunities, dangers and challenges of social networking.
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