Blackberry HS-655+. Click image to enlarge
Harald “Bluetooth” Gormson was the King of Norway between 958 and 985 AD. During the height of his powers he united Norway and Denmark. The nickname Bluetooth meant a “shy tooth,” indicating that it was his nature to avoid conflicts. Similarly, Bluetooth technology today is designed to allow communication between products from different industries such as the computing, mobile phone, and automotive markets.
In 1998 Ericsson, Nokia, IBM, Toshiba and Intel formed a special interest group whose members today continue to drive and develop Bluetooth wireless technology.
What does this mean to you? As you may have noticed, Bluetooth enabled devices such as smart-phones, cell phones, laptops, computers and GPS systems are becoming more commonplace. Many automobiles now have built in (factory installed) Bluetooth technology that facilitates use of a cell phone through the car’s audio system, enabling hands-free use of your phone.
This is one of the commonest uses of Bluetooth, and as more jurisdictions ban the manual operation of cell phones in cars, it’s a technology you’re likely going to need now or in the near future (in Canada it is illegal to use a hand-held device while driving in Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador. Many parts of the US, Europe and Asia have similar laws, with more coming on board every year).
However, although the system is very effective if your car and cell phone are both Bluetooth enabled, what if your phone is, and your vehicle isn’t?
Blackberry HS-655+. Click image to enlarge
One solution is to use a Bluetooth enabled headset/earpiece for your phone, like a Blackberry HS-655+. It features Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and Audio IQ technology which optimizes audio levels on both ends of the call.
In the box is the headset, three sizes of ear gels, pocket case/charging pod, ear hook and an AC charger. Setting up the device is very easy: activate Bluetooth on your phone, put the device into pairing mode by holding down the large main button (it will flash blue and red), and when your phone finds the headset enter the passkey (usually 0000) and you are set.
The device is very small, lightweight (only nine grams) and unobtrusive. I use the optional ear hook for better stability and security.
Three buttons control all of its functions, with the main button handling on/off, redialing last number, and voice commands (if your phone supports this) and call-ignore. The two smaller buttons control volume and muting.
When first turning on the device it will flash a series of red lights, indicating state of charge. Charging can be done from the included AC charger, a mini USB cable from your computer, or an optional car charger. If you own a current model BlackBerry smart-phone, this headset will charge with the same charging solutions as your phone.
The pocket case/charging pod is nice to keep your device safe while charging and it will vibrate when receiving a call.
The microphone picks up the voice easily and the people I talked to said my voice was crystal clear, although some said they could hear some background noise when I was in the car.
The specifications state that the device has a range of approximately 10 metres, which seemed about right. Talk time is three hours and standby is 80 hours, I didn’t try the talk time test (I would have used all my cell phone minutes!) but the standby was about four days before it started complaining that it needed a charge.
This unit is very comfortable for everyday use, sound quality was good and overall I have no complaints.
The HS-655+ retails for $149.99 and can be bought online at ShopBlackberry.com.
or at most electronic retailers and phone centers.
BlueAnt Supertooth 3. Click image to enlarge
If you don’t like wearing an earbud, another solution is to use a portable Bluetooth-enabled speakerphone like the BlueAnt Supertooth 3. It features Text-to-Speech technology, voice answer, and voice dialing with Digital Signal Processing (DSP) for noise and echo cancellation. The device has the ability to upload contacts from your phone and announce who is calling. It pairs up to eight Bluetooth devices, supports six languages, and has automatic connect and reconnect with notification.
It will pair with your Bluetooth enabled phone (mine is a Blackberry Pearl) and duplicate much of the functionality of a factory-installed automotive Bluetooth system. And being portable, you can move it from car-to-car.
In the box are the device, DC charger and two visor clips. The device also uses a mini USB connector for charging (finally it seems like a majority of current devices are now using the mini USB as the standard. In the past every phone required a different type of charger and I have a drawer full of them).
Initial pairing of the device is easy: turn it on, select your language, push and hold the MFB (multifunction button), and once it finds your phone enter the passkey (0000). The device then starts loading your contacts (note that on some phones you have to activate the contacts transfer feature; I had to do this with my BlackBerry). This is all done with voice prompts from a computer generated female voice, which is loud and clear, but at times was rather shrill. Pairing only needs to be done once for every phone you intend to use with the device.
The device measures 12 centimetres long by six-cm wide. It clips on to your sun visor with very strong magnets. Potholes, spirited driving – no amount of vibration caused the device to launch from its perch.
You activate the BlueAnt Supertooth 3 by pushing the green button for a few seconds, and it takes only a moment for the device to find your phone and it announces that it’s paired.
When receiving a call the voice announces the name (if it’s in your contact list) or the number, you can answer by pressing the green button or by simply saying “OK” or “answer”, you can also ignore the call by hitting the red button. Volume is controlled by two up/down buttons.
Most callers said my voice was loud and clear, although on a few occasions the callers said they were hearing an echo. Apparently this was only on cell to cell calls, but on cell to landline it was fine.
Talk time for the BlueAnt is rated at 15 hours and the standby time is 800 hours.
This is a quality product with good sound, packed with features and it works as advertised. It will make your car “Bluetooth enabled.”
The BlueAnt Supertooth 3 retails for $149.95 and is available at most phone centers. Starting November 2008 it will be available at electronic retailers.
For more information, visit MyBlueAnt.com.