Web Exclusive: Hands-Free Speech
Starting July 1st, it will be illegal to use cell phones while driving unless you use a hands-free device. The fine? $67 for your first offense. With July around the corner, here are a few options that will keep you driving, chatting and ticket-free.
When it comes to hands-free equipment, your main decision is between a headset or a speakerphone system. (Whichever you pick, be sure to bring in your phone to ensure compatibility.)
Speakerphone systems are the best bet for mainly in-car usage.
Easily clipped unto your sun visor, a speakerphone will give a decent sound quality (if set on a medium-high sound level) and supports all the usual cell phone features (accept incoming calls, hang-up, use voice activation to redial, handle call waiting and dial numbers, all with noise reduction).
A little pricier than standard earpieces, speakerphones allow for greater comfort and, if you chose a Bluetooth model, are equipped with longer battery life (about 15 hours of continuous talk time and 800 hours of standby). Time to recharge? They can be plugged into a wall or into a car-jack and some are even solar powered (although five hours of direct sunlight will only yield about three to four hours of talk time).
The newer car kits also offer some nice options for mp3 players.
The ones with an FM transmitter will play your tunes through the car’s speakerphones or, if the FM connection is poor, through its own speakers. Jabra models will use the same technology for your calls and transmit them unto your car speakerphones.
Need a more on-the-go product? Then a headset is your best option.
Available in two models, in-ear and around-the-ear, headsets tend to have a crisper connection than speakerphones. The slickest models use Bluetooth for a convenient wireless connection to your phone.
In-ear headsets come with three different sized ear bits (small, medium, large) to best fit your ear canal. For sanitary reasons, however, you won’t be able to try on the in-ear model, so be sure to ask about the store’s return policy.
A safer bet, the around-the-ear model comfortably fits most people and offers better support than its counterpart. If you plan on using the device more than three hours a day, opt for a soft silicone base rather than tough plastic. Wear sunglasses? Try your headset with them on as the two may overcrowd your ear and quickly become uncomfortable.
Affordable: Check out the Plantronics Voyager 835 for $69.99. This nifty model has a wind cancellation feature.
Cutting Edge: Check out the Jawbone Prime TM for $129.99. This military-grade audio system uses a sensor to identify and isolate your speech from any background noise.
But don’t rule out wired headsets quite yet.
After all, these nifty products are a much cheaper alternative to Bluetooth. Ranging from $6 to $26, wired headsets are also easier to use as they require no charging time.
If your cell phone is more than two or three years old, you choices are considerably slimmer.
Most older cell phones are not equipped with the Bluetooth protocol and have proprietary jacks which means that, for example, an LG cell phone will only accept LG headsets. Cell phones released within the past year, however, are compatible with standard headsets.
If you have an LG, Blackberry or Motorola, check out the Plantronics C90. A standard headset, it has an answer/end button along its cord and comes in a sleek black color.