If you have an older vehicle, you may not have integrated Bluetooth, so you can’t use your phone hands-free. In some localities, you have to use your phone hands-free if you use it while on the road (and that’s probably wise – if you must use your phone while driving, make it hands-free).
One solution, of course, is to get a Bluetooth headset. I’ve been very happy with my Jawbone headsets, but there are plenty of times I’d like to drive without having to stick a headset in my ear.
Another alternative is a Bluetooth add-on speaker. I’ve been using the Motorola T325 for a while now, and I’m very happy with it. It’s a small unit that just clips to a visor, so you can take it with you between vehicles (or if you are traveling, into a rental – just don’t forget it!). The T325 runs off a rechargeable battery, so there’s no wiring into your car. The battery lasts me about a month, and you get plenty of warning – when you first get into the car, the unit announces the current battery level (high, medium, or low) and that’s it’s paired to your device.
Now, I only use it for a few calls a month, so that’s one reason the battery lasts. Another is what I think is a great feature – the device will automatically connect to your phone (after an initial pairing, of course) simply by you opening the door. It has a motion sensor inside, and opening a car door is enough to set it off and start it looking for your phone. The same sensor will send the unit into a low-power mode when it senses the vehicle has been stopped for a while.
Another reason I like this unit is because it works well with iPhones. Not only does it pair up, but the unit can read the iPhone’s address book, and voice dial up to 25 contacts. It will also announce up to 1500 contacts by name – so that when someone calls, and the phone sends over the number, the unit will look it up and announce the caller’s name to you. The top 25 calls from your history become the 25 “favorites” you can voice dial. The first time you pair the device, it will download the phonebook and history, and after that you can force an update by hitting the Call and Mute buttons together.
I don’t use the “favorites” feature though – because the T325 does a great “pass through” right to the phone. Hit the large Call button, and it connects to the iPhone (or “ephone” as the nice British lady on the device says). If you have an iPhone 4S, and have Siri turned on, it will start Siri up, and you can voice dial, voice text, or do anything else you can do with Siri. The T325 will stay connected until you send Siri away (or if you make a call, until you hang up). If you don’t have Siri turned on, or use a different iPhone, you get sent to the iPhone Voice Command to make a call, change your music, or whatever.
This works much better than the OnStar in my wife’s car – to get to the phone, she has to touch the call button, say “Bluetooth,” wait for a response, say “voice,” wait for a response, and then Siri will finally come up. However, quite often after just a few seconds, OnStart determines that your “call” is complete and disconnects!
The T325 speaker is loud enough to be heard, but not real loud – you might miss it if you have the windows down or the stereo cranked up. It does have a light on it that will flash when a call is coming in as well. But since I play my music from the iPhone anyway, it gets interrupted automatically for me.
When you need a recharge, you can hook it to your computer – it has a micro USB port on it, and charges off my computer in about an hour. It didn’t come with a charging cable though, so something to keep in mind if you don’t already have some micro USB cables handy. You can buy a charger that plugs into your cigarette lighter if you want.
Motorola lists the T325 at $79.99, but you can find it regularly for under $40 (like at Amazon where I got mine).