It’s great to be able to make and receive calls wherever you are, but taking risks when you are driving is stupid. Traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. with an average of 88 deaths per day in 2011. Worldwide there are over one million traffic-related deaths every year. According to a recent McKinsey study 35 percent of people polled admitted using their smartphones while driving. There’s no reason to contribute to those frightening stats when you can use a hands-free app, a headset, or best of all, an in-car Bluetooth speakerphone.
So where can you find the best Bluetooth speakerphone for your car? Well, we decided to road test a few, so buckle up as we bring you the top three options.
The design of the SuperTooth Crystal makes it really easy and quick to set up. Simply hold down the power button on the speakerphone for a second and switch on Bluetooth on your Android smartphone then select CRYSTAL from the list and it’s paired. You can actually pair up to eight different devices (only two at a time can be monitored), but you only have to go through the pairing procedure with each one the first time. It also has automatic wake and pairing when you enter the car.
You get a metal clip to place on the visor and the speakerphone has a magnet on the back so you can stick it on and then remove it easily when you get out of the car. It works with the visor up or down.
You push the phone button to take calls and there’s an end call button and volume controls as well. Since it sits on the visor the positioning is great for capturing your voice and calls come through crystal clear. It’s easy to use without ever taking your eyes off the road. You can also tap the phone button to make a call and it will activate your Android smartphone’s voice dialer. If you hold it down it will redial your last call.
It is capable of A2DP audio streaming which makes it handy for louder turn-by-turn directions from Google Maps. You can also stream music, podcasts or radio stations from your phone. The sound quality isn’t great for music, but it will do in a pinch. It comes with a charging cable and a plug for your lighter socket, but with 20 hours of talk time and up to 40 days (1,000 hours) of standby you won’t need to plug it in very often.
We like the stylish, curved design and ease of use with the SuperTooth Crystal and at £50 from Vodafone stores or under £40 on Amazon in the UK, it’s well worth investing in. It costs $69 from the SuperTooth site in the states.
Pairing the BlueAnt S4 is as simple as sliding the switch on the side to “on” and then the device will talk you through the rest, which is simply a case of choosing BlueAnt S4 from the Bluetooth menu on your smartphone. You may find it wants to copy your contacts over. You can have two devices connected at the same time.
True hands-free operation is the USP of the BlueAnt S4 in that you don’t need to press a button to take incoming calls. You can simply say “BlueAnt speak to me” and it will spring to life. You can also ask “What can I say?” for a list of possible voice controls. You can obviously answer or reject calls amongst other things, but for making calls it defaults to your Android voice dialer.
It has a metal clip for visor attachment and a pair of super-strength magnets on the back so it’s easy to stick on and remove when you get in and out of the car. It also works fine with the visor up or down.
It has a big speaker and touch sensitive volume controls on the edge so you can swipe the volume up or down. It also has a companion Android app so it can read texts aloud, but you’d be better off using something like Drive Safe.ly. It also supports Microsoft’s Bing 411 service for things like traffic updates, weather and movie info, but most Android fans will prefer Google’s Voice Search.
The BlueAnt S4 also supports A2DP audio streaming and you can use it for music or navigation. The sound quality is good for calls, but not ideal for music. It comes with a cable and lighter socket plug. You’ll get around 20 hours of talk time from a single charge or a month of standby. It has a power save mode, but it basically means turning the voice control feature off so that you have to touch the device to use it.
We’re not so keen on the design of the BlueAnt S4, it’s a little bigger and less pocket-friendly than the SuperTooth Crystal. It also gets annoying having to say “BlueAnt speak to me” although anyone who struggles to touch a button on the visor without taking their eyes off the road or the wheel might appreciate it.
You can get the BlueAnt S4 for $59 stateside, but it seems to be much pricier in the UK at around £60 or even more (currently £80 on Amazon which is way too expensive).
The Jabra Freeway is a real beast by comparison with our other entries, but there are reasons for the additional bulk. Power up and you’ll get voice guidance to pair your new Jabra Freeway with your smartphone. Pick the device from the Bluetooth menu on your phone and enter the standard 0000 PIN if prompted. You’ll have to wait while it syncs your contacts as well. You can have two devices paired at once.
It clips onto your visor with a rear wire clip so it’s not going to work too well if you need the visor down.
The reason for the size is the fact that the Jabra Freeway has three speakers to create a virtual surround sound effect. It has a big button for answering and ending calls, volume buttons, mute, and then up top you’ve got FM and voice controls. The sound quality is very good and very loud. You also have the option of answering or rejecting calls by simply saying “answer” or “ignore”. You have to hit the voice command button for anything else.
The Jabra Freeway also has A2DP music streaming support and the audio quality is significantly better than its competitors. One nifty feature is the FM transmitter which potentially allows you to play audio through your car speakers. There’s also a motion sensor which wakes it from standby when you get into the car. That’s a good thing to preserve the battery because a single charge only gets you 14 hours of talk time. Standby is better at 40 days.
It’s not the prettiest of designs and it’s not very portable, but if sound quality is everything to you and you want it loud then the Jabra Freeway won’t disappoint. Price wise it’s about £65 on Amazon in the UK and around $115 in the U.S. which is quite expensive compared to our other entries.
For price, design and ease of use we’d pick the SuperTooth Crystal. It’s just a simple, straightforward device that works and if you mostly take calls rather than make them it will suit you down to the ground. Some people will like the voice control features of the BlueAnt S4 and the Jabra Freeway definitely offers the best sound quality. What gets your vote? Or have you tried another Bluetooth speakerphone you preferred? Post a comment and let us know.
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A comparison of Bluetooth Stereo (A2DP) sets would be nice.
I currently use the Jabra Freeway and it has worked great! I also have the BlueAnt S4 and had nothing but issues with it from the device thinking I had said “BlueAnt Speak To Me,” or not springing to life when I did say it. Or disconnecting at the 2 minute mark in battery saving mode and sometimes doing this in the middle of a call. BlueAnt replaced it and it was the same problems with the new model. This occurred with all phones from the HTC Inspire, Motorola Atrix, Samsung Infuse, iPhone 4, 4S, BlackBerry Torch 2, etc. Have not tried using it on any of my newer phones like the Note 2 or Lumia 920. When I posed polite questions to BlueAnt’s Facebook Page about them updating the firmware to resolve these issues I was banned from their Page. That told me everything about that company.