Review: RIM BlackBerry Handsfree Visor Mount Speakerphone

Summary:We usually associate RIM with their BlackBerry smartphones, but lately they have been creating more and more accessories (check out my thoughts on the BlackBerry Premium Multimedia Headset) to optimize the BlackBerry experience. The BlackBerry Visor Mount Speakerphone is a versatile solution that gives you hands-free support in your vehicle. It gives you more functionality than seen in many Bluetooth speakers with a cool integrated FM transmitter. Check out some product photos in my image gallery and my thoughts on using the device below.

We usually associate RIM with their BlackBerry smartphones, but lately they have been creating more and more accessories (check out my thoughts on the BlackBerry Premium Multimedia Headset) to optimize the BlackBerry experience. The BlackBerry Visor Mount Speakerphone is a versatile solution that gives you hands-free support in your vehicle. It gives you more functionality than seen in many Bluetooth speakers with a cool integrated FM transmitter. Check out some product photos in my image gallery and my thoughts on using the device below.


Image Gallery:Check out product photos of the BlackBerry Visor Mount Speakerphone.
Image Gallery: BB Speakerphone and auto adapter
Image Gallery: Back of the Speakerphone

The RIM BlackBerry Handsfree Visor Mount Speakerphone (VM-605) was launched on 8 June, but is showing up as Coming Soon in the BlackBerry Accessory store. I had the chance to try it out with both a BlackBerry Curve 8900 and BlackBerry Storm. Since Washington State requires some kind of hands-free solution I have been using a Jawbone in my car and I do really like it. However, I don't wear it all the time so a speakerphone solution may be a quicker way to access my phone in hands-free mode.

Physical aspects

The review package contained the BlackBerry Visor Mount Speakerphone and a car charging cable/adapter. The car charger is a flexible cable attached to a cigarette lighter/DC power plug that lets you charge the Speakerphone in your car. A full charge should give you up to 13 hours of talk time (1100 mAh battery) and a standard microUSB port is used to charge up the device. RIM reports the device has 240 hours of standby time. If you want to charge the Speakerphone while using it then that is a bit of a problem unless you clip the cable out of the way. My two vehicles have power in the port when the vehicles are turned off so I can charge it while in the store or at home. You can also charge it up using a BlackBerry charger that uses microUSB (like the Curve 8900 and Storm) so I imagine that is what RIM was thinking when they did not include an AC adapter in the package. I like that I can now charge up a BlackBerry smartphone using this same auto cable too.

The BlackBerry Visor Mount Speakerphone is long (4.84 inches), but is quite light at only 3.03 ounces. A stiff wire is attached on the back to allow you to easily slide it over just about any size visor you may have. I tried it on both my Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Ram 2500 and it fit both just fine. A Bluetooth 2.0 radio is integrated into the device.

The front of the device is where all the action takes place with a glossy black upper portion that serves as the button (think SurePress here) with indicator lights along the top. The four LED indicators are used to show battery level, active call status, Bluetooth connection, and FM transmitter connection.

After mounting the Visor Mount Speakerphone, you will find the microUSB port on the right along with the volume toggle. On the left side you will find the FM transmitter button. The speaker takes up most of the bottom of the front of the device and is quite loud.

Performance

You will need a BlackBerry device with version 4.22 or later to use the BlackBerry Visor Mount Speakerphone with a BlackBerry device, but that list is quite extensive if you check out their site. I also used it with my iPhone 3GS, couple Windows Mobile devices, and a Nokia N97, as I will discuss later.

After turning on the Visor Mount Speakerphone to get into pairing mode (press and hold until you hear "pairing mode" announced) I then simply made sure my Bluetooth radio was enabled on the phone and entered 0000 if the device needed this. A couple of Windows Mobile devices I tried entered the code automatically so nothing was needed from me to pair up.

In the future (after pairing has been done) you simply press and hold the front panel for four seconds to turn off the Speakerphone and press and hold it for two seconds to turn it back on. Here are some other front panel presses and actions:

  • To answer a call, tap the front panel once.
  • To end a call, tap the front panel once.
  • To ignore call you press and hold for one second.
  • To mute a call you press and hold for one second after a call is answered.
  • To turn off mute, you press volume up or down quickly.
  • To redial, you press the front panel twice.
  • To move a call to your handset, press and hold front panel until you hear a beep during a call.

I found incoming calls to sound good (calls are announced by the speakerphone in a female voice) and people mentioned my outgoing calls were fine, but they could tell I was on a speakerphone device. I thought it was very easy to use the device and had no issues using the volume button or front panel "button".

Nine languages are supported (US English, UK English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Mexican Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, & Chinese) and I my review unit was initially set to English UK since the female voice sounded very proper and British to my ears. You can change the language by going back into pairing mode (as I mentioned earlier) and holding the FM button until you hear the current language. After that announcement is made, you just hit the volume up or down button to select the language you want to use.

Since I really do not make or receive a ton of calls, I actually found using the Visor Mount Speakerphone for listening to podcasts and streaming music content to be a more compelling reason to have the device. I listen to several podcasts and enjoyed them right on the Speakerphone. You can also listen to your GPS navigation system through this so you can actually hear the directions.

A cool feature additional feature is the FM transmitter that is included. With this you can transfer audio content to your automobile stereo system. I actually found this FM transmitter to work better than the integrated FM transmitter in my Nokia N97 as audio quality was better. The FM airwaves are pretty jammed in my area and that may contribute to the difficulty in finding solid signals. I do like the way the BB Visor Mount Speakerphone simply announces a FM channel that you then turn your radio to in order to tune in. You can also simply switch to another channel by pressing and holding the Volume Up key until you hear "searching" on the Visor Mount Speakerphone.

If you want to listen to your podcasts or streaming Pandora/Slacker content on your car stereo system, the BlackBerry Visor Mount Speakerphone works quite well for this purpose. The audio isn't as good as a direct connection, but it is better than any FM transmitter I have tested out before.

I also used this BlackBerry Speakerphone with other devices (Nokia N97, iPhone 3GS, Pharos Traveler 137, and more) and it worked like a champ for calls and podcast/streaming music enjoyment. Remember, the new iPhone 3GS has Bluetooth A2DP/stereo support so this is why the music part worked.

Price

The BlackBerry Handsfree Visor Mount Speakerphone should be available soon for $99.99. You may find it from other online retailers for less too.

Conclusion

RIM is doing a good job with these new accessories as they try to help BlackBerry customers have a complete BlackBerry experience. The BlackBerry Visor Mount Speakerphone worked better than I thought it would and I was especially pleased with the FM transmitter performance. The $100 price may seem a bit high, but you do get a very functional speakerphone with good volume, a FM transmitter, a standard microUSB charging port, a sleek design, and good long battery life.

Topics: Hardware, BlackBerry, Mobility

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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