BlueAnt debuts S4, first voice-activated Bluetooth car speaker

With voice control, BlueAnt's new S4 is a truly hands-free Bluetooth car speakerphone.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

As more and more U.S. states enact hands-free mobile phone laws (we're at six so far, mostly in the Northeast), it's not a bad idea to buy a Bluetooth accessory for your phone.

I've never been a fan of Bluetooth headsets -- they're great for conference calls while telecommuting, but I'm not a big walk-and-talk guy -- but I've always thought car speakers were a different story.

On Monday, BlueAnt introduced the S4, which it calls the "first true hands-free, voice-controlled Bluetooth car speakerphone."

At first glance, the claim seems silly -- the point of a car speakerphone is that it's hands-free. But BlueAnt is bringing its signature voice-activated technology (seen on its Q1 headset) to the vehicle, so you really, truly don't have to touch anything.

All you have to do is say the following: "BlueAnt, speak to me," and it's ready to do your bidding. (You automotive dictator, you!)

The device operates with voice commands. So saying "Call Mom" will indeed call your mother, and if Mom's calling you on your way to pick up the kids, the S4 will read out her name and ask you if you want to answer. (The moment of truth: "Answer" or "Ignore"? Choose wisely.)

The S4 uses text-to-speech, or TTS, technology to accomplish this feat, and can store up to 2,000 phonebook entries from each paired mobile phone.

Better still, a partnership with Vlingo allows you hear SMS messages and even e-mail with supported BlackBerry and Android 2.0 smartphones -- though I don't recommend reading messages from the boss while driving. (It's not good for your blood pressure.)

There are other extras on the S4, including access to stock quotes (again, the blood pressure...), movie times, weather, sports, news and traffic updates using Microsoft Bing.

With A2DP connectivity, the S4 can pipe your smartphone's turn-by-turn directions through its speaker.

Like the Q1 -- which I reviewed back in May 2009 -- it's easy to set up, and does so by voice. The device itself is fairly sleek -- industrial design is a BlueAnt strength -- and is unobtrusive. The company rates the device at up to 20 hours talk time and 700 hours standby.

It's available at Best Buy beginning May 23 and at AT&T stores on June 6 for $99.99.

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