- Removes the need to hold the phone
- no installation required
- automatic phonebook synchronisation
- voice-driven commands.
- Noise reduction can be over-aggressive
- documentation is minimal.
With both legislation and social stigma inhibiting phoning while driving, the next best thing is a hands-free kit. Such devices are usually both intrusive into the fabric of the vehicle and expensive to install. Until now.
Plug Parrot's DriveBlue into your car's 12-volt outlet and, if you've got a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone, you can make and answer calls while on the move. You can set it up to answer calls automatically, removing another distraction from the driving process. And it will, according to Parrot, also work with up to three phones, although we didn't test this.
On first installation, you need to pair your phone and the DriveBlue, whereupon the device synchronises your phonebook -- as long as you have either an Ericsson or a Siemens phone. You then train the DriveBlue's voice commands using the built-in microphone and prompts from the volume-adjustable loudspeaker. After that, you can make hands-free calls.
We found the DriveBlue easy to set up, although the initial synchronisation was a bit of surprise as the minimal documentation on the back if the product's blister pack makes no mention of this. With a full phonebook, synchronising takes a fair amount of time.
In-car voice quality from the DSP-equipped device was both good and loud enough for all but the most extreme situations (you might have problems in an open-top car with a loud exhaust, for example), although reports from the other end of conversations suggest that the system's noise cancellation algorithms are fairly aggressive, cutting in whenever there's a slight gap in speech. If you're calling someone who's also using a DriveBlue, the combination of two noise cancellation systems might make conversation tougher.
On the documentation side, the Web site adds little detail, and the pity is that more attention here would allow users to get more out of the product. For instance, the DriveBlue added an extra menu into our test SonyEricsson T68i to allow it to control the DriveBlue -- more information about that and what the extra options do would have been helpful. We also found, by accident, that pressing and holding the on-hook and off-hook keys together prompts a complete memory erasure without warning.
Overall though, given the clear dangers posed by driving while on the phone, this product goes a long way towards ameliorating the situation without requiring installation.