Obey the ban in car, use nifty hands-free devices


POSTED: Sunday, August 09, 2009

As every Honolulu motorist knows, a ban on drivers using cell phones and other electronic devices went into effect July 1. Still, I still see motorists driving with one hand on the wheel and the other hand holding a phone. If you need to talk while driving, you can still do so legally while using hands-free devices such as Bluetooth headsets and speakerphones.

Here are some Bluetooth devices to consider:

The Aliph Jawbone Prime, at around $100, is the latest incarnation of the highly rated Jawbone (us.jawbone.com), a stylish headset that provides several earbud options to ensure a snug fit. The manufacturer says that the Prime has improved noise-cancellation technology. I like the new Prime, but it's hard to gauge any improvements in sound quality. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The “;old”; Jawbone worked as well as anything I've ever used. It's light and fits securely. In addition to basic black, newer versions come in striking colors — candy apple red, green, yellow and purple. I'm no fashionista, but I did get some unsolicited kudos from people on the street who thought my “;drop me a lime green”; Jawbone was hip.

Less pricey and also highly rated, the Plantronics (http://www.plantronics.com) Voyager Pro ($90) is worthy of consideration. Looking like a telephone operator's headset with a boomlike microphone extension, it earned the highly coveted Editor's Choice award from CNET. It has excellent voice quality (equal to Jawbone) thanks to state-of-the-art software and hardware, which includes windshield protectors. I tested it in my car, window open, and my colleague on the other end of the line could hardly hear any background noise. For such a klunky headset, it was comfortable. Like the Jawbone, it comes with different-size earbuds, but its greater mass made it easier to shake off.

An alternative to a headset is a wireless speakerphone. I've used the BlueAnt Supertooth 3 hands-free speakerphone (starting at $65) for six months and really like it. It has audible notifications that “;read”; your Caller ID and let you know when the device is paired with your phone (among other chores). Occasionally, you do have to shout to be heard, but I often prefer this to wearing a headset. In general the voice quality of the speakerphone is good, but sometimes it's not as clear as a headset. After all, it's a speakerphone. However, most of the time it's plenty good, and BlueAnt 3 (http://www.myblueant.com) does have voice commands to accept calls. (Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.) Female friends tell me they prefer the BlueAnt speakerphone to a headset that can collide with their earrings or mess up their hair.

Clif Miyake, vice president and general manager in Honolulu for tw telecom, can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)