You might think you have a handsfree car speakerphone … but is it really? The folks at BlueAnt would argue not – pointing to the number of buttons you have to interact with at some stage in using it – and the subsequently point to their new BlueAnt S4 True HandsFree and proudly stating “Look Mom No Hands!”
“Really hands free?” you might wonder? Yes really, due to the slightly odd trigger phrase “BlueAnt Speak to Me”, which is admittedly easy to remember and unlikely to come up in casual conversation. The trigger phrase primes the S4 for a range of activities. So for examples saying “Phone Commands” will activate your phone voice dialling features. Like the S3, the S4 has a reasonable degree of slur and mumble tolerance built in and seemed to work ok with my limited range of regional accents. Again, like the S3, the S4 will read out the name of number of whoever is calling and allow you to answer or ignore the call – simply by saying “Answer” or “Ignore”.
There’s a lot of Android and Blackberry love going on at BlueAnt towers and the S4 integrates with with Vlingo SafeReader, which automatically reads aloud incoming text messages (this obviously depends on your handset and OS). Or if you’re on Android there is a dedicated BlueAnt app that does the same thing – as well as help and support for your S4 (although it’s pretty easy to use and will talk you through set up).
It wouldn’t be a BlueAnt device if they didn’t make a point of “booming audio” and true to their promises, the S4’s full duplex, high volume speaker and all the wind, road and background noise technology crammed into the little device makes the sound quality reasonably robust.
The BlueAnt S4 True Handsfree is out now from www.blueant.co.uk
BlueAnt, makers of the super tough T1 bluetooth headset and the super cool Q2 bluetooth headset have leapt from your ear to your car dashboard with the S3 Compact Bluetooth Car Speakerphone.
About the same size as a BlackBerry Bold with a big fat clip at the back, the S3 is a multipoint speakerphone that – in a similar fashion to it’s in-ear cousins – will talk you through set up from the moment you turn it on. Installation is a case of finding somewhere to attach the big fat clip – generally your car sun visor.
If you’re popular enough to get calls the S3 will announce the caller’s name or number (which is handy if you have more important things to be looking at … like the road) and you have to reply with “Answer” or “Ignore” for action. I did a non-scientific mumble test and the S3 seemed to demand a reasonable level of clarity – it couldn’t decipher my teenage boy level of mumbles but was fine with slightly rushed or slurred speech.
There is a pretty cool vibration sensor that can detect when you get back into the car and then automatically reconnects your phone. The sound quality is good – with wind, noise and echo cancellation technologies all combining to provide what BlueAnt refer to as “loud, booming” audio. You can also use it as a multipoint device, connecting passenger and driver devices. You could technically listen to music or a podcast through the S3, but you’d have to have a pretty rubbish built-in car stereo system for this to be an option. More realistically, you can listen back to turn-by-turn GPS apps guide you safely from A-to-B.
BlueAnt claim you can get 20 hours talk time and 600 hours standby off a 3 hour charge, and testing seemed to bear this out.
Remember the BlueAnt T1, the rugged little Bluetooth headset we threw around here. Well, slightly more fancy but just as powerful is the Q2. The T1 claimed to be the toughest Blutooth headset and the Q2 has the ever bolder claim that it is the best Bluetooth headset ever made, which is a perhaps a little self aggrandising.
However, the call quality is excellent undeniably excellent and the voice recognition worked reasonably well – I’m a self confessed mumbler so I’m impressed if anything is understood by man or machine. You can pretty much drive the whole device with voice controls – including dialling and answering. If you have rich, stentorian tones then the Q2 should play along nicely.
Also handy is the ability to read out SMS messages and announce callers, although this has to be supported by your handset. Despite the T1’s rugged label, I didn’t hear any significant difference between the wind proofing on the T1 and the Q2 and the Q2 has a slightly nicer look to it.
Set up is remarkably simple and it would be hard for them to include more hand holding. Stick the Q2 in your ear and it will talk you through all the steps. The Q2 comes partially charged and set to pair mode so you can get down to business pretty much straight away.
As you’d expect the Q2 has A2DP support and you can get 5 hours talk time and 100 hours of standby on a 3 hour charge. Not too shabby. The headset is lightweight and unobtrusive and it’s easy to forget it’s there until you catch a glimpse of yourself in a reflective surface and see how ridiculous you look – a problem endemic to all Bluetooth headsets.
Either way, if you’re into Bluetooth handsets, then take a look at what BlueAnt has to offer.
Bluetooth headsets get a bit of a bad rap – mostly because they make you look at little bit silly (make up your own tired reference to the Borg and Bankers). But they are useful when you want to have hands-free chat. And as the technology and design improves, the arguments against using them vs the convenience offered by some of the more cutting edge headsets makes the case for popping one in becomes more and more compelling. BlueAnt asked us to have a look at their T1 headset, so we braved the mockery of others and gave it a go.
The T1 is labelled as “rugged” and boast of clear audio at wind speeds up to 22 Miles/hour. I don’t have an anemometer to hand, but it held up on a particularly windy walk down the Thames and a very unpleasant walk along a busy highway (see how I suffer for you guys!). This is apparently the industry’s best and it was noticeably better than the Jawbone Icon I compared it with. As the name suggests, it’s also a study piece of kit and I felt fairly comfortable tossing it around – i.e., with my keys into my drawer, not hurling it against a wall. I’m not mad.
The T1 will also tell you who is calling – or at least try to. It struggled valiantly but failed when my friend Qiongfang called. There is also A2DP so you can work with GPS turn by turn directions or listen to podcasts – I threw in some earwolf.com shows and they were perfectly pleasant. There is a BlueAnt Android T1 app that I didn’t get to test as my Android phone was out of action (oddly enough that *was* thrown against the wall in what is a long story).