Look Ma, No Hands

Starting next year in California, you can get a ticket for driving and using a cell phone, unless you use a hands-free device. (“CVC 23123”:http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc23123.htm) I’ve done a little research, and found a few products that I like and recommend to do the job. All of the devices listed here are “Bluetooth”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluetooth devices, since all of my phones are Bluetooth capable. If you have a phone that isn’t Bluetooth capable, there are adapters that let you use Bluetooth devices, or you can get a new phone. 😉

The simplest to get started with, and the cheapest, option is a headset. I’ve tried lots, and most of them suck, especially the ones the cell phone companies like to sell. I recently discovered the “Plantronics Voyagerâ„¢ 510 Bluetooth® Headset”:http://www.plantronics.com/north_america/en_US/products/cat1150057/cat5420035/prod5460010 and it is the first one I’ve found that is comfortable, easy to use, and sounds good. It can also be used with the “Plantronics Voyagerâ„¢ 500A Deskphone Adapter”:http://www.plantronics.com/north_america/en_US/products/cat1150057/cat1150057/prod29870005 to connect it to your desk phone. This allows you to use a single wireless headset with both your phones. I try not to be on the phone that much, but I know people who are. The headset will run you between $50 and $80.

The biggest problem I find with headsets is if you aren’t wearing one already, they are distracting and difficult to put on before it’s too late. (That sounds dirtier than it is.) If you are driving and your phone rings, the call goes to voice mail (or you hit a tree) before you can get the headset on. For these situations, I find car kits to be a much better solution. My favorite car kit was the Nokia CARK-91H, because it was a drop in cradle that charged the phone, had an external antenna connection, tied directly to my truck’s speakers, and it had a separate handset for those private moments. (Of course use of the handset while driving is contrary to the purpose.) When I was forced to get a new phone, there were no longer any phones available that were compatible with it, but I started to really miss the convenience.

I finally found a line of Bluetooth car kits that work well made by a company called “Parrot”:http://www.parrot.com/usa and installed one in my truck. I chose the “CK3100”:http://www.parrot.com/usa/products/ck3100-lcd because I wanted a display for caller information, but I was too cheap to spring for a color display model. They have models to fit every needs, from a simple one that plugs into a lighter socket, to full color with GPS receivers for those of you with PDA-phones. They even sell devices to allow the use of your steering wheel controls to place calls. Most of their hands-free devices support voice recognition, so you can do voice dialing, even if your phone doesn’t, and some even voice announce calls, so you don’t have to look at the display to see who’s calling. If you don’t like to cut into your vehicles wires (who does?), there are custom wiring harnesses made by “Quick Connect Products”:http://www.quickharness.com/donotcut.html to connect Parrot car kits to just about any vehicle with little or no cutting and splicing. The car kits range in price from $50-$300, depending on features, and the wiring harnesses are $50-$150 depending on your vehicle.