Bluetooth devices to help you talk and drive smarter
They are the mantras of defensive driving and driver's education courses – keep your hands at ten and two; hands on the wheel, eyes on the road. Those common-sense instructions are easy to remember and sound easy to do, but in today's always-connected world, most people don't want to turn off their phone when driving.
If safety isn't enough to persuade some drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, the government wants to persuade them. New laws are popping up across the United States and in many other countries that make texting or talking on a phone in your hand while driving illegal, threatening stiff fines for anyone caught.
Fortunately, there are many new products to help you keep your hands on the wheel while you talk and drive. Electronics makers have released dozens of hands-free calling devices that clip on your car's sun visor and pair with your mobile phone.
These allow you to answer and make calls without ever touching your phone. Some operate with voice recognition, meaning you never even have to touch the device, making it truly hands-free by operating it just with your voice.
These clip-on devices are Bluetooth enabled, allowing them to work wirelessly with your phone after a one-time pairing procedure. Most cost less than $100, making them an affordable way to do hands-free calling in your car.
Hands-free systems built into your new car
At the other end of the cost spectrum, most new cars now offer a Bluetooth enabled hands-free system as standard or optional equipment. While buying a new car isn't the most affordable way to get a hands-free system, if you're already in the market for a new car or truck, a built-in system usually offers the best overall calling solution.
Hands-free calling systems vary widely from one car manufacturer to the next. Variables include whether the car has a flat-panel display, call buttons on the steering wheel, and so on. The best hands-free systems in today's new vehicles push the state-of-the-art with simple phone pairing, easy-to-hear phone conversations through your car's speakers, and intuitive call buttons on your steering wheel (which let you answer and make calls without ever taking your hands off the wheel).
Some hands-free car systems can even import all the contacts, appointments, and other information from your phone, letting you view them on your car's flat-panel display. You can often phone contacts with a voice command — just by saying "Phone home," for example. Many luxury cars have large flat-panel displays that make it easy to see your contacts and other calling information.
Before the advent of hands-free calling devices that clip onto your visor or come built into your car, Bluetooth enabled headsets were the only way to have a hands-free call. They're still the most popular method of hands-free calling, since so many people already own a Bluetooth enabled headset. You can also use your headset anywhere — not just in your car.