Is a Bluetooth hands-free kit a good option for your car?
I’ve been toying with the idea of Bluetooth enabled hands-free kits for a while. I have a Jawbone Bluetooth Headset, I used it briefly and found I didn’t like it due to various reasons – Looks, continual charging, looks. But I don’t like the idea of using a mobile phone whilst driving and often do need to receive or need to make calls whilst driving and wanted to investigate what was out there which would enable me to do so within the confines of the law, to that end I’m going to check out the Parrot Minikit+ Hands Free Car kit.
The Minikit+ comes with the main unit, a removeable wire clip, a black elasticised band with a pocket to allow the wire clip to slip into, USB Charging cable, Car Charger with USB port and a manual. The unit was flat when it arrived, so I charged it, when charging a red LED lights up and turns off to tell you when Charging is completed, this takes a little over 3.5 hours.
To install the unit You attach the wire clip to the unit and then slip the provided black band over the sunvisor in your car, to pair the unit you turn it on by pressing the button located in the middle of the navigation dial and holding it in for 2 seconds, it will then prompt you to pair your device. You do so by enabling Bluetooth on your phone and then selecting the Minikit+ and pair using the standard 0000 code. You’re then prompted on your phone to upload your phonebook, note any entries in your phonebook that are stored on your SIM card are not paired with the device.
- Simple installation
- Vibration detection wakeup
- 15 Day Battery Standby
- Dual connection needs work
- Text To Speech is a little, off
- Wire Clip is finicky to attach
The Minikit+ automatically shuts off if no phone has been connected to it for 5 minutes to save on battery life, this paired with the fact that Parrot has included a vibration detection system in the MiniKit+ which when it detects movement as in you entering the car it will wakeup and wait for a Bluetooth connection to be made, excellent idea Parrot I love the concept. I’m not sure whether I would actually leave this unit in the car as such an easily removable electrical item may invite the local thugs to take an unhealthy interest in my car.
Voice quality of calls is pretty decent it works quite well and you can understand people very easily so the transmission between phone and Minikit+ is without any faults that I found. Music did sound a little low quality but this is expected but managed to play both music and podcasts using the Minikit+ with no issues whatsoever it was a pleasant experience actually in my little Mirage which has an audio system best described as sub-par, it has only AM radio and a tape-deck for which I own no tapes and have no inclination to make myself a mix-tape so the easy addition of the MiniKit+ to the sunvisor allowed me to simply get in the car, sit the phone on the NFC tag which enables bluetooth and press play on PocketCasts.
The unit is actually pretty well solid, the voice detection is a little hit and miss at times, especially the voice reading back names in your phonebook when it advises you who it is calling. If the name is not a common name you can get some pretty funky pronunciations. A tip when initiating a call is to also wait for the beep before speaking the name.
The Minikit allows for two phones to be connected at the same time, usage wise I had a few issues with making and receiving calls when two phones are connected. I connected my phone by itself, was able to make and receive calls with no issues, I connected a second phone and uploaded the address book and was only able to make calls from the first address book, once I disconnected the first phone I was able to make calls using the second address book. Once I reconnected the first phone the Minikit would say it was calling a contact from the first phones address book but no call would be initiated, when calling the first phone it would only receive calls on the phone not on the MiniKit. I tried this a number of times with the same result, perhaps it was just me but it’s something that could possibly be looked at.
Only gripe with installation was there was no diagram of how to attach the wire clip to the device, not terribly important as it can only be attached one of two ways so that is easily sorted but still it would have been nice to see that diagram in the start guide. The wire ends could also do with a rubberised coating to lessen the chance of scratching the device inadvertently but as you will only do this once it isn’t something which warrants too much worry.
This will sound petty and it is really but having to refer to a mobile phone as a Cell phone just bugs me. I know the reasons behind it -R&D is mainly done in the US where they say Cell Phone instead of Mobile Phone, but it still just annoys me. For a device in this price range I see no reason why Parrot would invest money in localising either the voice or the terminology used, as I said petty.
My only other gripe is with the power situation, the fact that this unit allows me to play my music/podcasts wirelessly through it brings into question the power situation. Having Bluetooth enabled on your Phone means that you will need to charge it if using the MiniKit+ whilst travelling for any extended period of time, this means that a double adapter car charger would be an excellent upgrade to the provided accessories. Not terribly important but something to bear in mind.
- Dual Mode Simultaneous connection of two Bluetooth Phones
- Number of contacts: 2 000 per phone
total of 20 000
- Text To Speech: speech synthesis of the
names in the phonebook
- Multi-speaker voice recognition
- Bluetooth v2.0 + EDR
- CPU: Parrot P6i @ 416 MHz
- RAM = 128 Mbits
- Full duplex
- 3 buttons, including 1 rotary button
- 2 LEDs: green LED and red LED
- Battery: lithium-ion, maximum charging time
of 3.5 hours
- Battery life: over 12 hours’ talk time
over 15 days on standby
- 110x60x29mm @ 83grams
I found the Minikit+ at Strike for $109 + postage, with some shopping around I’m sure you could find it even cheaper. For the price though the MiniKit+ is a pretty good buy, the setup and installation is easy. Usage is very straight forward and the functionality offered means that this would make an excellent gift or purchase to someone who regularly needs to use their phone whilst driving and has no pre-installed Bluetooth solution in their car. Quite simply the Minikit+ is a good buy.