Motorola Roadster Bluetooth hands free car kit review

motorola roadster

The Motorola Roadster Bluetooth hands free car kit is one of the smallest on the market, with one of the best feature sets.

Times are changing – and it is no longer socially (or legally) acceptable to be driving around with your phone in one hand and your steering wheel in the other. Sure, not all cities or states have introduced legal measures to ban the use of your phone without a hands free unit or headset, but there is no denying that it is much safer to use some basic technology.

The basics are all there in the Roadster – it’ll do hands free calls, incoming caller announcement and features a smart power management system and multi-point connections (which let you connect to more than one phone at a time). The Roadster comes with a MicroUSB charger cord, and since most phones also feature this connector, you can consider that a decent bonus.

As soon as you turn the Roadster on, it plays a pleasant little tune, and a female voice walks you through the paring process. Once paired, the voice will announce the name of the paired phone each time you activate it.motorola roadster

Controls are simple – a sliding power switch on the side means you don’t need to fiddle around with buttons to turn it on. Volume and music is controlled with buttons on the rear, and a call control/mute button lineup is on the front.

Calls sound fantastic – thanks to active echo cancellation and dual microphones with noise cancellation. If you pair the Roadster to a phone with the Motospeak software, you’ll even have access to text message dictation (as found on some of their other Bluetooth products). Volume is more than sufficient, even if you drive around in a noisy car or with the window open.

Now for the fun part – the Roadster can transmit its speaker to an FM frequency. This means you can use your car stereo speakers to listen to phone calls. The FM is extremely powerful, and even when set to a frequency close to an active station, there was almost no interference.

motorola roadster

The unit clips to your visor and stays in place quite nicely. Because of the curved front, the control buttons are always in reach.

Best of all, the Roadster also lets you stream stereo Bluetooth music to the unit or the FM transmitter. With this, you can get in a (rental) car, stream your tunes to the Roadster and broadcast them to the car stereo speakers.

Battery life is an impressive 20 hours of talk time or 3 weeks of standby. You do not need to turn the unit off each time you leave your car either – as soon as it detects a lack of Bluetooth phones in range, it’ll go into standby mode. Enter your car, and it turns on again.

The Roadster is available directly from Motorola ($99.99 + 10% discount) or from Amazon.com ($64.88).

Review: Jawbone ICON Earwear Collection Bluetooth headset

Jawbone Icon

Ah, the Bluetooth headset – the kind of gadget you either love or hate. If you love them, you’ll probably have one stuck to your head 24/7. The Jawbone series of headsets from Aliph have long been considered the best of the best in Bluetooth – and rightfully so. Even in its first version back in 2006, Jawbone headsets used technology not found on any other headset.

Since then, Jawbone headsets have come a long way – and the newest generation not only improves on the sound quality, but also reduces the size of the headset. In this review, we’ll take a look at the new Jawbone ICON Suede.

Right away, the ICON headset grabs your attention – it is small, and the outer silver plastic shell is wavy. On the back of the headset is the signature bone conducting sensor, earpiece and a physical on/off switch. On the top are several microphones, and a multi-function button is on top, just above a MicroUSB charge/connection port.

Comfort is high on my list of expectations from any Bluetooth headset, and the ICON really does deliver. Inside its box is a variety of earpieces and an earloop. With these, you can fit the headset using a silicone earbud or an earbud with hook. The earbuds all come in several sizes.

Charging the headset is simple – an AC charger is included, along with a neat rigid/flexible MicroUSB cable. This allows you to charge the ICON using wall power, or your computer.Jawbone Icon

The USB cable also lets you connect the headset to your PC to use with the MyTALK suite of applications. More on that in a moment.

Sound quality is obviously just as important as comfort – and once again, the Jawbone Icon does not disappoint. Even in the nosiest environment, callers on the other end of the line commented how clear I sounded. At one point I was driving with my car window open, and the wind barely made an impact on the call quality. Of course, the more unwanted noise the headset has to cancel, the more muffled the call may become – but it beats the alternative.

Jawbone Icon

The Jawbone MyTALK feature is quite brilliant. This web based application suite lets you configure settings on your headset, load new text to speech voices, and even load new Dial Apps. These apps provide instant access to frequently dialed numbers, voice dialing, 411 services and even online notation services. Blackberry users can add a battery meter. Take things even further by adding instant access to music stations like AOL Radio and you’ll extend your headset way beyond what most other brands offer.

Other features inside the headset include support for A2DP streaming music and spoken instructions – yes – the headset will read caller ID and its battery level to you. Of course, it also supports multi-point connections, allowing you to connect to more than one device at the same time.

If new features are released, the MyTALK site can even take care of firmware updates for your headset, making it futureproof.

Of course, all these neat features come at a price – the Jawbone ICON retails for $99. However, with excellent sound quality, good looks and a variety of apps and other updateable features, this may very well be the last headset you ever need.

The new Jawbone ICON Earwear collection is available in four styles. To learn more about the Jawbone headsets, to compare models, or to place an order, head on over to Jawbone.com.

Review: Callpod Onyx and Vetro Bluetooth headsets

The world of Bluetooth headsets is relatively boring – the vast majority of headsets look dull and offer only mediocre functionality. Because of this, I’ll usually skip the chance to review most of them – and only focus on headsets with something not found elsewhere. This explains why this review will take a closer look at the Callpod Onyx and Vetro Bluetooth headsets.

Inside these headsets are several features that make them stand out in the busy headset market, along with a couple of features that can really benefit travelers.

The most important feature is the extended range – 50 meters / 164ft. With this extended range, you’ll be able to leave your phone in your bag, and not have to worry about crackling phone calls or dropping the connection with your phone.

The second smart feature is the ability to operate as a walkie-talkie between two Callpod headsets. Of course, real life usage for this is rather limited, but with the extended range, you could walk through a mall, and stay in touch with someone else, without having to make an expensive phone call.

Both headsets offer the same feature package, the differences are mostly cosmetic. The Onyx headset features a metal finish and comes with an AC charger, USB charger cord, Chargepod MicroUSB plug and a replacement earbud and earhook.

The Vetro features a slick clear cover and comes with an AC charger, car charger, USB charger cord, Chargepod MicroUSB plug and a replacement gummy earbug and earhook.

Call quality on the headsets was above average – mostly thanks to the louder than normal volume and dual-microphones. The promise of extended range was not broken – in my tests, the headsets did indeed reach much further than any of the other headsets I tested to compare. The 50 meter rating is clearly only in open spaces with no obstructions, because as soon as walls get in the way, range decreases quickly.

My only complaint is in the controls – most functions are performed with a rocker switch on the back, along with a second button on the top. This second button is rather hard to push. And unlike some other brands, there is no physical on/off switch on either of these headsets.

The Callpod Onyx retails for $69.99, and the Vetro for $99.99, and at these prices you are suddenly in the realm of headsets like the Plantronics Voyager Pro and the Motorola HX1 – both outstanding performers. Bottom line is that while the Onyx and Vetro perform very well, most of the purchase decision will be based on design and taste. The inclusion of additional accessories with the Onyx and Vetro does add quite a bit of value.

New and improved nio Bluetooth tag keeps track of your belongings

Last year, Gadling was one of the first sites in the world to bring you a full review of the nio Bluetooth property security tag. Since then, several other companies have popped up with similar products, but nio remains the first to market, giving them quite a bit of street cred. Almost a year has passed since that review, and this week, nio released version 2.0 of their tag, along with upgraded software options.

In the original review, the tag hardware worked perfectly, but the software appeared to be a tad buggy – I’m happy to report that those issues are long gone. I’ve taken the original nio tag on a couple of trips with the latest Android app, and it hasn’t failed me once.

If you missed the review last year – let me remind you what nio can do. The tag tethers to your mobile phone, and stays in constant contact with the software app. As soon as the two are separated, alarms sound on the tag and on your phone. This makes it ideal for monitoring luggage, digital cameras and even kids. Inside the nio tag is also a motion sensor, which allows you to keep an even closer watch on a bag – perfect if you think you might take a nap in an airport lounge.

The new nio tag looks slicker – the original nio tag looked a little “industrial”, but the new 2.0 nio is more rounded and just looks nicer. Weight and general size are the same.

As I previously mentioned, the software used to be a little buggy – but the new apps are brilliant. Apps are available for Windows Mobile (up to 6.5) Blackberry, Symbian S60, Java and Android. Inside the software, you can monitor up to two tags at the same time.

The software controls every aspect of the nio tag – the only button on the tag is a small reset button. Powering tags on or off, resetting alarms, creating a monitoring schedule and enabling the locator beep or motion detector is all done inside the app.

Using nio on a trip

On a trip, using nio is very easy – before you leave, you turn nio on, and your phone keeps in touch with the tag. As long as you and your bags are not separated, you’ll be fine. But as soon as the distance between the two is too great, it’ll set off the alarm.

This obviously means you run the risk of an alarm mid-flight – which means it is very important to turn nio off when you board the plane. If you follow the crew member instructions, you’ll be turning your phone off, and the loss of Bluetooth means the tag will think you’ve abandoned it, setting off the alarm. So – open the app, and turn off the tag as soon as you board the plane. Alternatively, you can set up a scheduled alarm which will turn the device off during your flight.

Nio charges off MiniUSB, and a charger cord is included (but no AC charger) so you’ll need to use an existing AC adapter or plug into your computer.

Final thoughts

The original nio was very good, but the newly designed tag and updated software make it a real winner. At $59.95 it is well priced (apps are free to download) and a worthy investment if you regularly travel with expensive gear. The tag is reliable, and in my tests, it triggered an alarm every time it was expected.

To learn more about nio, or to purchase your own tag, head on over to bluenio.com.

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Jabra CRUISER Bluetooth hands-free speakerphone reviewed

Depending on where you live, the law may prohibit using your mobile phone without a headset or speakerphone. And even if the law is on your side, driving around while trying to juggle your phone is just not a good idea. So, to keep you and everyone else on the road a bit safer, we’ve taken the Jabra CRUISER car speakerphone for a ride.

The CRUISER is a very compact device, on the top are a couple of buttons, on the side is a charger port and power switch, and on the back is a flexible metal clip for attaching the speakerphone to your visor.

Using the CRUISER is simple – you turn it on, and pair your mobile phone. This pairing process is a one-time thing, and is made easy thanks to clear voice prompts from the unit. The power switch is a “real” switch, and you can leave it on as much as you want, because it turns off if your phone is out of range for more than ten minutes. A quick tap of the call button turns it on again.

Where the CRUISER excels is in call quality and features. Lets face it – you’ll never get amazing call quality out of something this small, but it does come damn close. The CRUISER features dual microphones and a variety of noise canceling technologies, so even if you are making a call while driving 65 down the interstate, it’ll sound pretty good for both sides of the call.

Audio can be sent to the internal speaker or to your car stereo using the built in FM transmitter. And to be honest, this FM transmitter is one of the best I’ve ever come across. The unit first scans the FM ether, then tells you what to tune your radio to. Best of all, it supports RDS, so when you have it tuned on a car stereo with RDS, you’ll see the incoming phone number on the display of you car stereo..

To top it all off, the CRUISER also supports Bluetooth stereo music streaming, either to the built in speaker, or over FM. This means you can listen to the music on your mobile (smart)phone and beam it to your radio. If you are on the road, you can bring the CRUISER to your hotel room and use it as a conference speakerphone or music speaker.

The CRUISER charges using microUSB, and a long car charger cord is included. Best of all, even though its MSRP is $99.99, you’ll find it online for well under $50, at places like Amazon.com.

I’ve covered over 2000 miles with the Jabra CRUISER, and am highly impressed with how reliable it has been. It never drops calls or fails to connect, and the music streaming feature is absolutely perfect for rental cars where you usually don’t get an iPod or line-in jack. The low price just makes it even better.

Unless you already have a Bluetooth headset or built-in Bluetooth system, the investment in the Jabra should be easy to justify, and your fellow drivers will be grateful. To find retailers, or to learn more about this product, head on over to the Jabra CRUISER mini site.