Driving around while seemingly talking to an imaginary friend in the front seat is no longer strange, and in California, it's the law. But "hands-free" can still be painful for the other half of the conversation, and the ear you choose to clip a gadget onto. The Aura Mobile BT from Spracht is a Bluetooth conference phone that works just as well in the car as it does in your hotel room-turned-office. On a three-hour trek through northern California driving 80 mph in a noisy car, we tested whether it's worth the $129.99 price tag.
Over the course of eight or so calls, there was universal agreement that the sound quality was better than putting a cell phone on speaker or the average Bluetooth headpiece. People on the other line could still tell it was on speaker, but the words didn't appear chopped and there was no need to repeat constantly. Several felt that there was less ambient noise. A few key technical specs from Spracht:
- full-duplex (93%) operation for simultaneous two-way conversations without clipping
- multiple acoustic profiles, which are automatically adjusted based on the type of communication.
- full 3-wattamplifier
- dual speakers generating 95 dB
- noise-cancelling internal microphone at 44 db ± 4 dB
- 4 hours talk time on a single charge, standby time 24 hours
No software is necessary to get started, and the cell phone connected quickly and easily. A slick embedded visor clip deploys out of the speaker bottom for use in the car, ensuring you won't lose some add-on accessory. The spring-loaded design collapses it back into the device for use on a table or desk. Placing calls still requires using the phone keypad, but maybe a voice-activated model will come next? Incoming calls ring quite loudly, but a slight disappointment was finding no ringer options. However, if the incoming call registers in your address book, the Aura Mobile will actually read out the name (so be careful with your nicknames). A car charger is included for long trips.
For corporate folks, the conference-room capability is also worth noting and probably justifies the cost. Putting a standard cell phone on speaker only works if everyone in the room is within six inches of the microphone. The Aura Mobile eliminates that need, and slips easily into your computer bag. It also functions with PCs or Macs for VoIP calls. So is it worth the $129.99? Tough to say, but it's still hanging on our visor.
This review seems to need at least one rewrite. For example, please explain "93%" and let's insert a space between "watt" and "amplifier." And what does "better than the average Bluetooth headpiece" mean? Does this mean an "above average" headset is better than this visor clip-on? I'd also like you to clarify the innuendo "still hanging on our visor" -- does this mean Wired kept the review unit or purchased one for a corporate car or just that the reviewer arbitrarily snagged the review unit as a perk? (Which would make the question about value a little absurd.)
Wouldn't it make sense to compare this to other visor clip-on units previously tested? I'm just one consumer, but I have a junk box with two bluetooth ear-piece units (useless junk) from Motorola, the wired kind "in the box" from Apple (functional, but messy) as well as a stereo headset with boom mic from Logitech (illegal for road use and requires "geek" setup skills to use it's rather arcane features and functionality) as well as a Motorola visor clip-on bluetooth handsfree (which is pretty damn good, but still not good enough for a relaxed conversation or an important client call) and my current favorite solution is just to stop the car and focus on the conversation if it's important, otherwise, it can wait. Multi-tasking isn't as important as not dying and not killing someone. After all, the thing that makes a driver distracted and dangerous is not physically holding the phone to their ear, it's their attention to the conversation. If you're going to have a phone call of more than "I'm a bit late" or "Got milk?" then just don't do it at 80 mph ... even if you're a product tester for Wired. : )
By the way, I enjoy a "conversational" writing style for a review, but not when it's vague, ambiguous and generally not helpful, especially when testing consumer products where a more thorough and specific review will separate the expensive doodads from the worthwhile gadgets.
I am not convinced that talking whilst driving the car is anysafe with handsfree. I sense that there will be some accidents relating to this and I am certain some countries have laws the prohibit any talking on a mobile device. Is this correct?