I have to say that there aren't a lot of recent motoring laws with which I wholeheartedly agree but the ban on using hand-held mobile phones is one that has my total approval. I cannot believe the number of drivers who still flout it. You see them everywhere and it is absolutely clear that they are in no way in control of the vehicle they are supposed to be driving. Why is the Fuzz never around to book these clowns?
I have always insisted on using a hands-free device in my car, even before it became the law to do so. Over the years I have used a few different ones with greater or lesser success. These have ranged from built-in units through to plug-in ones and even simple personal earphones. The built-in ones I have used have been only in company cars. Since I have been running my own car I have avoided such modifications because of the potential effect on the resale value of the car.
Until recently I used a Nokia HF-8 Handsfree, provided by my company along with the phone, a Nokia 3310. This is a plug-in unit containing a speaker and which uses either the microphone in the phone or, preferably, a separate microphone that plugs into the unit, which can be positioned somewhere like on the windscreen pillar and which provides better voice clarity. This worked very well but uses the old style Nokia pre-PopPort connector.
I now have a Nokia 6021, which has the PopPort connector, so the HF-8 could not be reused. However, the equivalent for modern PopPort enabled phones, the Nokia HF-3, doesn't have provision for a separate microphone and so isn't as successful a solution. I needed something else and would need to buy it myself as my company has gone all stingy and wouldn't provide anything more than a personal earphone.
For a while I tried this solution. I used the Nokia HDB-4, an over-ear style of headphone. I have to use this type as the shape of my ear means that earbud type headsets simply won't stay in. However, the over-ear type is also unsatisfactory as it is very uncomfortable to wear for long periods, such as during a car journey, if you wear glasses as I do.
The one I found that looked absolutely perfect was the Nokia BHF-3 but at around £45 as a typical price found in shops and even on the Internet, there was no way I was going to get one at my own expense. Then, one day whilst browsing I discovered that one of my favourite Internet vendors, Expansys (www.expansys.co.uk) was selling the device for the quite extra-ordinarily good price of £15.95. How they can do it at this price considering that the normal price is about £30 more, is a mystery but it was a deal too good to miss. I bought one.
The BHF-3 is a design that I've not seen in any other hands-free unit. It is actually fitted behind you! This is not a daft as it sounds. It is attached to the pillars of the headrest of the seat. The unit contains a pair of speakers that sit one behind each ear and has a flexible boom that can be curled round so that the microphone at its tip points towards your mouth from beside your head.
This unit does not, itself, fit to the headrest but clips on to a cradle that does. This cradle is attached with a butyl rubber strap that seems to be far too long for the need. However, once attached the excess could be cut off. This arrangement is a good idea as it means that the most visible part of the unit can be taken off and locked in the boot or glove box so as to remove temptation from those who would rather steal yours than buy their own. It is attached to the rest of the unit by a DIN plug.
The rest of the unit consists of the cable to join the headrest component to the phone and to the power supply. It plugs into the cigar lighter socket and, after a short run of cable, goes into a splitter from which two cables emerge, one to the DIN socket and the other to a PopPort plug that connects to the base of the phone. This PopPort plug is the sort that also provides power for recharging the internal phone battery rather than via a separate plug that plugs into the adjacent power socket. It is fitted with a button to release it from the phone.
The cable to the DIN socket is quite long. The connection to the phone is shorter but still adequate for most cars. This does mean that there is likely to be too much for most installations. The unit comes with a very neat excess cable stowage device. The base fits onto any suitable surface via a sticky-back velcro pad, one half of which fits to the base and the other to the chosen surface. I stuck mine to the base of the seat, to one side.
The top of this device is a rubber cup. It can be made to flip away from the base so that the cable can be wound around it and then flipped back over the cable so that only the required extent emerges through the gap. Very neat.
So what is it like to use in practice? I have been using it for a couple of weeks now and it is, in my opinion, the best hands-free I have ever used. The sound is clear and quite loud enough in all conditions. Being located just behind your head, it never gets drowned out by engine or road noise.
From the the point of view (sound?) of those at the other end of the conversation I, understandably, can only take their word but I am told that the sound quality is also clear and to all intents as good as if I was using the phone directly. If this is so then no more could surely be asked.
I am very pleased with the BHF-3 and feel that I have now found the ideal solution to using mobile phones on the road. It is very effective, safe to use and, at the price at which Expansys is offering it, unbeatable value.
Just one word of warning, I have discovered that when the phone rings the ringtone does NOT play through the hands free speakers, it still comes out of the speaker built into the phone. Consequently, if you drive a car that is a little bit noisy it is likely you won't hear the ring! This can be confusing for callers if you have Auto-answer on.
I understand from Nokia Support that this is the way almost all Nokia's work. I think we could fairly call this a major design defect in Nokia phones!!!!!