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If you lease your car, you'll find that the leasing companies don't want you to do anything to damage the interior or exterior, as it will lessen the resale value. Because of this, buying a Bluetooth hands-free set for your mobile phone is practically essential. That's why we bought this Parrot Minikit, and after several months of use, here's what we discovered.
First of all, this needs to be charged up for about 6-8 hours before you can use it. Since this plugs into the cigarette lighter plug in your car, this might not seem such a problem. However, you may be aware that when the car is off, so is the cigarette lighter. That means you'll need to find a way to plug this in elsewhere, for the initial charge. But this kit doesn't come with an external plug adapter. Luckily we had a cord that fit into its socket (one from our digital camera) that had a USB plug on the other end, which we attached to our computer. So only if you have a digital camera with the right size plug, can you charge this up on your computer or, if you have a USB plug that fits into the mains, you can use that. If not you'll need to plan for a very long drive with no Bluetooth connection, or find a different set. But you can be assured that if the battery gets low, it recharges very quickly, so that's not a problem.
Once the kit is charged up, you can easily install it in your car. Plug the one end into the lighter plug and the other into the set. Next you'll need to set it up so that it recognizes your phone (of course, it goes without saying you'll need a phone that supports Bluetooth, so I won't say that)! The instruction book gives you easy to follow steps for this, and this recognized all of our phones. Mind you, it will only take five phones, and if you fill it up and want to add another one, you'll need to reassign it. The problem is there's no way of knowing which phone it deletes when you add a new one. Another bug is that it doesn't seem to like Nokia phones. It won't recognize my daughter's fancy touch one, and when husband hooks up with his, it tends to cut off the connection after a few minutes, rendering it useless until you reconnect.
By the way, while the instruction book is good, once you're away from the pages, trying to adjust things on this is practically impossible. I'm always pressing the wrong thing and having things change on me. Now this could just be me, but I'm pretty technically adept, and if I can't get it straight, what will a technologic neophyte have to endure? One thing that keeps happening is I'm always accidentally changing the menu language from English to Hebrew (yes, you can choose from several languages with this, which is nice, I suppose). The whole setup and adjustment thing just isn't all that user-friendly, if you ask me.
I should mention that there seem to be more than one model of these, and that one has voice recognition and the ability to accept contacts from your phone. The one I got doesn't seem to have either of these options. I saw in the instructions about the voice recognition, but until I read another review here I didn't know there was any option for transferring your contacts to this kit. Both of these would have been really nice to have since it seems to defeat the purpose of being hands-free if you have to search for a phone number to call anyone. Mind you, after you've called someone it will remember that last number dialed and you can just press on one button to get it to redial, which works very well.
Speaking of making calls, I have to admit that I am willing to allow for the sound quality to be less than perfect. One cannot expect Bluetooth to sound as clear as a direct line. While using this with my phone, I can hear people very well. Unfortunately, sometimes when I call someone using my car, I can't hear them very well, and often there's an echo or distortion. This is far from being just "less than perfect" I'm afraid, and in many instances is unacceptably poor. And as for taking phone calls, I find you have to hit the answer button several times before it grabs the call from your phone. This bothers me because I'm always worried that I'll miss the call that's coming in. One good thing I've discovered is that if you have a clamshell type phone you can bypass this problem by just lifting the top of the phone up.
This brings me to the placement of the device. The cord here is a bit too tight and short for me to put this on the sun visor of my car. In any case, having a cord in front of my face is distracting to me. Instead, we clip ours onto the door of one of the compartments just below the air conditioning dials, so it is out of the way. Our car also happens to have an extra jack for car lighter devices, which means I don't have a lighter rolling around the car - but if you only have one of these, this might be inconvenient for you. Finally, it might have been nice if this also came with some sort of suction stand to put your phone onto, since otherwise you have your phone floating around the car as well. My son got one with his new phone, so that solved that for us, but it's truly a drawback of this model.
As someone who is very conscious that the law here in Israel says it is illegal to use your cell phone without a hands-free device, I really was hoping that this would do the trick for us. Unfortunately, we're not all that happy. While the battery, once initially charged, is good, and the sound quality for incoming calls is acceptable, practically everything else about this device has one problem or another. Because of this I'm giving it only two stars and cannot recommend this model. Maybe in my next car I'll get a built-in device, but in the meanwhile, better not try to get me while I'm driving, because I'm not sure this will work.
Davida Chazan © May 2010
In case you're still interested, Amazon sells this for £33.80 but if it doesn't work well, it certainly isn't worth even giving it to you for free!
I bought this car kit as it was easy to transfer it between my two cars - and, also, because it 'looks good'.
I was quite impressed with the ease of setting the device up and the ease that I had in transferring my contacts from my phone, via Bluetooth, to the device. You are able to name your contact and then specify whether the number that you're transferring is their home, work or mobile number. So when you make a call you're using the address book on the device to call your contacts by using voice recognition. To make a call, you press the green button and specify the contact's name and then specify the 'tag' that you have assigned to their number - be it 'home', 'work' or 'mobile'.
For those mobile phones that don't allow sending of contacts via Bluetooth, you can still use the device to connect to the voice recognition feature on your handset.
The call quality is good, the person that you speak to can hear you, although on a couple of occassions I was asked if I was in a swimming pool! I didn't have any issue with hearing the person who I was speaking to.
The downside of this device is that the knob, which controls the menu selection, is very sensitive - so, on occassion, I would find that when I was trying to set the volume, I accidentally changed the language which I wanted the device to recognise.
Also, on a few occassions, when I was getting out of my car, I would hit my head on the knob of the device (as the device doesn't sit very 'flush' onto the sun visor) - until one day the knob fell off completely. I could still use the device, but I was then unable to alter any of the menu settings.
I consequently gave up with the device when one day it stopped working. I thought that the battery had gone flat, so I recharged it fully, but the device wouldn't then switch on.
I had the device for about 6 months and I gave up with it and bought a different make and model with which I am more than happy (and it was cheaper than this Parrot device!).
On the whole, I would say that Parrot need to do a bit more work with this device in respects of reliability and, possibly, change the way that you can change the menu options - as the one 'knob' control isn't the easiest thing to use.