More and more regions have already outlawed driving while talking on a cell phone without a hands-free kit. It is no surprise that the hands-free equipment market is booming with new and better options.
Despite what politicians say, there are no statistics to show that hands-free kits make driving any safer. Basically, a distracted driver is a distracted driver. Since most hands-free devices are headsets, often you’ll find drivers untangling cords, plugging things in, dialing and then talking, whereas before the hands-free requirement, the user was simply dialing and talking.
No matter what I or anyone else says, the laws are the laws, so the next issue becomes how to best comply.
Motorola sent “Sam Barer’s Four Wheel Drift” two units of its new T505 MOTOROKR Bluetooth-enabled speakerphone – one to test, and one to give away to our readers…but we’ll get into how to win this a little later.
I spent a good portion of my early life working in telecommunications, so I was an early adopter of both cell phone and hands-free technology. Generally speaking, most hands-free kits diminished the sound quality (both sending and receiving) from the base levels of the handset.
Even on my current Palm Centro, trying to utilize the wired earpiece results in inaudible conversations for both parties.
Speakerphone devices have traditionally been a no-no in my life. A convertible junkie, the only thing worse than trying to carry on a conversation on a cell phone in a drop-top is to attempt to do so on a speakerphone.
So when I started testing Motorola’s MOTOROKR speakerphone, my expectations were lower than a D student during college admissions season.
The MOTOROKR is a small box (about half the size of a radar detector) that when plugged into the lighter/power outlet enables one to listen to conversations via an FM station on the car’s stereo (just like Mr. Microphone from days gone by.) A microphone in the box picks-up the user’s voice. Through the wonders of modern Bluetooth technology, the user’s cell phone can stay in a pocket or purse.
Installation is a breeze. Plug it into the power and push the FM transmitter button to select a station (and then tune your stereo to the same station.) Unfortunately, here are where my only gripes come about the whole experience. First, the power cable is too short to enable the box to be clipped anywhere higher than the center console. (The MOTOROKR has an on-board battery, but the cord still means that you’ll have to take it off the sun visor and place it near the console to recharge.) Second, the power and FM transmitter selection buttons are on the rear of the unit (with the other two phone function buttons on the front) so finding them while driving is somewhat clunky. Finally, it can be very tough to get a station with no interference in a busy media market. This obviously isn’t Motorola’s fault, but at some point, companies using FM transmitters will find a better way of overcoming ghosting from other stations.
The first test was in the 2006 Toyota Avalon. If a hands-free kit can’t make it in the Avalon’s Lexus-level of quiet, it can’t make it anywhere. With the MOTOROKR mounted at knee level, my voice still was clear.
Don’t think that I’d call it a day after one test in a Toyota. No sir, out of the cushy, quiet Avalon and into the nasty world of fiberglass (actually, “composites” is more accurate) in the form of a 2002 Corvette Convertible. The C5 Corvette Convertibles are instant death to cell phone technology. Top up, the noise from reverberating plastics and rumbling run-flat tires is deafening. Top down, even with an earpiece wedged in your ear canal at maximum volume you can’t hear anything…plus the person on the other end hears little more than wind and diesel truck engines.
At 60 mph with the top down on Interstate 5, the MOTOROKR worked like a champ. Sitting in the cup holder, it actually picked up my voice over the ambient noise. Furthermore, since it broadcasts the other party’s voice over the stereo, I was able to turn up the volume to the point where hearing the conversation was easy – even for my damaged ears.
For just under $100, the MOTOROKR…well, it rocks — like Motorhead in a world that’s all too full of Brittany Spears-level pretenders. It actually makes conversations easier to hear for all involved. It definitely doesn’t make driving any safer — indeed, I nearly tore off the Corvette’s side mirror when I grazed a trash can parked too far into the street while trying to power-on the MOTOROKR…and I’ve never come close to hitting anything during a non-hands-free conversation in the past.
But if the law says you have to be hands-free…the MOTOROKR is a fabulous way to go.
So now – how do you win one?
I’m pleased to announce The Four Wheel Drift’s Best Car Jokes Contest. Simply send in your best original car or car-related joke to firstname.lastname@example.org (along with a way to contact you.) On July 1st, 2008, to commemorate Washington State’s hands-free law going into effect, a hand-chosen panel of “experts” will pick the best joke and award the author a new Motorola MOTORKR T505.
Jokes should be new and original – the staff here has heard all the classics already. All entries will be posted in the Best Car Jokes column, when we’ll award the Motorola MOTOROKR to the winner.