Did you know that California will the 5th state (if you include District of Columbia) to pass the cell phone law? This will present a problem for most of us in California since we depend on it so much. The law was passed Fall of 2006 and will go into effect July 1, 2008. What exactly does the legislation entail? It prohibits the use of any hand-held mobile phones while driving. Drivers who are caught chatting away on their cellular phones will be fined $20 for the first offense and will receive $50 fines for any ensuing offense.
So what's the solution? Well, the law does give room for mobile phone chatters to use hands free kits when talking on the phone. However, older cell phones tend to lack Bluetooth technology and thus rely primarily on wired handsfree kits that come standard with the purchase of most phones.
This is probably the cheapest solution for most people. The earpiece is a simple headset that is usually placed over one ear, consisting of both the microphone and the earphone. It allows you to use it in and out of the vehicle, so you are free to go wherever you please while speaking wirelessly on the phone. Depending on its features and quality, you could find Bluetooth headsets for as cheap as $40 and as expensive as $200. The great thing about is its role as a standalone accessory. All you have to do is connect it (AKA “pair) with your Bluetooth capable mobile phone.
This hands-free device has a few disadvantages. These units contain small power cells that would need to be charged after about 6 to 8 hours of talk time. Additionally, some users complain that earpieces tend to be more uncomfortable over a long period of time. Some earpieces even give off a sort of echoing effect and could be hyper-sensitive to noise in certain road conditions. Of course, this complains may vary per brand and model-so be sure to try each one of them out, especially because there are a ton of companies now that make these.
Plug-N-Play Hands-Free Bluetooth Car Kit
These kits simply attaches to either the top of your dashboard, an air conditioning vent, or sometimes even your windshield. The plug'n'play Bluetooth kit is a device the size of your palm and usually gets power from your cigarette lighter. The palm-size kit contains both the microphone and a tiny loudspeaker. With this you don't have to attach anything to your ear and is often loud enough to hear, even through traffic noise.
The price range on these stay pretty consistent since there are not as many variations of this type of Bluetooth interface. As of early 2008, they cost anywhere from $55-$125. The disadvantage of plug and play kits, however, is its volume. Though they may be loud, there is no sense of privacy if you have other passengers in the vehicle. Another thing to keep in mind is the quality of the speakerphone built in the mounted kit. Some speakerphones tend to blare rather than sounding clear. This occurs when you overload a small speakerphone with a ton of volume, and this is quite common with this type of devices.
Some companies who sell plug-n-play Bluetooth car kits include Parrot, Clarion, and Raytel.
In-Dash Receiver with Bluetooth
Because of advancements in Bluetooth technology, car audio companies began integrating Bluetooth technology in standard head units. This allows Bluetooth cell phones to be paired with the Bluetooth ready headunit. A phone call would mute whatever music or radio is playing and would channel the call through your vehicle's sound system, resulting in the clearest sound from your phone. Depending on the kit, the microphone could be built in the headunit or wired (with hidden install of course) to the sunvisor. But just like the plug-n-play units, it offers no privacy since it could be heard by anyone in the vehicle.
This is probably the best solution for you if you are looking for a clean install without messy wires and if you feel uncomfortable putting something on your ear. It would also offer the best solution for you if you are looking for the best sound quality for a Bluetooth unit. If you want a built-in Bluetooth headunit, it will cost $200 or more. If you have an aftermarket stereo that is Bluetooth ready, you may just get the Bluetooth kit for that receiver. It is pricey though, costing you about $150 for just the Bluetooth interface.