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Hands-free iPhone

One of the problems with switching mobiles is that you often have a whole bunch of peripherals for your old phone which won’t work with the new one such as in-car hands-free. And so it was with my brand sparkling new iPhone. Now personally I tend to get a bit hot under the collar when I see people blatantly breaking the law using hand-held mobiles when driving. It is not only the height of arrogance, but incredibly dangerous as well. So I only use my iPhone in the car when I am stationary or when the incoming call is urgent.

So I needed some new hands-free kit that would work with my iPhone. There’s a lot of choice and I have spent many hours trawling through many sites which seem to just copy and paste the manufacturers blurb! In the end I went to Amazon because you at least get peer reviews which tell you about some of the gotchas. The following are some of the items that caught my interest.

At the top of the range was the Parrot MKI9200 Bluetooth Hands Free Car Kit which adds voice recognition (sadly lacking on the iPhone) and means you don’t have to even touch your iPhone. Specs look great but a bit pricey for my taste though.

The Griffin RoadTrip FM Transmitter, Charger & Cradle with Smartscan and RDS will pump the iPhone through your car stereo by transmitting the sound from the iPhone through your car radio via FM and will cut out when a call comes in. So far as I could see it won’t facilitate hands-free calls, just hands-free music.

Then I looked at the Jabra SP5050 Bluetooth Speakerphone as it had good reviews and I was informed by a user that it was loud enough for pretty much anything. It seemed like a sensible solution at a very good price, so I bought one. It’s performed exactly as advertised.
What it doesn’t have is a power lead for the iPhone, but hardly a problem with so many In car chargers options! One thing you do have to watch with the Jabra is that it only comes with a car cigarette lighter charging lead, not a full mains re-charger. It’s pretty light on the power though.

Finally I had to find a way to fix the iPhone so it didn’t slide around. Now it’s fairly heavy and I’ve had bad experiences with window mounts before with much lighter phones, so I decided against that. I didn’t want to stick anything on my dashboard, so I was left with two options. Lighter mounted or cup holder mounted. Because of where the cigarette lighter is in my car, I would have needed a mount with a relatively long neck. To my mind that lends instability, and having read a few reviews which mentioned the iPhone falling over when cornering, that didn’t seem to be a great option either.

So cup holder it was. I bought the Gomadic Car Cup Holder and when fitting it rapidly came across a gotcha. Unlike the illustration from Gomadic, the cup holders in my car are in-line and if I put the holder in the front of the two, it got in the way of gear changing. In an auto that’s not quite such a deal, but would be a real problem in a manual. Fortunately the rear cup holder gave me enough clearance and was still visible. If you intend to view your iPhone when driving it’s something you seriously have to consider before buying, but otherwise it has proven robust and secure. In addition it copes with the added thickness of a rubber protective cover Belkin Cases

The issues you have to consider when buying in-car kit are pretty obvious unless you get caught up in a buying frenzy. Just make sure that whatever you intend to plug into a cigarette lighter will physically fit. This is particularly true of holders, where you also have to be aware of how stable the iPhone will be. Look at the dimensions of whatever holder you choose and make sure it will fit into the space where you are expecting to put it without getting in the way of anything else.

Above all, be clear what you want to achieve before you start clicking. If you don’t want to play your iPhone through the stereo then step away from the gizmos that let you do that. Stick to what you actually need and you should be OK!

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