In April of this year the Ontario Government passed hands-free legislation. It is likely to go into effect some time this fall, and when it does all forms of handheld devices that can be used in a car will be banned – this includes GPS receivers, satellite receivers, iPods and other gadgets. Penalties will be stiff, including fines of up to $1,000 and up to six demerit points.
Recently I’ve been using the Contour Design SurfaceSound Compact Bluetooth Speaker in my vehicle. This speaker clips to the visor above the driver. The microphone is on a small swing down arm, which also activates the bluetooth radio. When receiving a call, you simply swing the arm down. In a second or so the bluetooth connection is made, and you are able to speak. When finished the call, swing the arm back, and the unit turns off.
The battery life is outstanding when used as I described. Since last November, when I acquired the SurfaceSound Compact, I have charged twice. That’s right – two times.
Sound quality is also good. The 2”x3” speaker allows good volume and reasonable quality audio. With a little practice, the microphone arm is easily placed where you can be heard, without interfering with your driving.
The biggest challenge is in placing a call. iPhone makes this very difficult because it has no support for voice dialing – a major omission. There are a number of aftermarket voice dial applications available. Say Who Dialer works well. You can either speak the name of a contact, or speak a phone number. Say Who then dials the intended recipient. With a large address book like mine (nearly 5,000 contacts) it’s reasonably accurate, but most of the time I find myself simply speaking the number for the recipient. It’s much faster and more convenient than looking the number up on the iPhone.
Nevertheless, even with Say Who Dialer, it’s impossible to meet the requirements of the Ontario legislation when placing a call.
- The application must be started, which means picking up the iPhone, finding the application on the springboard, and starting it.
- Once started, the voice recognition is started by pressing a large colored button on the screen, and speaking into the iPhone microphone. You cannot simply speak to the bluetooth microphone, because that microphone isn’t activated until the dialer is invoked.
Until such time as Apple provides a proper voice dialer, the SurfaceSound Compact is a great solution for receiving a call with iPhone. To place a call legally, however, it seems the only way to do so will be to bring the vehicle to a stop.