Negative press associated with the practice operating a cell phone while driving—which is not only dangerous, but also illegal in many jurisdictions—has spurred a sales boom in the Bluetooth headset market. But many drivers refuse to wear a headset, either because they find the device uncomfortable or inconvenient. And that, in turn, has created a niche market for solutions such as the Jabra Freeway, an in-car Bluetooth speakerphone that can be paired with up to eight devices (although only two can be active at once).
The whole point of using a hands-free device is to help prevent distracted driving. To that end, the Freeway requires very little tactile interaction to use. You can answer and initiate calls using only voice commands, and the device will announce the name of an incoming call, so you never need to look at your phone’s display. Voice alerts keep you informed of power and connection status, as well as battery level. The Freeway will even turn itself off when you leave your car, and turn itself back on when you return—further reducing any need for interaction while preserving its own battery life. The battery is good for about 14 hours of talk time and 20 days on standby; Jabra recommends monthly recharges, which takes about two hours using the provided USB cable and car charger.
Although the Jabra Freeway Bluetooth speakerphone is designed to be controlled with voice commands, it's not devoid of buttons.
The Freeway attaches to your car’s visor with a metal clip, and is outfitted with two omnidirectional microphones and a software-based digital signal processor. The DSP does a very capable job of filtering background noise, so the person on the other end of your call hears just your voice. The speakerphone supports the Bluetooth Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), which is great if your car stereo doesn’t have an aux input and you’d like to stream tunes, podcasts, or GPS directions from your phone. You can play the audio on the Freeway’s own three speakers, which deliver impressive sound for their size, or you can relay it to your car stereo via an FM transmitter.
There are a couple of downsides to buying a Bluetooth speakerphone as an alternative to a headset. You could buy a top-shelf Bluetooth headset for less than the $130 Jabra expects to fetch for its Freeway, and speakerphones like this are pretty much limited to in-car use (although we suppose you could operate it on a desktop if you really wanted to). But if you spend a lot of time in your car and on the phone, the Jabra Freeway is a great solution.
Jabra Freeway Bluetooth Speakerphone
Long battery life, great sound quality, and a wide range of feature.
Empty Diamond Lane
Expensive, and its form factor limits its utility to in-car use.