In California, if you want to talk on the phone while driving, hands-free is the law. But even if it weren't, I'd still use a hands-free kit because it's so much safer than messing with your phone and trying to hold it in your ear while you're steering and trying to pass the goldfish crackers back to your cranky kids. I'm behind the wheel a lot, especially now that the crazy after-school activity carnival is about to start -- and I need a solution that's easy to safe, easy to use, and nice to look at. I recently had the opportunity to review the Parrot MiniKit Chic, a portable Bluetooth hands free kit. Here's what I thought:
Parrot’s MiniKit Chic ($99.99) is a portable Bluetooth hands free kit that attaches to your car's sun visor or drops into your purse. It automatically connects to your Bluetooth phone when nearby and automatically synchronizes to your phonebook. And with talk-to-dial name recognition, the MiniKit Chic recognizes and dials the number of the contact you speak, without any prior training.
Synchronizing the Minikit Chic with my phone was fairly simple (here's a list of Bluetooth-enabled phones that work with it), and once you get it sync'ed up, it's really easy to use -- which is important, because you do NOT want to be distracted while you're behind the wheel. You don't even need to turn the Minikit Chic on and off while you're driving. As long as your phone's Bluetooth capabilities are turned on and it's in the car with you, the Minikit Chic will work. If your phone rings, just reach up and press the right-side button to answer the call -- thanks to the MiniKit Chic, you're now on speakerphone! You can talk normally, without shouting, while you're driving. To hang up, reach up again and press the left button.
Here's a short video clip of the Parrot MiniKit Chic in action. If the person on the other line sounds garbled, it's not because of any quality issues, it's because she's at the beach in the middle of a huge crowd of sun-worshippers. We could actually understand her pretty well, and vice-versa.
I really like how the MiniKit Chic clips to my van's sunvisor. I only use hands-free when I'm driving anyway, because I don't talk on my cellphone often enough to need one of those Bluetooth headsets that look like hearing devices strapped to my ear. And how could anyone not like the style? The graceful silver-and-black floral design makes it look like something out of a Beardsley drawing. As the name implies, the device is slim and unobtrusive, although I'd love to see this in a tan design option so it blends in even better with our van's upholstery.
We were able to figure out the synchronization process, but for phone book synchronization, voice recognition and other features, the instructions are woefully inadequate (it doesn't even go through all the menu items!). Also, the voice recognition software needs some work; after countless misinterpretations of "Ana" ("Heather", "Tina" and "Ina", to start with), I grew tired of imitating an American accent.
Also, using the push-button/dial to scroll through your phone book is cumbersome (i.e. you have to push the button 5 times to get to the "E" entries in your phone book, then you have to turn the dial to scroll through each "E" entry). On the rare occasions that I really need to call someone while I'm driving, I would rather pass the phone to my daughter in the back seat, ask her to dial -- and then take the call on the Parrot Minikit Chic.
The Bottom Line
The Parrot Minikit Chic is better for taking calls than for making calls -- but when you're driving, that's all you should be doing anyway. Which means the Parrot Minikit Chic is a must-have safety feature for any car without an in-vehicle voice-activated phone system. The Parrot's safety and style is a combination you can't resist.
I received a product sample for this post, but no monetary compensation. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.