BlueAnt S4 SpeakerPhone
Price: $99.99 MSRP
Just in case you live somewhere in the US where the law concerning the use of cell phones while operating a motor vehicle hasn’t been changed yet, you can expect that the days of holding your cell phone while you’re driving are probably going to be coming to an end soon. Between the push of concerned groups and the studies documenting the incidences of serious injuries and death because the driver was busy on the phone and not really paying attention to what they were doing, mainly driving a car, states and localities are requiring the use of hands-free devices for use when driving a car.
The question that one has to ask themselves is what type of hands-free device am I going to use. An earpiece, something along the lines of Apple’s earbuds, or something a bit more capable than that? BlueAnt may just have the answer to the question.
The first thing about BlueAnt’s S4 speakerphone is that it is capable of being more than just a speaker phone for your iPhone, BlackBerry or Android unit. Want to listen to music off of your iPhone, not a problem, just make sure that you have BlueTooth on and you can play your songs through the unit. If you’re into news, weather, sports or even movie information, it’s not a problem utilizing voice commands to ascertain that information, based upon the information provided with the unit.
The unit is 4 3/4 x 2 1/2 x 1/2 inch. Included with the package is the large size clip to secure the unit to your car’s visor, held in place by two magnets on the back of the unit that securely hold the clip in place. Also included is a USB cable with a micro USB connector (although it is only 12″ in length) with a cigarette charger piece, so you can recharge the battery either in your car or by connecting to a USB port on your computer.
Surprisingly, and thankfully, setting up the BlueAnt S4 was a real breeze. The first thing you want to do after taking the unit out of the box is to charge it up. You can do this either in the car or hooked up to your computer but give yourself at least 3 to 4 hours for the unit to charge properly. Once it’s fully charged, you’ll see that the red battery indicator light will go out at the end of the process.
Setting the volume on the unit is easy. The controls on the S4 are touch sensitive. With the unit in position on your visor, you simple swipe your finger across the top of the unit to adjust the volume. To raise the volume, swipe from left to right (minus to plus) or you can just press and hold the – or + symbols. The volume settings for a phone call and for music playback are separate, so you adjust based upon your preferences.
Pairing up the S4 with the iPhone was also relatively easy. Basically you just go into the general settings on your iPhone, look for Bluetooth, turn it on and just make sure the S4 unit is also on and it will be displayed on your iPhone. The pairing, at least whenever I did it, was almost instantaneous. You will hear “Your phone is connected, hands free trigger is on.” When you disconnect your phone, S4 will tell you that there is no active phone connected. Transferring your phone contacts over to the S4 is again relatively easy. It just took a couple of minutes as the S4 transferred all of my contacts over from my iPhone.
Now came the really enjoyable part of using the S4 unit, telling it what I wanted it to do. You simply tell the unit “BlueAnt, speak to me” The phone immediately answers with “Say a Command.” If you want to make a phone call, you simply say “Phone commands” and since it utilizes the Voice Command capability of your iPhone, you then tell it whom you wish to call. Now there were issues with this but I quickly discovered that it wasn’t the S4 unit but the iPhone that was causing problems with Voice Commands.
Another part that is great while you’re driving down the road is the ability to answer or not answer a phone call. BlueAnt will ask you if you wish to answer the call and you can reply either Answer or Ignore. If you’re stationary but otherwise occupied, you can simply tap the downwards facing symbol on the top of the unit to accept or double tap the symbol to decline the call.
BlueAnt does list other items that you can access via your voice commands; such as Information, Movies, Traffic, News, Weather, etc. However, you would be doing so through BING and charges may apply. Since I don’t use BING, I cannot reliably speak to how well it works.
I can tell you that the S4 will play your music through the unit, as I did by utilizing the iPod capability of the iPhone to listen to music while driving. But to be very honest, my pickup has 6 stereo speakers in it and the S4 cannot not honestly match the quality or the volume. If you don’t won’t to use the car, the S4 is quite capable of providing you with your music even when you’re not in the car.
If you really want to use the S4 as a great tool while driving, make sure you learn and use the other commands that are available to you. You do the BlueAnt Speak to me command and then you can check the battery status of the unit, call back to someone,check your connection, redial the last outgoing telephone number that you had called and it will even read out a list of all the commands that are available through the unit. Not bad for hands-free communicating!
Since the jurisdictions in and around Washington, D.C., have all basically banned the use of cell phones while driving, I have been impressed by the capability of the unit as a hands-free unit. I have been using it continuously since it arrived and no one has guessed that I wasn’t talking to them directly using the iPhone. No, you are not going to have a private conversation with someone if you have others in the vehicle with you. Yes, you could spend less money and place a BlueTooth earpiece in your ear but the capability is just not there to truly be hands-free, and quite possibly earpiece-free. Another nice feature of the unit is the ability to handle more than one call. If you’re on the phone and you get another call, the S4 plays a tone to let you know. You just press the + symbol for a second and your first call is placed on hold, press the – symbol and you can answer the incoming call. (You have to have the call waiting capability on your phone to use this feature)
The unit operates on 2.4 GHz. The unit uses a 3.7 volt rechargeable Lithium Ion battery with up to 20 hours of talk time. (My experience was that I could get 2 weeks of use, based on a single charge.) The literature advises that the unit is capable of 700 hours of standby time in the battery saving mode. Charging time is approximately 3-4 hours. Noise reduction capable. The unit is covered by a 2-year warranty from the date of purchase.
Regarding the pricing on the unit; the MSRP is $99. However, I have found the unit priced from $65 and up from websites normally associated with the selling of goods and products. So, if you are interested in obtaining a hands-free unit, consider the BlueAnt S4 for your vehicle.
All in all, I give the BlueAnt S4 SpeakerPhone a My Mac rating of 8 out of a possible 10.