I love my mobile phone. Looking back, I’ve been using mobile phones for the past 23 years, from back in the Cantel days, then Rogers AT&T, and now Rogers. What I love most about my mobile phone is that I can work while I’m driving. However, for safety reasons, I always use some form of hands-free system. I’ve achieved this through various means, including having a wired speakerphone permanently installed in my car, installed headset system, using the phone’s speakerphone, and a portable (but wired) earbud/mic combo.
Jump ahead, after three years of trying to find a Bluetooth hands-free system that suits my needs both in and outside of the car, I’ve still yet to find one that has all of the qualities I want, and can last the whole day without needing a recharge. I used to love my Jawbone Bluetooth earpiece, but I’ve found the newer generation model to have gotten worse in sound quality, reliability (a lot of dropped calls), and battery life.
Talking about battery life, every Bluetooth hands-free units I’ve tested thus far, regardless of brand, can’t endure my rigorous 8-10 hours daily grind, which includes ridiculously high amounts of phone calls and GPS assistance. And because many of the units I’ve purchased can’t be returned (for hygienic reasons), I’ve spent upwards of $1,000 on the last year alone trying to find the perfect calling companion.
One day, I received a notification from BlueParrot (distributed in Canada by Dream Team Americas) introducing its new S450-XT hands-free solution. For US$180, it offers aptX technology for wireless audio, something that is uncommon for a hands-free offering, 80% noise-cancelling performance through its pivoting mic boom that can be swivelled out of the way when not in use, dual-phone Bluetooth pairing, and most importantly, up to 24 hours of music listening and/or talk time.
My first impression of the BlueParrot is quite good. It comes in a rugged semi-hard case, perfect to carry it wherever I go. Build quality is pretty rugged, too. Every button has a solid tactile feel. Best of all, the power button is a physical switch as opposed to a push-button, so it’s easy for me to know whether the unit has been powered on or off.
After a quick charge of a couple hours, the BlueParrot is ready for action. There is an assignable button that can be programmed using a free phone app to mute/un-mute the mic (set as a factory default), to answer/hang-up a call, or open a desired phone app. For my usage, I customized it to answer/hang-up a call. The volume up/down buttons are also relatively big and easy to find, unlike most offerings out there.
I brought the BlueParrott with me while installing a sound system at Orange Theory Fitness. These trips were always long and torturous for any one of my previous hands-free solutions. The work areas are noisy, extremely dusty, and more often than not, I’d spend at least four hours talking on the phone while doing my work. And I always needed GPS turn-by-turn directions going to the locations and back. Not once in my month-long test did the BlueParrot fail me. Everybody I talked to said my voice came through clearly, even though the background noise was still quite high. Never was I stranded with a drained battery. I always got home after 10-hour days, four hours of talking, and upwards of two hours of listening to turn-by-turn navigation, and had battery life to spare. A couple of times, I had even forgotten to recharge the unit, and was still able to use it the next entire day, again, with battery life to spare.
If I had to nitpick, the music reproduction of the S450-XT could be better. This is not saying that it’s bad; in fact, it is still very good. But there are other US$180 headphones that are better sounding than this unit. Then again, those headphones don’t have hands-free quality (if at all) and battery life anywhere as impressive as the BlueParrott.
For the time being, when not in use, the BlueParrott S450-XT rests nicely on my shoulders, waiting for my next call. And so far, it seems to be that hands-free system for which I’ve been looking for so long.