Just about anywhere you go these days, it's illegal to have your hands on your cell phone when you're supposed to have your hands on the steering wheel. The way around this is to use a variety of handsfree devices while driving.
One such device is the Supertooth HD Bluetooth speakerphone. Its primary function is to let you make and receive phone calls while on the road, but it also comes with some extra functionality that you may not find elsewhere. Want to use speech-to-text for Twitter and Facebook updates?
Quick Feature Overview
While some other people may prefer a more traditional Bluetooth headset, I'm more inclined to use a Bluetooth speakerphone. It's just so much easier and you don't have to have a device dangling off your ear.
In the case of the Supertooth HD, you get a rather sizable device that attaches magnetically to your car's visor. It supports six languages, including French, German, and British English. It boasts a variety of voice commands, USB support for firmware upgrades, five-watt speakers, dual microphones, multipoint connectivity (two phones at the same time), and up to 1000 hours of standby time.
The control scheme is quite simple with three main buttons. The largest button at the top is the main button for answering and ending your calls; it is also the volume dial. Below that is the power button and below that is the button for the Handsfree Assistant, which I'll explore a little later in this review.
Cracking open the retail box, you find everything that you need to get your hands off the phone and back on the steering wheel.
In addition to the Supertooth HD itself, you get the magnetic sun visor metal clip, a USB to microUSB cable, and USB car charger, as well as the quick start guide and HandsFree Assistant instruction sheet, both of which come in English and French for the Canadian SKU. The Supertooth HD comes fully charged out of the box too, so you can use it right away.
Setup and Configuration
When you first turn on the Supertooth HD, it'll let you choose your preferred language. It is also in "pairing mode" by default, so you can go ahead and let your phone search for it. Enter the default passcode (0000) and away you go for the basic functionality.
More advanced functionality, however, requires some extra work. While the Supertooth HD can import your cell phone's contact list, it doesn't really recognize all your contacts. You need to follow a particular syntax and create new contacts. To use the "call home" voice command, for instance, you need to set up a new contact called ".6home" including the dot and six. If you want to use the HandsFree Assistant, you'll need to sign up and setup a new account for that too. That's troublesome.
Voice Call Quality
Before we dig deeper into those advanced voice controls, however, let's discuss how this device works as a more basic Bluetooth speakerphone.
In short, it's superb. The extra large and clickable volume dial means that you can adjust the volume and answer calls without taking your eyes off the road. The 5W speakers are also very loud, making it easy to hear the person on the other end even when you are in the middle of loud traffic.
Battery life appears to be quite good and voice quality on both ends is more than acceptable. The noise cancellation helps to cut out the ambient noise too, so your chat partner can actually hear what you're saying. The voiced menu is a delight too, especially in British English.
Using the Voice Commands
When I heard about the HandsFree Assistant, I had a mixed response. On the one hand, I saw it as a gimmick that no one really needed. On the other hand, I started to see why someone would want text messages read out to them.
Unfortunately, the biggest differentiating feature for the Supertooth HD is also among its worst. Yes, you can use your voice to send texts and e-mails while driving, but you have to set up the contacts through the Dial2Do service first. And the way it works is that you call the Dial2Do service, rather than having things work natively through your phone itself.
Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry users can utilize the associated free app, which makes things a little easier, but this is still quite cumbersome. To make matters worse, the Supertooth HD only comes with a six month free trial of the HandsFree Assistant service. After that, you're on the hook for $3.99 (basic) or $5.99 (pro) per month.
MEGATechie Conversationalist or MEGATechie Careless Whisper?
The Supertooth HD doesn't boast a solar panel, but its battery life should leave you in good shape for most of your trips. The extra loud speakers, pleasant voiced menu, and above-average clarity certainly make it one of the better Bluetooth speakerphones on the market. You can also use it as a Bluetooth speaker for streaming music, should you so desire.
I'm not at all convinced about the Dial2Do-powered HandsFree Assistant, especially since you have to pay for a subscription after six months. That said, as a straightforward Bluetooth speakerphone, the Supertooth HD is ahead of the class and is worthy of a purchase based on that functionality alone. I just wish the contact list integration was better, allowing me to use my pre-existing list of contacts rather than having to make special speed-dial entries. After all, my phone on its own can do voice dial.
The Supertooth HD is available now for an MSRP of $129.00.