Driving While a Little Less Distracted

Photo: Gadget Guide: Jabra Cruiser Car SpeakerphoneCourtesy Jabra
The Jabra Cruiser car speakerphone.

As cell phone technology has progressed, manufacturers are still looking for a safe way for consumers to make calls in their cars while keeping both of their hands on the steering wheel.

Most new (and more expensive) cars have built in Bluetooth capabilities, but now there is a less expensive alternative: "The Cruiser," a Bluetooth speakerphone by Jabra, created specifically for the phoning commuter.

The design is relatively uncomplicated. The Cruiser is flat and compact and slips onto the sun visor, providing easy access for the driver. And most important, it has impressive sound quality. It's designed to make the person you're talking with not realize he or she is on speakerphone.

The interface is straightforward: one large button for answering and ending calls. The Cruiser even has helpful voice announcements letting you know when your call has ended or, if your phone is set up for it, announcing who is calling.

If your cell phone has voice command capability, you can even dial a number from your phones contact list hands free, using the Cruiser's voice dialing feature for most cell phone models, according to Jabra.

A significant feature that distinguishes the Cruiser from other Bluetooth devices is that it doubles as an FM transmitter giving callers a choice of using either the Cruiser's speakers or the car's speakers to listen to you caller. And on top of that, the transmitter seems to be a good one. Finding an available station requires simply holding down the Volume up button, which worked for me, it found a station that was clear and static free in about ten seconds. Using the transmitter, owners with songs saved on their phones can also listen to them through their car radio.

Switching from radio to phone requires pressing the Cruiser's FM transmitter button, and the Cruiser announces which frequency to switch to.

The Cruiser runs into a few snags in terms of adaptation. It has buttons for playing songs, fast-forwarding, and rewinding, but these options are only compatible with certain types of phones. So the iPhone user looking to skim through their playlist must still use their phone to skip forward or backward.

Also, charging the speakerphone is a bit of a nuisance if you plan to charge it in your car. The Cruiser comes with its own USB cord that hooks up to a car cigarette charger, but the cord winds up hanging right down the middle of the car, and can get tangled with the gear shift. It may be better to charge it before you drive by hooking up the USB port to computer or laptop.

Overall, the Cruiser solves some of the problems that come with driving and using a cell phone simultaneously. But while it may help drivers minimize distractions on the road there are still a few drawbacks. In making a call, for instance, you still have to look down at your phone. Pairing the Cruiser with a dashboard dock for your phone, for instance, would mean less taking your eyes off the road. But in the end, the Cruiser does diminish the role the cell phone plays, making the car a less scary place to make or take a call.