The $99 BlueAnt Commute speakerphone, much like its cousins, the S4 and the S3, houses the devices controls along a flat surface. Almost all car units I've tested sport physical buttons----and the larger, the better, in my book as it makes using them while driving all the more safe.
Fortunately, the Commute's volume and main-call controls are touch-sensitive and require only the lightest of taps to function and the areas on the top of the Commute where you need to tap are clearly labeled. However, until I got the feel for where each was located, I found I had to glance up at the device attached to my visor----something I don't like to do when driving.
Following in the footsteps of the S3 and S4, the Commute will allow you to bypass tap sequences entirely as you can also rely on voice activation while driving (for answering or rejecting calls, voice-dialing, and checking battery level, among other things). If a call comes in from my Contacts list, for instance, the Commute will announce the caller and all I have to do is utter "Answer" or "Ignore". This hands-free mode worked great, as it limited the number of times I would otherwise have to reach out and touch the unit. However, I still had to tap the main call button to end a call and swipe to tweak volume.
According to my callers, conversations on the Commute sometimes sounded far away----but not horribly so, compared to the audio quality of other speakerphones----and nobody begged me to hang up and call back sans Bluetooth. People could understand what I was saying without any problems, but my voice did sound muffled; on some occasions, it was more muffled than others. Overall, though, voice quality was reliable.
The Commute toned down most background noises, including my car stereo's tunes and ambient traffic noise. Even with excessive sounds, such as kids' squawks in the backseat, the unit still managed to filter out some of the racket. On the other side of the equation, callers' voices coming into the car through the Commute sounded reasonably natural----albeit a tad splotchy.
While I personally don't get inundated with text messages, you might--and if you do, the company's free Android app, BlueAnt, might come in handy while using the Commute. Using text-to-speech, the app will read new text messages aloud to you and indicate the sender's name. This worked precisely as advertised. Along with customizing the message read-back speed, the app also provides tips, reminders, and a FAQ section.
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