Your car is likely to spend many hours soaking in the sun's rays during the summer months and beyond, so it might make sense to harness that energy into a Bluetooth speakerphone. This trio of solar-powered hands-free Bluetooth speakerphones are meant to keep you talking with your hands on the wheel.
LG HFB-510 Bluetooth Solar Car Kit
Available at: Best Buy
Much like the others in this group, LG's solar speakerphone needed to be initially charged the old-fashioned way (three hours) because it would take more than 30 hours to do it with sunshine alone. Suctioning it to a windshield on a full charge with the solar panel facing out means the battery should be topped up regularly. On average, it takes about two hours of sunlight for each hour of talk time (between 14-16 hours).
Pairing it with your phone via Bluetooth is easy. As a speakerphone, voices comes through clearly, though background noise from within the car is audible to the other side. It can speak out contact names of incoming callers, but only with certain phones - BlackBerry worked, but not the iPhone.
One neat feature the HFB-510 provides is charging your LG or Nokia phone directly from the unit via its unique micro-USB port, which only some other select phones can utilize.
IOGear Solar Bluetooth Hands-free Car Kit
Available at: Amazon.ca, Newegg.ca, Dell.ca and TigerDirect.ca
One of the best features in IOGear's unit is the option to pair two phones at once. This means a driver and passenger can be connected to the speakerphone, or a solo driver with both business and personal phones can pick up whichever one rings.
Unlike the other two units here, this one won't announce callers' names, and the overall audio quality of the speakerphone isn't quite as consistent. Noise reduction and echo cancellation are fairly decent, but louder environments and chatter in the car with other passengers can make it difficult for the listener on the other end. On quieter drives, the unit performed much better.
Charging through USB zips by in just over two hours, whereas it requires about 25-27 hours of pure sunlight for a full charge. You can suction it to a window or clip it onto your visor.
Scosche solCHAT Speakerphone
Available at: Apple Store
As with the others, it's best to charge the solCHAT via USB first to get a full battery, so it can be kept reasonably topped up with the sun, even though it charges slowly. Having the included in-car charger in the glove box is a good idea.
Despite being the loudest speaker of the three, the solCHAT does have momentary echo effects, though it's not common enough to render conversations incoherent. It will tell you who is calling by name, but only with phones that allow you to transfer your contacts to the solCHAT via Bluetooth. Otherwise, it will just state the caller's number.
In turn, you can dial a number by voice - so long as your phone has a supporting feature to enable it. Plus, the device knows to shut itself off when your phone is out of range, and turn on when you enter the car again.
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