Hands-free cell phone operation has been become an important issue over the last few years, as states and municipalities have enacted laws to cut down on the number of distracted drivers. As a result, a flood of devices have come to market allowing drivers to dial, answer and end cell phone calls without taking their eyes off the road. In June of last year I reviewed the Jabra CRUISER Bluetooth Speakerphone, which I have been using extensively ever since [Note: the CRUISER has been replaced by the CRUISER2]. This week, I take a look at the BlueAnt Sense Bluetooth speakerphone, which was given to me for this review.
Setting up the Sense was somewhat easier than it was to set up the CRUISER. To begin, you must pair it with a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone. To help you through this, the Sense has embedded audio help. You begin by specifying one of five languages—U.S. English, Australian English, U.K. English, French or Spanish. From there, the Sense’s audio directions walk you through the pairing process. You will need to enter a pairing code, which in this case was the default 0000 (four zeros).
The Sense supports Multipoint, which means the driver and a passenger can simultaneously pair their phones. This allows them to use the Sense to answer calls on either phone or switch between calls on either phone.
The Sense mounts on your visor and comes with two clips.
The Sense supports voice dialing over Bluetooth (assuming your cell phone also supports this functionality). Therefore, I was able to dial a number using my phone’s keypad (which defeats the purpose of a hands-free device) or by pressing the Sense’s Multi-Function button and using voice commands for hands-free dialing.
For incoming calls, the Sense will announce the caller’s information. If you are able to sync the Sense with your phone’s phonebook, the voice announcement system will announce the caller’s name. Depending on your phone, it may or may not support phone book transfers. Otherwise, it will announce the telephone number of the caller. To answer a call, you say “answer”; otherwise, you can ignore the call by saying “ignore.” I had no problems with the Sense recognizing my voice commands.
This is a good thing, since I do not like the Sense’s control services. The Multi-Function button (used to answer and end calls) and the volume/redial/call-back/switching button are both touch-sensitive, so they do not provide any type of physical feedback. This is one area where I prefer the CRUISER over the Sense.
In addition to handling phone calls, the Sense is able to stream audio such as podcasts or GPS turn-by-turn instructions over Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) (if you phone supports A2DP). The main reason I use a speakerphone when I am driving is to better hear navigation instructions from my cell phone, and with the Sense I was able to easily hear my GPS directions even while listening to the radio, something I am not able to do if I am only using my cell phone.
I did not find a discernable difference in the call quality between the Sense and the CRUISER, both of which were very good. People I spoke to had no problems hearing me when using the Sense. As I said before, I also did not have any problems hearing my GPS navigation directions over A2DP.
According to BlueAnt, the Sense offers up to 20 hours of talk time and 25 days (600 hours) of standby, both of which exceed the specs of the original CRUISER. The Sense has a built-in vibration sensor that disconnects and connects the speakerphone to your car when you get in and out, thereby preserving the battery life. I also like the fact that the Sense has a dedicated on/off switch, so you know for sure that the device is off. For charging, the Sense has a micro-USB port.
BlueAnt dubbed the Sense a value-priced speakerphone, selling it for $80 at the company website. You can also find it on Amazon.com for around $50. This puts it in the mid-range when compared to the prices of other speakerphones.
Overall I found the BlueAnt Sense to offer a good combination of ease-of-use, functionality and value. It does not offer some of the bells and whistles found on other speakerphones, such as FM audio transmission, but it performs very well for hands-free calling, which is its primary function. When going on a road trip, I do find myself still using the Jabra CRUISER, primarily because I prefer the feel of the controls. I would be hard pressed to choose between the two based strictly on call quality.
BlueAnt Sense Bluetooth Speakerphone
$79.99 (currently $50.64 from Amazon.com)
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.