Jabra FREEWAY Bluetooth Car Kit review

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The Jabra FREEWAY Bluetooth Car Kit is great for those without built-in iPhone or iPod support in their car, and especially great for those of us who don't yet have Siri as on option on older generation iPhones. The setup is easy, so much so that I merely listened while the Jabra unit itself told me what to do.

Sound quantity was substantial, but as with any device with tiny speakers, distortion plagued the higher volume levels. There is a surround sound-like quality to it but I don't think most music lovers would use the tiny Jabra speakers over a dedicated Dock, AUX, or even via the FM stereo output connection. Also, for some reason, the mute button refused to work for me although the volume buttons worked fine.

The Siri-replacing Voice Assist comes in the form of a $59 subscription service, though the first year is free. (Or at least comes included in the price of purchasing the Jabra FREEWAY Bluetooth Car Kit). It provides similar features like handsfree text/SMS messages, email reading and dictation, and more.

Although a 1 year free subscription sounds tempting, I was quickly dissuaded by the amount of private information I had to give up for this service. I'm admittedly paranoid, so uploading all my contacts and giving over my email passwords was a deal-breaker for me. If you value convenience over security, and trust the Voice Assist service to protect your private data, more power to you. For me, I'll be getting an iPhone 5 soon enough that I don't feel the urgent need to spread my risk between more companies than is absolutely necessary.

However, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 users still have Apple's built in Voice Control system, which while no Siri, can still do things like make calls or play music. You can trigger Voice Control by pressing and holding the phone icon right on the device.

Still, even without the Voice Assist service, the Jabra FREEWAY Bluetooth Car Kit packs a lot of value. The FM transmitter to play your music or voice calls through your car speakers, which is great.

Even better, it allows for 2 simultaneous bluetooth connections so that if you share a vehicle with a significant other, you needn't argue or barter over whose one device in the car gets to be paired for listening to calls or music. That's a real stress-saver.

One thing that is a HUGE pet peeve for me is that many hands free devices have a blue blinking light that tells you when something is paired or when the device is on. This drives me insane, especially at night time. It's like the eye of Sauron piercing through steel and glass, needlessly distracting while i'm driving. Manufacturers please stop doing this.

The Jabra FREEWAY Bluetooth Car Kit can be charged via the same AC adapter you use for your iPhone, or you can use the 12v adaptor that comes in the box. It will also automatically turn itself on and off as you enter or exit the Bluetooth radius, so you don't have to worry about accidentally leaving it on when you're out of the car, or forgetting to turn it on when you're driving.

The good

  • Provides Voice Assist subscription service for those who want it
  • Has built-in simulated surround speakers but also works over FM radio
  • Can be paired with 2 iPhones simultaneously
  • Easy setup

The bad

  • Voice Assist requires you to share contacts and passwords
  • Flashing blue light is distracting

The bottom line

The Jabra FREEWAY Bluetooth Car Kit is a great option for anyone who doesn't have built-in iPhone or iPod connectivity in their car, especially great for couples who want to be able to pair both their phones to single device. Voice Assist is a boon to anyone with an older iPhone that doesn't offer Siri, though it does come with some privacy and security tradeoffs.

Sound quality with the built-in speakers is okay, but with the FM transmitter is even better.

$109.95 - Buy now


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Anthony Casella