Parrot DriveBlue Bluetooth
Removable in-car handsfree unit for cellphones
Brilliantly simple and
foolproof, the DriveBlue unit requires no installation, and
immediately starts working.
of our series on Bluetooth - more articles listed on
Wearable Bluetooth headsets
necessarily involve some design compromises.
But here's an in-car handsfree
kit completely free of compromises, and full of functionality.
Strongly recommended for all people who have a Bluetooth phone.
And, if you don't yet have a Bluetooth phone, the convenience of
this unit might persuade you to upgrade.
Note : The DriveBlue has
been largely superseded by the new (released 16 May 2005)
Easydrive unit - similar but better than the Drive Blue.
the Easydrive here.
What you Get
The Parrot DriveBlue unit
comes packed in a plastic display pack. Inside are
instructions, the unit, and an extension microphone.
The unit itself simply plugs
into the car's cigarette lighter. It measures a maximum of
5½" x 2½" x 1", and weights about 3 ounces.
Its compact size and light
weight make it ideal for taking with you when traveling -
simply plug it into any rental car to enjoy its full
functionality. Or, if you have several cars and don't want
to buy a unit for each car, swap the unit between your own cars.
Of course, if using the
DriveBlue in a rental car, you'll have to remember to remove it
when returning the car! The automatic and
unobtrusive nature of the unit might make this difficult.
The unit sells for $100-130
and has a one year warranty.
The DriveBlue unit is
compatible with the Bluetooth 1.1 specification, which makes it
compatible with most other Bluetooth devices.
Unlike some earlier inferior
model Bluetooth products, the DriveBlue contains profiles for
both headset and hands-free usage, and so will work with just
about every cell phone out there.
The unit can be paired with
three different phones simultaneously.
Configuring the DriveBlue to
work with your Phone(s)
This is tremendously simple.
Unlike many headsets, there is no need to do anything special to
the DriveBlue itself to switch it into pairing mode.
Simply use your phone to
find the new Bluetooth device and pair with it through the
phone (the DriveBlue's pairing code is 1234). You'll have instructions on how to do this with
your phone; in addition, there are careful step by step
instructions included with the unit for most Bluetooth capable
Using the DriveBlue
Get into your car, with your
cell phone somewhere in the car as well. The phone and
DriveBlue automatically link up. Any incoming calls will
now ring through the DriveBlue unit, without you needing to make
any changes to the phone at all.
To place a call, you can
either use the last number redial or the voice activated dialing
features of the DriveBlue, or you can use your phone's keypad to
dial the number and then speak to the other person through the
When you get out of your
car, your phone automatically switches back to normal operation,
until such time as you return to your car.
There's nothing to remember.
Nothing to adjust or program. You act totally
normally, leaving everything to your phone and the DriveBlue
unit to do automatically on your behalf.
This is surely the ultimate
in phone convenience.
Of course the person you're
speaking with will notice you're using some type of speaker
phone, but in general, sound quality is perfectly good, and the
unit has digital signal processing that results in background
noise reduction, making it more practical to have a
conversation while driving in a noisy environment.
The DriveBlue has a volume
control so you can adjust the incoming volume as it suits you.
For best results, you'll
want to use the supplied microphone extension. This has a
microphone and velcro mount at one end of a 10' cord, and a plug
at the other end. Because of the velcro mount, you can
easily transfer the extension microphone to other vehicles too -
kudos to DriveBlue for thinking of this.
If you're using the built-in
microphone, the unit works in simplex mode - that is, either you
can talk, or the other person can talk, but both of you can't be
talking simultaneously. This cuts down on the echo
problems that might otherwise occur. The simplex circuitry
gives you 'override' capability - if both of you are talking,
then the unit will cause your conversation to be sent to the
other person in preference to their conversation being sent to
When you plug in the
extension microphone, the unit switches to full duplex mode and
both you and the other person can talk at the same time, just
like a regular conversation.
The unit is very good at
echo cancellation - in testing, we placed the microphone close to the speaker to see what would happen, and while the
person at the other end of the phone reported some echo, the
level wasn't judged to be impossible.
Other Comments and
There are two control
buttons on the unit. One, with a green handset printed on
it, is your 'answer/place call/yes' button, and the other, with
a red handset printed on it, is your 'hang up' button.
This is easy to understand and remember, and sufficiently
intuitively simple that you don't need to refresh your memory
with the product manual if it is a while since you last used the
The DriveBlue does not have
an on/off switch, but relies instead on your car's cigarette
lighter being switched on and off by the ignition switch.
If your car's cigarette lighter stays on all the time, you would
want to unplug the DriveBlue when the car will not be used for
more than a day or two - the current drain on the unit is not a
lot (max of 300 mA and less on standby) but if your battery is
only half charged and you then leave the car unattended for a
week, the power taken by the DriveBlue unit could be enough to
flatten the battery.
The unit does not hinge or
pivot between the 'plug into the lighter' part and the main
speaker/microphone/control unit part. This may pose
problems in some vehicles, depending on their layout. A
simple hinge between the two parts of the unit would make it
much more universal.
The manufacturer - Parrot in
France - has a helpful
website with copies of manuals and other
There is no mute function,
although this could be achieved by transferring the call back to
your phone and muting it there.
The unit supports call
'flashing' - eg, to answer a call waiting call, by simply
briefly pressing the green button.
If you live in a state or
country where it is illegal to hold your phone and have a
conversation with it while driving, you should consider one of
these as the best way to legally use your phone hands-free.
And even if you live in a
region where it remains legal to use your phone while driving,
increasingly, lawsuits are being filed against drivers who have
accidents while on the phone, asserting that the drivers were
prima facie inattentive.
A hands free kit, such as
this, might save your life, or, less dramatically, might save
you from a major lawsuit.
Cost and Where to Buy
The unit has a recommended
retail price of $129, but can be found for less on some
Pro Travel Gear
manufacturer of the Plane Quiet
headphones, sell the unit for $99 on their website, and offer
Travel Insider readers a 5% discount if you quote the
discount code travelinsider when completing your purchase.
See also our review of
Parrot's CK3000 hard-wired car hands-free kit
and a discussion on that page of the pluses and minuses of the
two different units and approaches to in-car hands-free units.
This unit is easy to install
(just plug in to your car's lighter!), and easy to use (no need
to open its manual for most people). It works well and
provides a very valuable convenience for people who wish to use
their phones in the car.
Because it is portable, you
can use it in any car, getting full value out of it, and for
sure, you'll quickly find you never want to be in a car without
Read more in the Bluetooth
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30 April 2004, last update
28 May 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.