Road Worrier Tests Out The Jabra Freeway

If you want to make mobile calls while you're in a car, a Bluetooth hands-free speakerphone kit is an essential. But is it possible to get one that doesn't sound like you're driving on the bottom of the ocean? Road Worrier tests out the Jabra Freeway to find out.

Longstanding Lifehacker readers are presumably muttering under their breath at this point: "How on earth is Angus going to test a hands-free speakerphone? We all know that he can't drive and spends all his time on trains and planes. If he tries to use a Bluetooth kit in either of those contexts, he'll end up getting lynched."

This is, on the whole, a fair observation. So when I got offered the Jabra Freeway as a test device, I took the obvious course: I passed it on to my mate Arthur, a long-time user of various Bluetooth kits and a perennial in-car caller. I was in the vehicle when he made his first test run so I could check out the general operation and sound quality, but after that I left him with it to test over a few weeks.

The $149 Freeway has three main selling points: it offers better-than-average audio quality courtesy of its virtual surround sound, it automatically pairs and unpairs with your phone courtesy of motion sensing, and it can be controlled via voice. How well does it perform on each of these three fronts?

Having experienced low-quality audio when travelling as a passenger in the past, I was impressed with how clear the Freeway sounded when I used it to make test calls. Arthur was even more impressed, noting that once the volume controls were suitably set, it was better than any of the other models he'd tried and had noticeably less echo. The automatic pairing and unpairing also worked pretty well, though Arthur was left with the distinct impression that it made more use of Bluetooth proximity rather than motion sensing as such.

The unit itself offers voice commands for checking battery level and volume, and can convey commands to your phone if it supports voice-controlled dialling. As is often the case with voice recognition, alas, the built-in systems didn't cope at all well with Australian accents. The only way I managed to get it to respond was by using an American accent — not impossible, but definitely a nuisance.

The Freeway clips to the sun visor in the car, which keeps it pretty neatly out of the way (though you might want to put it on the passenger side when charging in-car, to avoid cables in the wrong place). All-in (and despite the mild nuisance of the US-centric voice recognition), it's a neat little unit if you're regularly stuck in a car and want to make calls in a safe, legal way.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman still thinks Bluetooth as a name has unfortunate overtones of a potentially unpleasant dental experience. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


Comments

    This reads very much like a paid review/advertisement. Can you confirm or deny this Angus?

      I can confirm for him - this was a product that tested very well.

      You should never worry here. If it's paid for, it's boxed out and clearly labelled as an advertisement. Simple.

        +1 what Seamus said. I was enthusiastic about this precisely because it worked well (voice recognition aside).

    I have been using this product for around a month not and quite like it compared to their Stone2 which is an earpiece. I completely agree with you about the voice recognition too. You didnt mention the FM feature on the device which is something i LOVE. It broadcasts audio to an FM frequency so you can listen to music from your phone via the Freeway, via the FM tuner in your car! Cool right?
    Cheers,

    Geoff

    If ur having problems with the voice commands and Aussie accent its definitely attributable to Jabras default program, here in the US we get one year of VoiceAssist which I've used for 6months and it works brilliantly compared to any other voice command apps I've tried, it should be available for $6/month or so but safety alone well worth the price.30 day free trial for the skeptics out there

    Regarding the Aussie accents, doesn't the Freeway have voice-learning capabilities, like my three-year-old Samsung SCH U900 cell phone? Hopefully it does, and will adjust to your foreign (LOL) accents over a short period?

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