BlueAnt V1 Bluetooth Headset
At a Glance
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The BlueAntV1's voice-control interface is limited, but this headset offers solid call quality (mostly).
The BlueAnt V1 offers one feature that no other Bluetooth headset I've tested does: integrated voice control. The $130 (as of December 1, 2008) BlueAnt comes with its own voice-controlled interface, called BlueGenie. This technology, created by a company called Sensory, overrides your cell phone's own voice commands. (Your handset needs to support this capability, though. Check your phone's manual or its options to determine whether your phone supports this feature. Look for options labeled 'voice commands', 'voice dialing', or the like.)
The advantage to this approach becomes clear from when you initially set up the BlueAnt V1. Once the BlueAnt is fully charged and you turn it on for the first time, the headset's voice walks you through the pairing process. It worked like a charm in my tests. Sure, most people may not need a step-by-step, but it's handy for folks who might be new to the Bluetooth gig. (And it's easy to turn off the BlueAnt's voice control and revert to your handset's functionality.)
As soon as my cell phone and the BlueAnt were connected, the BlueAnt was at my beck and call. No voice training was necessary. I'd simply press the call button, and I'd hear, "Say a command." I'd respond by spouting "Redial" or "Call voicemail," for instance. Saying "Call GOOG-411" connected me to Google's free directory assistance.
When a call came in, I responded to BlueGenie's query by saying "Answer" or "Ignore." Other terms that came in handy: "Switch headset off," "Check battery," and "Call back" (this last command dialed out to the number of the last call I'd received).
The BlueAnt has a repertoire of available commands, and you can't go beyond the pool of requests it understands. This meant, unfortunately, that it couldn't handle instructions like "Call PC World office" or "Call Julianne mobile." The workaround? I could preprogram a handful of my A-list numbers to work with the BlueAnt's speed-dial numbers (up to five).
Despite those shortcomings, the BlueAnt picked up nearly all my babblings correctly. I was able to jump into voice control straight out of the box--not too shabby.
The fit was moderately secure with the default earhook, but not incredibly comfortable. You can go hookless with the BlueAnt; but without it the headset did not stay in position, and the earpiece shifted around as I shook my head.
I liked the position and the feel of the call button. It's easy to find--it follows the curve at the top of the headset--and it gives strong feedback when pressed.
Calls sounded good most of the time, coming in clear and close up. On other occasions some of my sentences broke up, or my voice sounded tinny to the other parties. Call recipients could also hear music I played in the background, but it wasn't distracting.
If you're in a noisy environment, you can turn on the Max voice-isolation setting (by tapping the call button once), which will help remove noise and allow you to keep talking. When I had my tunes blaring louder than usual, the person on the other end noticed a difference: The noise practically disappeared, and while my voice sounded a tad more robotic, it was completely intelligible.