How to Buy a Bluetooth Headset or Car Speakerphone

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Jabra Extreme Bluetooth headset
A Bluetooth headset or speakerphone can set you free. When paired with a compatible cell phone, a Bluetooth headset or car kit allows you to make calls without having to hold the phone in your hand. And such Bluetooth products are more than just a convenience--in some places, using one is the law. It may be illegal for you to use your cell phone without a headset or speakerphone while driving.

Even if you live in a state where it isn't a violation to talk on a cell phone while driving, you should invest in a headset or car kit (or both) anyway. Using a Bluetooth accessory can be a liberating experience. Plus, companies are increasingly providing features that go beyond simply managing phone calls. For example, some products, using voice prompts, will indicate the battery status or read text messages to you.

Which type of product you choose depends on your habits. If you spend a considerable amount of time in your car and it doesn't have built-in Bluetooth support, think strongly about investing in a portable Bluetooth speakerphone. Sure, you can use a mono headset in your car just fine, but wearing headsets for extended periods can become uncomfortable or distracting after a while.

If you are addicted to your music and you like the idea of having a headset that can handle both tunes and calls, consider purchasing a set of stereo headphones. But do not drive while wearing them: It's probably illegal in your state to cover both ears with headphones when you're behind the wheel. (And deep down you know that would not be a sensible thing to do.) Of course, you can wear a set of headphones in a vehicle when somebody else is driving.

The Big Picture

It's a Bluetooth jungle out there. Expect to find a large number of manufacturers, different designs, and a wide range of prices. Call quality can vary considerably, too.

The Specs Explained

Unclear about the performance that a given headset or speakerphone is supposed to deliver? Confused by the jargon? We explain the terminology.

Bluetooth-Headset Buying Tips

Do your homework to ensure that you choose the right headset for your style, the first time around. Remember that one size does not fit all.

Bluetooth-Speakerphone Buying Tips

Find a car kit that will match your preferences. Some speakerphones may not work for you, depending on your area's climate.

For Additional Information

If you're ready to research Bluetooth headset models or to learn more about selecting a cell phone, check out the following PCWorld resources.

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