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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Car Safety & Security

As regular readers of my blog are now aware, my life and that of my family has changed somewhat radically in the past 9 months. I am now a full time carer for my Mum after her brain haemorrhage and to some extent for my Dad too who has Parkinson’s.

In a day to day sense I've sorted most things out – we have routine and our days are filled with as much exercise as we can manage without tiring and games to play so Mum can relearn some skills. And while I am at home that is all fine and dandy.

But I have found it very hard to go out and leave them alone, even for a few minutes. This situation will improve as Mum gets better, but at the moment I find it hard. Of course it’s totally impossible not to go out though. I need to get to the shops to buy food (lots and lots and lots of food as it happens as we are trying to build both Mum and Dad’s weight up) and also I need to get to the chemist to pick up meds quite often. And this is without even considering the need to just get out on my own for a half hour here and there to retain my own sanity, which I haven’t felt comfortable to do up until now.

So, I was thrilled when the lovely people at Tesco Compare car insurance asked me if I wanted to test and review a Tom Tom Hands Free car kit. I have never needed a car kit before as phone calls would never have been so important that they couldn't wait until I was parked or back home. But in the present circumstances I thought that it would go a long way to ease my mind to know that I could take a call immediately if needed.

The car kit itself is small and neat and comes with both dashboard mounting and windscreen mounting so you can choose exactly where you want it to go. As I already have a satnav (which I bought when we were making endless trips to hospitals all over Sussex earlier in the year), this was very useful as it meant I could pop it over on the dash well out of the way on the right hand side of my steering wheel, and without taking up half my windscreen (which is the only downside to all these gadgets). It comes with an external mic which is located on the front of the cradle and also an extension cable for that, so you can put it up on your sun visor if it’s easier or better. I haven’t found the need to extend the mic location at all, everyone has said the calls have been very clear, but I think the visor location would maybe be better if you travel on faster roads more. I was impressed that it came with the option straight out of the box. The cradle itself has two rubberised clips to hold the phone in place. They are strong and secure and there has been no wobbling around at all. I have an iphone 5 so I can’t comment on how other phones are held but they are full adjustable so I can’t see there would be any issues at all. The phone connects to the kit via Bluetooth, and located on the cradle are two buttons to answer and hang up calls. This is brilliant for short journeys when you can’t be bothered don’t’ want to rake around your handbag finding the phone. It works perfectly from somewhere in a handbag that’s thrown in the back foot well underneath three bags of shopping! There is a charger for your phone too so on longer journeys you could reach your destination with a fully charged phone (that in itself is quite something and extremely useful for the iPhone 5 which I don’t think has the best battery life in the world) I haven’t used it yet as I need to get an adapter from the micro USB which is supplied to the lightning dock that the iPhone uses. But again I am very impressed that charging facilities have been provided straight out the box.
The call quality seems very good. The speaker is great and I can hear clearly, and I've certainly had no complaints from callers at the other end so I assume the mic is good too. And really call quality is all that matters in a car kit.

There were only a few minor niggles and really they are hardly worth mentioning, but for the transparency of a review I will: Firstly if you put the phone in the cradle the two buttons for answering and hanging up a call are totally obscured. Now I assume that if you have put your phone in the cradle that you are expecting to use the phone buttons, but having the buttons accessible would be useful as touchscreens on modern smartphones are hard to use when you’re driving, a quick button press is easier. The only other little point is that within the packaging there are a plethora of little clips and tacks and adapters for attaching cables to this that and the other and extending the mic and the charger etc, but I didn't find enough detail in the user guide to understand quite what every little one is for. I've worked it out since, and as I say it’s hardly worth mentioning really.

It’s such a small gadget really, but it does make me feel so much easier knowing that I can answer a call while driving safely and never really be out of reach. It’s gone a long way to ease my mind when I need to pop out for a few minutes.

Model reviewed: Tom Tom Hands Free Car Kit for Smartphones