Your mobile phone is a smarter, more capable -- not to mention cheaper -- entertainment and information device than any gadget you'll find in your car, so its about time we all got with the programme and mounted our mobiles in our motors.
One excellent way of achieving this is using gaffer tape and a healthy squirt of No More Nails, and another is to use the Parrot Minikit Smart -- a Bluetooth-equipped suction mount that clamps your mobile to the windscreen of your car.
Stick it to the van
The Minikit Smart consists of two parts. The first section attaches to your windscreen via a suction mount, with a clip creating the necessary vacuum so you don't have to lick the base. The second section, a spring-loaded clamp, holds your mobile in place. This is lined with a soft foamy material that prevents your precious handheld from being scratched, and is mounted on a ball hinge, so it is possible to twist your phone into portrait or landscape orientations, or to angle it up or down as you see fit.
The clamp held onto our test mobile like a vice, with absolutely no danger of it slipping away -- even when tested with 'enthusiastic' driving. This means the Minikit Smart can also be used on a motorbike, or, if you're interested in recording your journey, as a camera mount.
One of the Parrot Minikit Smart's primary functions is to help users make hands-free calls. To help facilitate this, the device comes with integrated Bluetooth and a 2-watt speaker that is noticeably louder than the speakers on most mobiles. Any calls routed through the Minikit Smart sound a lot better than they would coming out of your mobile, and it's possible to play any music stored on your mobile via the Minikit Smart's speakers, which could come in handy if your car stereo is broken.
Call it off
Placing calls via the Minikit Smart is simple. Push the button with the green LED on the front, and the device verbally asks "who do you want to call?", which you may answer with a name. The device will then ask whether you want to call the home, cell phone or office numbers for that contact, before putting you through.
The Parrot Minikit Smart's voice recognition is generally of an acceptable standard, and was clever enough to detect a variety of our cod accents. However, should you have trouble with it, there are alternative ways to make calls.
Push the button on the circular knob between the red and green buttons, and you can go through your phone book. When you've reached a letter that corresponds with the name of the contact you want to reach, push the central button again and the Minikit Smart reads aloud the first contact that starts with that letter. Turning the knob clockwise or anti clockwise reads the next or previous contact whose name begins with that letter. Once the Minikit has read aloud the name of the person you want to reach, you can push the central button again to dial that contact.
Say what, now?
While the Parrot Minikit Smart generally understands the user, understanding the Minikit is extremely difficult. Its text-to-speech technology, which allows it to read the names of your contacts, sound extremely robotic. Thankfully, you can assign new voice recordings for each of your contacts, so their names are read aloud in your own (or someone else's) voice. You needn't pronounce their names as their mothers intended, either -- the Minikit Smart takes your pronunciation at face value, so you can amuse yourself and others by assigning rude voice tags to the names of your best friends.
The Parrot Minikit Smart draws its power from a bundled car adaptor that uses a mini USB connection. The device also includes a standard sized USB port, so you can connect a cable to charge your mobile. Its not a particularly elegant solution -- your dashboard will be a writhing throng of wires -- but it's an acceptable method of trickle charging your mobile as you drive.
The Parrot Minikit Smart is an excellent suction mount for mobile phones or other handheld devices. It's strong, won't damage your mobile, and although its text-to-speech clarity leaves a lot to be desired, its a very good piece of kit for anyone wishing to integrate their mobile handset to their car's information, entertainment or guidance setup.
Edited by Jennifer Whitehead