Parrot Easydrive Bluetooth
Removable in-car handsfree unit for cellphones
Probably the best use
of Bluetooth to date is with an in-car hands-free unit.
The Parrot Easydrive can be used in any car, and with
any Bluetooth enabled cellphone.
With no installation and no special knowledge needed to
use the unit, this is a great safety and convenience aid for
of our series on Bluetooth - more articles listed on
Wearable Bluetooth headsets
necessarily involve design compromises.
But here's an in-car handsfree
kit completely free of compromises, and full of functionality.
Strongly recommended for all people who have a Bluetooth phone.
And, if you don't yet have a Bluetooth phone, the convenience of
this unit might persuade you to upgrade.
What you Get
The Parrot Easydrive
Bluetooth Handsfree Kit
comes in an easily opened plastic display pack. Inside are
instructions, the main unit (which includes the speaker - at the
bottom of the illustration above), and an extension control box
(which includes the microphone - shown at the top of the
illustration above). Also included is a second
faceplate (choose between a clear or a black colored faceplate
on the main unit) and a couple of cable ties to help route the
wiring between the main unit and the control box.
The speaker unit simply plugs
into the car's cigarette lighter. It measures a maximum of
4½" x 2¼" x 2¼", and the smaller microphone/control
box is about 2½" x 2" x
1". Altogether, the system weighs about 4 ounces.
The control box/microphone connects via
a short two foot cable to the main unit. The cable is hard
wired into the main unit and connects via a mini-USB type
connector to the control box. A benefit of having the
cable hard-wired into the main unit is that you won't lose the
The compact size and light
weight of this system make it ideal for taking with you when traveling -
simply plug it into any car to enjoy its full
functionality. Or, if you have several cars and don't want
to buy a unit for each car, swap the unit between your own cars.
The unit sells for about $120
and has a one year warranty.
The Easydrive unit is
compliant with the Bluetooth 1.1 specification, which makes it
compatible with most other Bluetooth devices.
Unlike some earlier inferior
model Bluetooth products, the Easydrive contains profiles for
both headset and hands-free usage, and so will work with just
about every Bluetooth equipped cell phone out there (some cell
phones have one mode, some the other).
To use some of its advanced
features, such as the 'Magic Words' (see below) your phone will
also need to have the 'Object Push' Bluetooth profile - this is
not quite so common, especially on older Bluetooth phones, but
will become increasingly common in the future.
The unit can be paired with
up to five different phones simultaneously.
Configuring the Easydrive to
work with your Phone(s)
The Easydrive has a manual
(in six languages). The English section is 14 small pages,
and is not without its occasional puzzlement.
For example, at the end of
the section, you are invited to contact Parrot's hotline for
support, and even advised its hours of operation (Mon - Fri, 9am
- 6pm CET). But there's no number given - to find this
out, you have to visit their website. The number (in
Paris, France) is +33 (0)1 4803-6069.
And the section on adding
'voiceprints' for people's names doesn't actually tell you how
to do this - you have to go to their website and find out how
from the materials there. This is strange because, once
you find them online, the actual instructions are short and concise.
Configuring the Easydrive to
work with your mobile phone is tremendously simple.
Unlike many headsets, there is no need to do anything special to
the unit to switch it into pairing mode.
Simply use your phone to
find the new Bluetooth device and pair with it through the
phone (the Easydrive's pairing code is 1234). You'll have instructions on how to do this with
your phone; in addition, there are careful step by step
instructions for most Bluetooth capable phones available on the
Using the Easydrive
Get into your car, with your
cell phone somewhere in the car as well. The phone and
Easydrive automatically link up. Any incoming calls will
now ring through the Easydrive unit, without you needing to make
any changes to the phone at all.
To place a call, you can
either use the last number redial or the voice activated dialing
features of the Easydrive, or you can use your phone's keypad to
dial the number and then speak to the other person through the
When you get out of your
car, your phone automatically switches back to normal operation,
until such time as you return to your car.
There's nothing to remember.
Nothing to adjust or program. You act totally
normally, leaving everything to your phone and the Easydrive
unit to do automatically on your behalf.
This is surely the ultimate
in phone convenience.
This is a great feature, but
will only work with some cell phones. If your cell phone
supports the 'Object Push' Bluetooth profile, it will work with
With Magic Words enabled,
you record a series of key commands and then any time you say
one of these commands, the phone will respond accordingly.
Commands can be used to answer a call, redial, hang up, and
perform various other functions.
In addition to these 'magic
words' you can also record the names of people you want to call
(and who call you). Then, if you want to make a call, you
can simply command the unit by voice to call the person you want
to speak with, and if an incoming call comes from that person,
the unit will play the person's name to you so you know who it
The name recordings work for
all phones, whether or not they have the Object Push capability.
I haven't made much use of that myself, because I can't always
remember the recorded names for people in my phone directory.
If I really disciplined myself to be consistent with how I named
each person then it would probably be much better, or perhaps I
can simply create multiple entries for each person using
different voice labels (eg William Smith and Bill Smith).
Obviously, using spoken
commands rather than needing to take your eyes and hands off the
car's wheel to control your phone is the ultimate in safe
hands-free operation. The Easydrive unit has a well
developed set of such features.
Of course the person you're
speaking with will notice you're using some type of speaker
phone, but in general, sound quality is perfectly good, and the
unit has digital signal processing that results in background
noise reduction, making it more practical to have a
conversation while driving in a noisy environment.
The Easydrive has a volume
control so you can adjust the incoming volume as it suits you.
The unit operates in full duplex mode
both you and the other person can talk at the same time, just
like a regular conversation.
The unit is very good at
echo cancellation - in testing, we placed the microphone close to the speaker to see what would happen, and while the
person at the other end of the phone reported some echo, the
level wasn't judged to be impossible.
For best results, the closer
the microphone/control box is to your mouth, the better the
sound quality will be for the person you're speaking to.
Swapping Between Cars
One of the most appealing
features of the Easydrive is that it simply plugs into any car's
cigarette lighter and instantly starts working. So if you
are traveling with a rental car, you can take the Easydrive with
you (don't leave it behind at the end of your rental!) and if
you have two or more cars at home, you can again deploy the
Easydrive in whichever car you're currently using.
There is one slight
complicating factor, but this complication is easily resolved.
In addition to plugging the main unit (containing the speaker)
into the lighter, you also need to mount the control box
(containing the microphone) somewhere in the car. The
control box has a small piece of adhesive tape on its back to
allow it to be stuck wherever you want, but this will quickly
lose its stickiness. I've replaced this with a small piece
of velcro (the loop half) and then I place a small velcro dot
(the hook half) in each car where I want the control
unit/microphone to be located.
This makes it very easy to
remove both the speaker unit and the microphone unit when
swapping cars, and because the velcro tab on the microphone unit
is the soft loop part, it is soft and easy to carry.
Other Comments and
There are two control
buttons on the control box plus a scroll wheel that has a
push-in 'click' function as well.
The left button, with a green handset printed on
it, is your 'answer/place call/yes' button, and the right button, with
a red handset printed on it, is your 'hang up' button.
This is easy to understand and remember, and sufficiently
intuitively simple that you don't need to refresh your memory
with the product manual if it is a while since you last used the
The scroll wheel is used to
work through the various menus to configure the phone.
Menus have voice prompting (in your choice of six different
The Easydrive does not have
an on/off switch, but relies instead on your car's cigarette
lighter being switched on and off by the ignition switch.
If your car's cigarette lighter stays on all the time, you would
want to unplug the Easydrive when the car will not be used for
more than a day or two - the current drain on the unit is not a
lot (max of 300 mA and less on standby) but if your battery is
only half charged and you then leave the car unattended for a
week, the power taken by the unit could be enough to
flatten the battery.
The unit does not hinge or
pivot between the 'plug into the lighter' part and the main
speaker/microphone/control unit part. This may pose
problems in some vehicles, depending on their layout. A
simple hinge between the two parts of the unit would make it
much more universal.
The manufacturer - Parrot in
France - has a helpful
website with copies of manuals and other
There is no mute function,
although this could be achieved by transferring the call back to
your phone and muting it there.
The unit supports call
'flashing' - eg, to answer a call waiting call, by simply
briefly pressing the green button.
One of the special features
of this unit is that it is software upgradeable. From time
to time Parrot may add new features and capabilities, enhancing
the unit to match the evolving Bluetooth standard. You can
download new firmware from their website, and then transfer it
from a Bluetooth equipped computer (USB Bluetooth dongles are
becoming very inexpensive these days) to the unit wirelessly.
If you live in a state or
country where it is illegal to hold your phone and have a
conversation with it while driving, you should consider one of
these as the best way to legally use your phone hands-free.
And even if you live in a
region where it remains legal to use your phone while driving,
increasingly, lawsuits are being filed against drivers who have
accidents while on the phone, asserting that the drivers were
prima facie inattentive (the injured party can subpoena your
cell phone records to prove you were on the phone at the time
the accident occured).
A hands free kit, such as
this, might save your life, or, less dramatically, might save
you from a major lawsuit.
Cost and Where to Buy
The unit seems to be
generally priced for about $120 or a little less at present
(June 05). A
Froogle search for Easydrive shows companies selling it.
The Easydrive is noticeably
better than its predecessor, the DriveBlue. It has more
functions and better sound quality, and is more user friendly.
See also our review of
Parrot's CK3000 hard-wired car hands-free kit
and a discussion on that page of the pluses and minuses of the
two different units and approaches to in-car hands-free units.
This unit is easy to install
(just plug in to your car's lighter!), and easy to use (no need
to open its manual for most people). It works well and
provides a very valuable convenience for people who wish to use
their phones in the car.
Because it is portable, you
can use it in any car, getting full value out of it, and for
sure, you'll quickly find you never want to be in a car without
Read more in the Bluetooth
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3 June 2005, last update
28 May 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.