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Make your iPhone hands-free for less than the price of a ticket

David Winograd

In most states it's illegal to drive while holding an iPhone to your ear, with the average price of a ticket coming in at at least $100. Personally, I'm lucky since my Lexus 400h, like many cars, allows me to make and take calls through my car stereo. My interaction is limited to receiving calls by pressing a green button, and then pressing with a red hang up button on the steering wheel to end the call. Now Parrot has provided that same functionality to any car for less than the price of a ticket, namely US$99.99.

The Parrot Minikit Slim is an ingenious device that clips onto your sun visor. After Bluetooth pairing to your iPhone, installation is complete. It automatically downloads your iPhone contact list and then voice-enables that list. Push the green button and tell it who to call, and it dials the number for you. If there are two numbers associated to your contact, you'll be prompted for either 'home' or 'mobile', similar to the Voice Command function on the iPhone.

The Minikit Slim is self-contained including a microphone and speaker. When your call is done, you simply push the red button and disconnect the call. The idea is simple, but the functionality is incredibly useful since you can move the Minikit Slim to any car. Outside of its obvious use as a hands-free kit, I can see it being quite valuable at the intersection of road warriors and rental cars. If your iPhone is synced with a Windows machine, it will download the address book, so it's fully cross-platform. The Minikit Slim won't weigh you down, either -- it weighs only about three ounces.

Parrot also has a line of more intricate Bluetooth devices that either integrate with your car stereo or replace it altogether.

  • The Parrot MKi9000 US $299.00 (installation required) puts the same functions as the Minikit Slim on your dashboard or console and comes with two microphones; one for the driver and one for the passenger. It also connects to any iPhone, iPod touch, USB flash drive or just about any MP3 player, and plays your music through the car stereo.
  • The Parrot MKi9200 US $299, adds a screen that gives you full utility of your iTunes library, including playlists.
  • The Parrot RKi8400 US $399 replaces your car stereo entirely. It's a small panel that you snap your iPhone or other device into and then hide it in the capacious enclosure that previously housed your radio. The RKi8400 is a thin panel that snaps onto the front of the enclosure, and contains a screen mimicking all the controls of iTunes or other musical sources. If you're worried about theft, just take the panel with you.
Whichever unit meets your needs, the Parrot line seems to do a very nice job of turning your car stereo into what it should have been the day you bought your vehicle without buying a bunch of wires and boxes that can get complicated.

Take a look at these videos to see the Parrot MIi9200 going through its paces:

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