Holiday 2012: Gadgets for Vehicles

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It would be best if people willingly turned off and put away their personal electronic devices when they got into a car, but most folks routinely ride in vehicles with their handheld gadgets in hand, hurriedly multitasking as they barrel down the highway. Thankfully, there are numerous accessories available at B&H that succeed in getting these devices out of people’s hands, so they can refocus their attention on the road. Read on for suggestions on how to accessorize, gadget-wise, for those who travel by horseless carriage.

Hands on the Wheel, Bluetooth on the Head

Bluetooth headsets are electronic gadgets that attach to the side of your face, and therefore, they don’t appeal to everyone. The Motorola Roadster 2 is an alternative that offers Bluetooth capabilities in a low-profile, not-worn-on-the-body form factor. It’s a hands-free speakerphone accessory that mounts to the sun visor of a vehicle. It works with Android, iPhone and most Bluetooth-enabled devices. The Roadster 2 turns itself on and off automatically when you enter and exit the vehicle, and speaks to let you know that it has paired itself with your phone. Dual microphones with noise-canceling technology make your calls sound clear. When you receive a call, it tells you who is calling, and you can answer or ignore calls with voice commands. It has a built-in speaker, or you can transmit the audio through FM radio. 

Users of Android 2.2 and higher can take advantage of various apps that expand the usability of the Roadster 2. The My MotoSpeak app enables you to receive and respond to text messages with voice commands. The Motorola Car Finder app uses GPS information to remember where you parked your car, and it gives you detailed instructions on how to walk back to your vehicle.

The comfort, call quality and extended battery life of Bluetooth headsets has many users hooked, whether they’re using them in a vehicle or they’re just walking down the street. Bose is famous for their sound and build quality, and their Bluetooth Headset Series 2 constantly wins praise for its excellent noise-canceling ability. Available in separate models for the right ear or the left ear, the Bluetooth Headset Series 2 can be used to stream music, podcasts and audio books wirelessly from your Apple or Android mobile phone, as well as answer and place calls.

Etymotic Research is a brand that’s well known by people who are familiar with professional audio products, because their in-ear headphones have a solid reputation for providing recording studio-quality performance. If you’re interested in a Bluetooth headset that delivers sonic clarity, you should check out the Etymotic Research etyBLU2. Noise-reduction technology is applied to both the microphone and the earpiece, and several different styles of ear tips are provided for a perfect fit.

There are budget-friendly Bluetooth headset options available as well, such as the Motorola HX550. The extended range of this product makes it possible to park your car at a convenience store, exit the car and walk inside the store while leaving your phone behind in the car, purchase a cup of coffee and return to your vehicle without interrupting your telephone conversation. The HX550 has excellent battery life, multiple ear-mounting options, and it’s compatible with the Motorola My MotoSpeak app for Android that lets you listen to and respond to texts using voice commands.

Mobile Homes for Smartphones

It’s not safe to store a mobile device in your pocket when you’re in a vehicle, or have it sliding around somewhere on your lap. You’ll invariably drop it, and the gadget will wedge itself down at base of your car seat, next to some old, popped kernels of corn that you can’t remember ever snacking on. A much better way to go is to use a suction-cup mount like the Macally mGRIP, which can easily be affixed to your dashboard or windshield, to keep your device at eye level and ultimately help you concentrate on the road. The mGRIP is compatible with most mobile phones and GPS devices, and the mount swivels so you can view in portrait or landscape mode. 

If you own a suction-cup mount like the mGRIP or the Panavise Universal Phone Holder, and you encounter issues with it keeping its grip on the dashboard, there’s an accessory available for this accessory. The Panavise NoSKID DashMount is a circular coaster for your dashboard that supplies you with the perfect spot to affix your suction cup-based mount. It uses weight to stay in place, as opposed to adhesives, so you won’t mess up the interior of your car with any sticky residues.

If you don’t like the idea of having a mobile device in your line of sight on the windshield or the dashboard, you can always stick it in a cup holder with the Macally mCup Adjustable Automobile Cup Holder Mount. It adjusts to fit various sized cup holders, and it’s compatible with devices like iPhones, iPods, Android phones, GPS units and more.

Tablets on Wheels

Vehicle-friendly suction cup mounts are available for tablet computers as well. The Delkin Devices Fat Gecko Mini Camera & iPad Mount is a combo kit that includes the DDMOUNT MINI, which is a suction-cup-based mount with a 1/4”-20 tripod thread. The included Fat Gecko iPad mount screws onto this thread, and it’s compatible with the second, third and fourth generation of the larger, 9.7” display iPads. Because tripod threads are being used, you can also use the DDMOUNT MINI to hold a camera.

Envious of minivans that have integrated TV screens for the passengers in the back seat? Do you own an iPad and want to give your kids a way to watch The Little Mermaid as you roll down the highway? Mounts are available that enable you to attach an iPad to the back of the headrest on a car seat. The Tether Tools Wallee Headrest Mount is compatible with every generation of the full-size iPad, as well as the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Another option is the Scosche holdUP p2, which is also compatible with all larger iPads, and can swivel to view in portrait or landscape mode.

An Extra Eye for the Road

Some people really enjoy documenting their day-to-day activities. It’s not uncommon to publish photos on the Internet of what you’re having for lunch, and to let the world know that you've arrived at the dry cleaners, by “checking in” with a social networking app. Thankfully, a head-worn camera is available that lets you share what happens on your walk between lunch and the drycleaners. The Looxcie 2 is a tiny video camera that hooks to your ear and captures live video that can be broadcast on the Internet through Wi-Fi. An app called LooxcieLive is available for both Apple iOS and Android devices that lets you tether the camera with a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot. The Looxcie 2 is available with five hours of storage. Additional mounts are available to clip the Looxcie to the windshield of a vehicle, to the sunvisor of a car, and there are also hat and helmet mounts. 

Why would you want a video camera pointed at the road ahead of you? You can capture memories of a scenic route, auto-racing enthusiasts can record their maneuvers, and should anything unusual or hazardous unfold on the road—you’ll have a visual record of exactly what happened, which may help your case with the highway patrol. The Avangard Optics Mobile-i is a Full HD video camera that was designed specifically for mounting to the windshield on the inside of your car. It records onto microSD cards with up to 32GB of storage, and has a built-in 2.4” LCD screen and speakers, so you can review your footage. A windshield mount is included.

Hijack the Car Stereo

If a vehicle’s stereo system lacks Bluetooth connectivity, you’re not necessarily out of luck. Often, the only accessory you need to tap into the sound system is a simple stereo mini-plug cable. Many contemporary car stereos feature a 3.5mm auxiliary input, which is a simple jack that lets you connect the audio output of your MP3 player, smartphone, tablet, etc. to the car stereo. Unfortunately, audio terminology has a way of making this stuff unnecessarily confusing. Most people don’t think of the headphone jacks on their electronic devices as “outputs,” and they don’t immediately associate a mini-plug jack on a stereo system labeled AUX as an “input.” This confusion is understandable, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of it.  

If you encounter a car stereo system with a 3.5mm auxiliary input, you’ll be patting yourself on the back if you’re smart enough to have a stereo mini-plug cable tucked away in your bag. The cable needs to have male 3.5mm stereo plugs on both ends, and you can get something as basic as this Comprehensive cable with three or six feet of length. Flat, tangle-resistant cables are popular these days, and Griffin offers a 3.5mm aux cable in this style in three or six-foot lengths. If you’re not into winding up cables, Macally offers a retractable 3.5mm aux cable that extends to 5 feet long.

Older vehicles typically don’t offer sound systems with 3.5mm auxiliary inputs. In fact, it’s still very common to encounter cassette players built into in automobiles. While it’s great fun to play cassette tapes that you find in thrift stores and garage sales, there may be occasions when you’re not in the mood to listen to Jimmy Buffet. When you’re stuck with a tape player, you can always use a Sony CPA-9C Car Cassette Adapter to connect your personal music player to the car’s audio system. The Monster iCarPlay Cassette 800 is another option, which lets you adjust which end the cable comes out of the cassette adapter, so that it can be compatible with more car stereos.

Give Yourself a Jump and a Charge

Most vehicles are outfitted with a spare tire, a jack and a wrench in case you get a flat tire, but how many people are prepared for a jump if the battery dies? Schlepping around jumper cables and hoping to flag down a charitable fellow motorist is one way to go, carrying around the Celestron Power Tank 17 and being able to jumpstart your car without the assistance of others is another option. In addition to having built-in jumper cables that you can use to start a car with a dead battery, the Power Tank 17 also has a flashlight, siren and an AM/FM radio. If you’re into astronomy and you use a telescope like the Celestron CPC 1100 you’re really in luck, because this unit can supply juice to it as well.

Perhaps the most basic and essential gadget-friendly car accessory is a simple charging adapter. These priceless little gizmos plug into the 12-volt socket on the dashboard, and provide a power source for gadgets. The Scosche reVIVE II is a dual USB charger with a dedicated 2.1 amp USB port to power an iPad, and a second 1 amp USB port for other devices. The Kensington PowerBolt Duo offers two USB ports as well, one with 2.1 amps, the other with 1 amp, and it includes a USB-to-30-pin cable for Apple devices. If you only need to charge one device, you can save a few bucks with the Xuma USB Car Charger, which can supply an iPad with 2.1 amps of power, and a USB to 30-pin cable is included as well. For those willing to spend a little more on a premium product, the Just Mobile Highway Pro is a dual USB charger with 2.1 amps of power output, a diamond thread aluminum design, a fuse to protect against power surges, and it ships with a coiled USB-to-30-pin cable for Apple gadgets.

Thanks for checking out this B&H InDepth article. If you have any questions or comments about these products, you can drive to our SuperStore in New York City, and park in our parking lot at 349 West 34th Street. You can also contact a B&H Sales Professional at 1-800-606-6969, or via live chat. We also encourage you to submit a Comment, below.