Once you've gone hands-free, it's hard to go back.
That little earplug that comes with wireless phones is handy -- and not just for driving with both hands on the wheel. With it, you can do chores around the house -- change a lightbulb, sweep the floor -- without tucking the phone between the ear and your shoulder.
But if you're like most people, you don't have a similar device for your landline phone at home. A cordless phone is bulkier than a cell phone, of course, so it's easier to tuck. But wouldn't it be nice to be hands-free all the time?
VXI Corp.'s BlueParrott B100 headset is here to liberate you, if you're willing to shell out $200 for the privilege. The gadget uses the radio standard known as Bluetooth -- the same technology used in wireless cell phone headsets.
The BlueParrott is large but comfortable. It looks like the headsets you see on friendly customer service reps in TV commercials, with a cushioned, round earphone attached to a black headband and a padded microphone sticking out front.
You charge the headset on a power dock, which also serves as the conduit for your telephone line. The dock connects to the phone line using a standard telephone cord, allowing you to receive calls in the headset.
To dial out, you plug any home phone, corded or cordless, into the dock with another phone cord. Press a button on the headset, wait until you hear a beep and a dial tone, then turn on your phone and dial the number. Once the line starts ringing in your headset, you can hang the phone up and complete the call using your headset.
The BlueParrott uses one button near the earphone for answering and ending calls. Two smaller buttons nearby control the volume.
VXI says the BlueParrott works up to 75 feet between the headset and the dock in optimal conditions. In my apartment, I had a clear connection until I moved about 40 feet from the dock, probably because the radio signal had to travel through walls.
Callers on the other end told me they heard a buzzing static sound when I was talking to them through the headset. I could hear it on my end, too. I've had the same experience with Bluetooth headsets for cell phones, especially in my home, where there's a lot of radio interference from my roommate's Wi-Fi base station and other devices.
But the buzz was tolerable, and the headset was useful. It'd be a big help for home office workers or parents keeping an eye on kids.
The BlueParrott can also be used as a headset for compatible cell phones with Bluetooth radios. Unfortunately, you can't use the headset to receive calls from a cell phone and a land line at the same time, which would be a nice feature for the many of us who have multiple phone numbers and only two hands.
Here are the specs on the hands-free wireless headset:
Device: BlueParrot B100
Range: Up to 75 feet
Security: 128-bit digital encryption
Compatibility: Works with all recent land-line phones and with cell phones that have Bluetooth technology
Standby time: Up to 100 hours
Talk time: Up to six hours without recharging
Web site: wwww.blueparrott.com.
-- Sources: VXT Corp.