Can you hear me now?
Many states and most provinces have some sort of ban on hand-held cell phone use while driving. So what kind of Bluetooth device is best for yakking hands-free?
Truckers and trucking editors like BlueParrott, Plantronics, Jawbone for the top three.

By Keith Goble
staff writer


Sandi Soendker: I like my Plantronics Voyager with the little mic wand. It fits over my glasses OK and doesn't come loose and fall off. I've had people ask if you have to buy left or right side ear loops. Nope. You can wear it on either ear. It has a little plug piece that goes in your ear and that comes in three different sizes, all in the box when you first buy it.

A full charge takes an hour and a half. The sound is great, and the noise cancellation feature is high quality. I got mine at Radio Shack, paid about $100.

Jami Jones: I am not a fan of my current Bluetooth earpiece – and, honestly, I'm not surprised. I got a Jabra free with a recent phone upgrade, not even sure what model. And, in my mind, I got exactly what I paid for.

Unless it is crammed deep into my ear canal and I yell at my kids to be quiet, it's utterly useless. The volume controls are limited, and its "noise canceling" feature is nonexistent. The only upside is that my preteen daughter loves wearing it, and when it breaks or gets lost, I won't really care.

Suzanne Stempinski: I'm a huge fan of wearing a Bluetooth earpiece. I've been wearing one since long before cities and states mandated their use while driving. It's practical. Why keep a hand on your phone when you can keep it on the wheel or hold a pen or talk and type?

I've tried several different manufacturers, but the one that keeps me coming back for the newest incarnation is the Jawbone by Aliph. I've been using the Icon for the last several months. Some days, I actually forget I'm wearing it.

With military-grade background noise canceling technology, an on-off switch, and the option to have it wired to your head with an earhook or tucked into your ear with a bud or both, it's easy to use, smart and lightweight. It's simple to pair with your cell phone. If you have an iPhone, the remaining battery life shows up on your task bar.

The battery offers up to 4.5 hours of talk time and more than 10 days charge on standby. And it retails for less than $100. I buy mine on Amazon.com or eBay at about half price with a full one-year warranty.

Paul Abelson: I used to use a fully featured Jawbone Bluetooth, but when I broke it, I found the replacement costs more than the phone it went with. Now I use a less expensive Plantronics model. If I lose it or drop it, it's not that big a deal. I know the sound quality is not as good, but it's adequate for about 90 percent of my calls. For the other 10, I just tell them I'll call back within five or 10 minutes, depending on where I am.

The Plantronics fits well and has become almost a part of me. I even wear it around the house from sunup to bedtime. I'd feel naked without it. After I bought my first, I kept it on because I have a number of Plantronics chargers: for my car, in my luggage and at home. Now they're standard on mini-USB chargers, so it probably doesn't matter, but old habits die hard.

Dave Sweetman: The Bluetooth I use is a Plantronics that hangs over my ear and has a 3-inch boom mic. Not obtrusive and loud enough in my right ear, so it is very clear in the truck cab. People I talk with sometimes ask where I am. They don't know I'm in a truck cab – good noise rejection. I tried a headset with one earpiece and a boom mic, but I thought it was heavy and annoying.

Heather Hogeland: I have two Jawbones so I can have one on the charger all the time. I like it because it doesn't mess your hair up the way headsets do. My husband, Roger (also a life member), wears a BlueParrott when he is driving.

Michael Goldstein: I like the Plantronics Voyager. I wear one all the time when I am driving. My dad (Life Member Jack Goldstein) doesn't like the piece that goes in his ear, so he wears a Motorola that has an earpiece and lies flat on the ear.

John Sivicky: I like the BlueParrott. Costs a bit more, but worth it. Sound is excellent, has noise canceling feature.

Randy Rebillard: Silverado headset is what I use. I wear one all the time when I drive.

Jona Rebillard: I like a smaller earpiece, but it needs to be visible. Otherwise, it looks like you are walking around talking to yourself like a crazy person. Plus, in Manitoba, you have to be hands-free.

Jerry Kissinger: I have a BlueParrott. I can go 70 mph down the road and hear perfectly. It's regular equipment in the truck.

Timothy S. Pruitt: A BlueParrott VX 250. I get six to eight hours of talk time out of a single charge. I like it a lot!

Ron Williams: I'm a cheapskate. I have a $39.95 Motor Trend. Sounds OK both ways but had to un-stick the volume button with a pocketknife. Considering the abuse it's had, not too bad.

Kevin Morris: I have used many hands-free devices. In the semi, I recommend the BlueParrott VX 250. Long talk time, excellent noise cancellation (everyone always asks if I am driving because they don't hear any background noise), and it's comfortable and easy to use.

Timothy Gresham: Jawbone Icon is the best I have ever used. Absolutely no background or wind noise.

Tommy Roach: Plantronics Voyager Pro is crystal clear on both ends and uses the same charger as my BlackBerry.

Jerry Sanders: I have the Cobra 29 WX NW Bluetooth CB radio. It's the biggest piece of crap I've used. I always have to disconnect so people can hear me.

Mike Swearingen: BlueParrott B250-XT is the best I have found. No background noise, all-day-long talk time, easy to use. I love it and recommend them to anyone. It's a must-have if driving a truck.

Regina Black: BlueParrott VXI 250 is the best and only one that I will use. Not only is it quiet but it's reasonably priced and comes with a two year warranty. All this makes it a great value.

Lynn Stowe: I have a Cobra. It's an over-the-head with a boom mic. It is clear both ways and has about eight hours of talk time and 250 hours of standby time.

John R. Smith: I have used everything. Right now, I like the Motor Trend Max 4x headset. It really blocks external noise.

Ben Lujin: Blue Eagle II is about $100 and can be found at several different truck stop chains. It has the boom mic (like the BlueParrott) and works as well as, or better than, BlueParrott. It has excellent battery life, and you can use the Blue Eagle II while it's plugged in and charging.

I've stood in front of the grille while the truck was running and the person on the other end heard me clearly and not the truck. Also, you can adjust the volume up enough to darn near blow out your eardrum. Going down the road, inside a loud truck, you can use your "inside voice" without communication breakdown.

Aaron Dike: Jawbone Icon is the best. I have straight pipes, and it's the only one I could find that anyone could stand to talk to me on.LL


Update: hand-held cell bans

Seven states have hand-held cell phone bans in place. The states are California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington. The District of Columbia also outlaws the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. In Delaware, a hand-held ban takes effect Jan. 2, 2011.

Illinois bans the use of cell phones while driving in highway work zones and school zones.

Violations in each state and DC are a primary offense, except in Maryland.

Most Canadian provinces have now forbidden the use of hand-held cell phones. The provinces are British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland/Labrador.

There are no states or provinces that ban hands-free cell phone use for all drivers.