Kensington AssistOne HandsFree
Clever mount design; very good call quality
Cables everywhere; lacks FM transmitter; no Aux cable in
There are literally dozens of iPod and iPhone in-car accessories, but over the years Kensington and Belkin have been the standout leaders in the field.
Kensington keeps its reputation intact with the AssistOne – or, to give it its full title, AssistOne HandsFree with Voice Activation. It’s an iPhone cradle that pairs with your phone via Bluetooth to allow for handsfree calling, and allows you to comply with the stipulation in many states that mobile phones cannot be used in cars if they’re not mounted in some way.
It comes with two mounts. The first is a long stalk with a suction cup that attaches to your windscreen. I found that on my MGF roadster the stalk’s 23cm length placed it close to the instrument panel – forward of others I’ve used, and the perfect position for safe operation.
The second mount is one that attaches the cradle to one of your car’s air-vents. It’s very cleverly designed, but I must admit to thinking that the fins on most air-vents are a bit too flimsy to support an iPhone, so I never kept it on for long.
The cradle is in the form of a big clip, with a dock connector down the bottom and a simple securing arm on top. There are no sides and the length can be adjusted, so this arrangement allows you dock your iPhone while leaving it in a case.
The whole arrangement rotates through 90 degrees, so you can use your iPhone’s GPS apps in landscape mode. (No, it’s not for watching movies while driving …)
To use the AssistOne, it first needs to be plugged into your car’s auxiliary power port (also known as a cigarette lighter on non-PC cars) and paired via Bluetooth with your iPhone – it won’t work at all unless these two operations have been done.
The unit has a built-in mono speaker and noise-cancelling microphone to make your phone calls louder and clearer, but if you want to have better sound – and to play the music stored on your iPhone – you can use its Aux output to route the audio to your car stereo’s Aux input (which not all cars have). However, there isn’t an Aux cable included in the box, which is a bit mean.
What you have now is a neat iPhone mount and two very ugly cables sneaking down over the dashboard.
There are alternative types of handsfree cradles that plug directly into your car’s power port – thus getting rid of the need for a power cable – but the port on many cars is badly positioned for this use. (The one on my MGF, for example, is between the seats and close to the gear lever and handbrake, so leaving anything plugged into it is downright dangerous. ) So, in that sense, Kensington’s cable option may be better for your use.
A multifunction button at the base of the AssistOne is used for power on/off, Bluetooth pairing, answering and ending phone calls, and activating your iPhone 3GS or 4’s Voice Control feature.
The latter is very handy for making phone calls just by saying “Call Australian Macworld”, for example, and for controlling your music playback and other functions. But you need to practice your diction. I’m forever being routed to the wrong person, and during this test, saying “Play Grateful Dead” resulted in a song by Goldfrapp. Nice, but not what I was feeling like listening to!
The AssistOne also has its own voice activation feature, which lets you use the commands “Answer”, “Decline” and “Launch Voice Control”. But getting this to work during my tests was a bit hit-and-miss, with the best results obtained by shouting in an American accent.
In-call audio quality was loud and strong for both caller and receiver, so two thumbs-up there.
Australian Macworld’s buying advice: Factory-built integrated Bluetooth handsfree calling is great to have in your car, but if you don’t then the AssistOne is an excellent alternative – plus it gives you a car mount for GPS navigation.
It’s almost a jack-of-all-trades, but there’s one feature missing: an FM transmitter so those whose car stereos don’t have an Aux-in jack can still hear the audio through the vehicle’s speakers.