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Handling a mobile phone in the car while you drive has been illegal in the UK since 1 December 2003 - and a good thing too. If you’re holding your phone while driving it inherently means you’re distracted, making the chances of an accident much greater. The fine if you’re caught is currently £30, but currently legislation is being passed that will push that up to £60 and even more damagingly, put three points on your licence.
It’s therefore more important than ever to make sure your calls in the car are all handled hands free. This is where something like the Parrot Minikit comes in.It’s not just for use in the car though. As with any mobile hands free device, it enables you to make and receive calls in your car, home or office, without you having to pick up your handset.
Despite its name, the Minikit isn’t an array of equipment, it’s just one device, though you do get a wall charger and an in-car charger in the box as well. For use in the car a clip is provided that enables you to slip it over the sun visor in your car. Alternatively, this can be removed and you can lay it flat on the desk, leaving your hands free for say typing notes as you talk.
There’s a small power switch on the side, while on the opposite side there’s a DC power in. This is a mini USB connection, which is being used for power more often these days. As the Minikit it’s not as small as a Bluetooth earpiece the battery can afford to be larger. Parrot claims that you’ll get over 10 hours talk time from a full charge, and I didn’t manage to run the battery down during testing of this device. Standby time is listed as over 275 hours – that’s eleven days and it will charge in three hours. When it does get hungry, it will start beeping at you.
There are two buttons on either side that are set flush with the body of the Minikit, with a rotary dial at one end. One button has a green light, while the other has a red light. These are used for accepting or rejecting calls, respectively. The dial is used to raise or lower the call volume, or when not in a call to scroll through the menus of the device. By turning this you can set up the language the Minikit uses, adjust the Volume, send voice tags to the device or use the update service.
When you first power it up it starts up with a little drumbeat, the red and green lights flash and it beeps when it’s connected. It does the opposite when you turn it off. The first time you turn it on it automatically puts itself into pairing mode. You then need to initiate the pairing from your mobile. On first attempt my Sony Ericsson K800i identified it rather strangely as a Nomad 1.01. This must have been some early name for the device as after a firmware update the device was then picked up as the Minikit.
Remarkably, this firmware update can be done via Bluetooth. From the Parrot web site you can download a Wizard that will take you through the steps, but you do have to manually establish a Bluetooth connection between the machine you’re downloading the update onto and the Minikit. It also involves you knowing the port that the connection has been made on. You should be able to find this out from your software though. The main advantage of being able to update the Minikit is to add compatibility with future devices.