By on October 8, 2009

(courtesy blueunplugged.com)

The latest advancements in communication imply a great future for the automobile. And yet, like my former manager in Corporate America once said, “I can’t wait to go to a place where my BlackBerry doesn’t work.”  Like most BlackBerry addicts, I doubt she really meant it. Mostly because these handheld email magnets are legalized crack, for better or worse. Now BlackBerry makes a self-branded, visor mount speakerphone: traffic jams en route to work and business travel in sub-par rental cars shall never be the same. And its name is the VM-605.


Far from the only wireless car speakerphone on the market, BlackBerry’s VM-605 Speakerphone has key features over its competition: it streams music (not just phone calls) from your BlackBerry over your car stereo via FM modulator, supports multiple languages and receives verbal caller IDs.  Combined with the standard benefits of hands-free calling gadgets, the BlackBerry VM-605 ensures that distracted drivers spend less time holding their BlackBerry and more focusing on the road.  And it works with other Bluetooth enabled phones, not just BlackBerrys. But it won’t read your Blackberry’s emails out loud: which isn’t a bad thing when you think about it.

Using the BlackBerry Speakerphone is simple. Let the unit charge in the car’s cigarette light for two hour and then hang it on a sun visor. While somewhat omni-directional in anything but a droptop cruiser or a tuner car with an insane exhaust note, the microphone and speakerphone occupy the negative area at one end of the unit. So it is best to aim that end towards you, and not the windshield.

There’s no software required to pair a BlackBerry handheld to the VM-605 speakerphone, and there’s no subscription required. Which is similar to other hands free units on the market, but remember this one plays audio files on your BlackBerry: a nice touch if you own a classic/loss leader vehicle with an AM/FM stereo, or like semi-public music available at a moment’s notice.

From there, the speakerphone must be paired with your phone, BlackBerry or otherwise.  The owner’s manual has great instructions, written in proper English. With that, I had no problem pairing a BlackBerry and a Samsung “Rant” phone to the VM-605. The perk to this design are the voice commands, which give a clear indication of your location in the instructional manual.  This unit even speaks in nine languages: I found the digitized British English voice far more realistic to the ear than its crude American counterpart.   As an added perk, it gave my cabin an air of high-dollar sophistication I never thought possible. And I’m not joking, either.

Working the FM-modulated Bluetooth is similarly painless.  Push one button and the voice commands guide you to the proper radio station.  And using your phone with the VM-605 Speakerphone was surprisingly clear: I found quality better than my last SYNC experience in a Ford Focus, though most FM modulators normally give poor sound quality. The only caveat?  Keep the volume on your stereo low, otherwise the feedback on the other side of the phone makes conversation impossible.

But that was with testing out in the suburbs: driving in downtown Houston forced the VM-605 to pick up stray signals from who-knows-where, and the charming British voice module gets downright obnoxious as it offers a new FM radio station, even if it only takes a push of one button to get the process started. Depending on where you drive, overlooking the FM modulator and using the self-contained speakerphone make for a better hands free experience.

Probably the strongest reason to buy the BlackBerry VM-605 is it’s stellar combination of an affordable price (MSRP is $99, but I’ve seen $65-ish from several Internet sellers) and Macintosh-worthy amounts of fine design.  It’s a smart play for the company known for innovative handheld communication devices.  Think about it: BlackBerry’s handheld products sport complicated buttons, a busy display and somewhat bulky size.  Their wireless speakerphone makes life easier with seamless software integration, leaving plenty of room for minimalist style and intelligent ergonomics.

The slim, elegant matte black case is dominated by a large button made of smoked, clear plastic.  Hold it for two seconds to activate the speakerphone and let the voice commands take it from there.  There’s a volume rocker switch one side, an FM modulator activation button on the other.  And that’s it: while the VM-605 is made for the cool and sophisticated interior of an Aston Martin, even Camry owners who loves fast lines and unobtrusive design shall want one hanging from their visor.

Then again, an eye-catching design and a reasonable price aren’t the only things people look at when purchasing a hands free device.  But the BlackBerry name, simple hardware interface and amazingly intelligent and intuitive software should make the VM-605 an easy to own product.

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11 Comments on “Review: BlackBerry VM-605 Speakerphone...”


  • avatar
    jamie1

    How completely pointless. Buy a car with the latest SYNC and all of this and a great deal more is possible.
    2010MY SYNC with Traffic, Directions and Information can do all of this voice activated without having to take your hands off the steering wheel. This solution is not as safe, not as convenient and not as simple to use as SYNC.

    • 0 avatar
      AccAzda

      Hmmmm pointless and yet you mention SYNC.

      Just what I really want.. a car infotainment system made by the same company.. that has turned BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH into a very bad word.

      Im sorry..
      I dont buy a car for this device.

      And I wouldnt buy a car for this device.

      Oh did I mention that if I wanted a device like this.. Id buy a phone that had it, other than the 395 that Ford is charging.

      Then again…
      I wont mention to YOU people.. about the numerous software issues the device has had due to upgrades.

      Then again..
      Nothing turns me off from buying a device like SYNC in my car.. than a Ford badge paired with Microsoft.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    How completely pointless. Buy a car with the latest SYNC and all of this and a great deal more is possible.

    Ok, so I have a BlackBerry and a Honda. Instead of buying a nice bluetooth handsfree for a few hundred bucks, I should shell out for a whole new car?

    Ummm…

    I could see recommending an aftermarket head unit, but many of those are just terrible in terms of ergonomics.

    I do think the FM modulator is a problem; in urban settings they almost never work well because the FM band is so crowded. If the unit can work with Aux or Changer lines, or via Bluetooth if your smartphone doesn’t have a good voice commander.

  • avatar
    YZS

    What makes SYNC so special? The TSX had voice command and blue tooth phone connectivity starting in 04 (I think, my 06 has it), and it is not a particularly expensive or up market car. Other than a better name? Also, I wouldn’t flout the fact that it was developed by Microsoft.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Thanks for this review, Sajeev. The dreaded cell phone law is about to kick in where I live, and I’ve been wondering about these speakerphone gadgets for my Blackberry. Anything is better than driving around with an electronic phallus stuck to the side of my head.

  • avatar
    Carzzi

    I’ve equipped two of my (older, mid-’90s) cars with Sony’s excellent MEX-BT series headunits, which support BT phone and music streaming. They work seamlessly with my Blackberry’s bluetooth. I bought one for my old 190E a year ago, and added a newer version to my Stang after the factory unit packed up.

    First-time pairing setup is a one time, 2-minute, easy process. Subsequently the units synch with my phone whenever the car is powered up, automatically, with no intervention on my part. The microphone is integrated into the faceplate of the unit.

    The units were priced in the $100-$200 range.

  • avatar

    alfred p. sloan : sorry, but this phone crud is not why i come to this site.

    Oh man, this doesn’t bode well for a future Truck Nutz product review.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Oh man, this doesn’t bode well for a future Truck Nutz product review.

    Now there’s a reason to come to this site. Nobody else has the balls.

  • avatar

    Now this is helpful. My Acura has a wonderful Tech package with speakerphone. My BMW can have the same functionality for about $800. Gasp. (Yes, I know… BMW parts are not cheap, but this is not a “bmw part”)

    I use a BlueAnt box with my crackberry. $75 at a local electronics store. Sits on my visor and works pretty well.

    Most cars on the road today don’t have Bluetooth or any sort of computer interface. The manufacturers fought this as long as possible, the better to sell you proprietary electronics. The first integrated phone/car setups were notorious for being overpriced. BMW only recently stopped charging $500 for a 1/8 inch stereo jack (aka iPod input)

    Living in the NYC metro area, I’ve never seen a set of truck nutz “in the wild”. This is good, I think.

  • avatar
    geggamoya

    ,

  • avatar
    BigDuke6

    Yep
    Nothing says MANLY like a pickup with a Harley sticker, a “My Other Car is a Pit Bull” licence frame, and a pair of chrome Truck Nutz…….
    Sorry to hijack this thread. Lol.


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