Review: BlackBerry VM-605 Speakerphone

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

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.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Geggamoya Geggamoya on Oct 16, 2009


  • BigDuke6 BigDuke6 on Mar 30, 2010

    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.

  • James Hendricks The depreciation on the Turbo S is going to be epic!
  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.