I was given the opportunity to test drive a new Bluetooth conference speaker known as the Aura Mobile BT from a company called Spracht. Basically, the speaker allows for wireless connection via Bluetooth to your wireless device of choice allowing any conversation turned into full-on professional grade conference call. What intrigued and impressed me to take on this review is its "full-duplex" functionality giving users un-interrupted two way conversations like the expensive conference call equipments at your office's conference room.
The lowdown: This is a great professional quality solution for road warriors or startup companies looking for an alternative solution against conventional conference call (land line) solution, especially if they want to get more mileage out of all the "unlimited" cell phone plans these days.
Who is this for? The company's slogan says it is "ideal for everyone from the executive user to moms on the go". I envision this being the perfect companion for sales executives/road warriors who need to setup conference calls on the go utilizing their Bluetooth cellphones. Or the owner of a startup working out of a small office home office as this device will cost far less than having to establish a landline and the expensive conference equipments. While most cell phones have loudspeaker options, the call quality (lack of full-duplex) and power (dedicated battery & option to keep the power cord intacted) gives the Aura Mobile BT the advantage.
Unboxing Aura Mobile BT Conference Speaker - I find the packaging design to be quite good. It brings a certain element of excitement much like the way scale/model cars are packaged. The content is packed straight forward: it comes with the Aura Mobile BT speaker, a quick start guide, manual, registration card, wall-charger, car charger, external mic and cables for voip pc connection.
Product Design - The speaker unit itself is pretty good looking for a business device. It has a similar design as many HTC products; somehow I feel like it would blend perfectly sitting next to an AT&T Tilt. There are five (5) buttons that are large and easy to access controlling the power, mute, volume up, volume down and connection. The four buttons to each side could use a better feedback; because I wasn't sure if I am pressing the buttons hard enough, I would often press too hard causing the speaker to tilt to its sides. There are three (3) LED indicators on the face of the unit above the buttons. They do an adequate job of displaying the status of battery/charge, connection status and Bluetooth connection, however, as is with any "headless" hardware design, it can be confusing to get used to in the beginning (especially during setup). On the bottom of the unit, there is a built-in retractable visor screen along with a sticker of the "quick start guide" which will come in handy if you have a longer duration in between use.
Mobile Experience - I had a hard time setting up the device to my phone at first. Largely because I wasn't used to all the chimes and beeping as well as the sequence I needed to input to get to Bluetooth pairing mode. The quick-start guide does the job of explaining basic instructions but if it includes a bit more info as to the seconds I needed to hold and press of a given button, I think it would have been easier. I managed to get more information out of the instruction manual. Once connected, I placed and received a couple of test calls to my sister in Las Vegas using a Nokia N95-3. The sound quality over bluetooth connection is very good; when compared to my bluetooth connection in my car's stereo, this could be that my phone is stationary instead of moving at 50MPH+. I tried connecting an iPhone to this, but was not able to do so largely because I just can't get iPhone to behave the same way all my other handsets would. Finally, I paired a BlackBerry 8700c to the speaker and it worked out pretty good as well when I placed a test call to Robert. Re-pairing a previously paired device is very easy, I successfully paired my N95 back with Aura Mobile BT with easy, simply selected the stored device from your phone and turn the unit on will do the trick. After using the unit for a while, I was able to tell various chimes and beeps to understand what it is telling me (turning on, off, pairing,
In conclusion, I find this device to be very useful for the profile of users I described above. And if I fit such profile, I would easily purchase this product. Many thanks to Margie Schaffner at BLASTmedia for sending me the test unit.