Hands-free law starts July 1st – That means Realtors too!

Look Ma, No Hands!

Washington State will go ‘hands free’ for cell phone use in the car on July 1st, so agents (and everyone else) shouldn’t be driving around with one hand up to their ear anymore. Well…that’s the intent anyway. The Washington State Patrol says you could face up to a $125 fine, although it is suppose to be a secondary offense. Real Estate agents are notorious for this, myself included. Fortunately, for several years I have had an integrated hands-free system in my car (Acura RL) which has given me a head start on being compliant.

I thought I would mention some options for agents, or for that matter anyone who spends a lot of time on the phone in their car, who are just taking the plunge into the deep blue-tooth ocean of products to help them figure out which device might be better suited for them. But don’t just go out and buy one of these devices. Do your research and check with your provider about what they offer and recommend. These days many products and services are specific to wireless vendors, like Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T.

hands-free driverFirst of all, you’ll need a bluetooth capable cell phone. Many, if not most, of the newer cell phones have this capability. But if yours doesn’t, you’ll need to upgrade. These days people change out their cell phones pretty frequently anyway. But if you have been waiting, now is probably a good time. Just be sure you understand how your cell phone plan will be affected and hopefully your carrier won’t force you into signing a new extended service contract.

If you have a newer model car that has integrated bluetooth capabilities you’ll want to check which phones work with it (not all do) and use the products they recommend, if possible. This information should be in your manual. When my car was introduced integrated blue-tooth was still new and it did not specifically support my phone and service (a Palm Treo w/Verizon), but fortunately I was able to trick it (read “hack”). It would be a real drag to decide to buy a $50,000 car because of it’s bluetooth capability only to find out it won’t work with your phone or service.

If you don’t have integrated bluetooth in your car, then you should consider getting either a headset or component speaker system. Most headsets these days just fit in or around your ear and are pretty small. They often use a microphone technology that relies on the vibration of your jawbone, much like your inner ear, which keeps it very small and helps with noise cancellation – cool huh?

Here are some hands-free bluetooth earbud and speakerphone options from $65 to $125:

Bluetooth Jawbone HeadsetThe New Jawbone – Jawbone is the hot bling-bling of the bluetooth world right now. Their marketing is aimed at the fashion-conscious among us. This is perfect for the agent who is most worried how it will fit in with their wardrobe. The have good noise canceling technology too.

Bluetooth Jabra SP5050 SpeakerphoneJabra’s SP5050 – This unit is made to be clipped to your visor and has a speaker system built in. Jabra is well known and were the first to come out with hands-free bluetooth headsets and use digital signal processing (DSP) technology.

BlueAnt’s Supertooth 3 – Another visor clip-on speakerphone, the Supertooth 3 announces the name or ID of the caller when the phone rings – just say ‘OK’ to Bluetooth Blueant Speakerphoneaccept the call. This device is suppose to be very easy to install and it uses ‘Text-to Speech’ software. The voice prompts provide guidance and assistance install and to help pair the device and upload your cell phone’s address book. When a call is received, the Supertooth 3 announces the incoming caller’s name or number. Just say ‘OK’ to accept the call. You also have a choice of 6 languages.

Bluetooth Venturi MiniVenturi Mini – The Venturi Mini directs incoming calls to the cars speakers and includes a FM A2DP audio player and no headset or wires are needed. With phonebook download the incoming caller appears on the Venturi Mini and your car radio simultaneously. This unit plugs into your lighter plug in and offers USB support too, which means you can charge other devices.

You’re going to need to configure your bluetooth cell phone with your hands-free integrated car system or your bluetooth hands-free device. (wireless headset or speakerphone). Once you pair the device and phone you’ll need to do some set up and preferences. Carefully read the manuals regarding hands-free dialing with your Address book and configuring everything to match your network (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T). Most likely you’ll need to “train” the system to recognize your voice and / or connect phrases with numbers. You may need to tell it when you say “Call Jim” to dial the appropriate number.

Take the time to do this and it will be worth your while. This is what the “hands-free” is all about. Now you can impress youir clients with your tech-savvy skills and stay out of jail at the same time!

Any RCG Readers want to jump in and share their favorite hands-free bluetooth goodies?

76 thoughts on “Hands-free law starts July 1st – That means Realtors too!

  1. The picture is of the old Jawbone. The new one is thinner.

    I had the old one, but it broke fairly quickly. If I’d known the new one was coming out I probably would have tried it, because it does function very well.

  2. I would love to hear user opinions on these products. I really don’t want the ear-piece. I’m leaning towards a “visor clip”…especially since my hubby and I trade cars.

  3. BTW, this might be a secondary offense, but it will probably be combined quite often with impeding traffic (the State Patrol’s new emphasis). That would probably be a ticket around $250.

  4. I’m not a fan of the ear pieces, they hurt my ear. But my current phone (which I don’t like either) is a Palm Treo and has a speaker, that works good enough.

    Does anyone use the IPhone – do you like it? I don’t listen to music, watch movies or anything else with my phone. I talk and I surf the web when I am stuck someplace without access to a laptop. I check my email. In short, it’s just a tool not my entertainment center.

    Any recommendations for a better phone for me, along with the handsfree ?

  5. I use the iPhone. I just put it on speaker phone. We have blue tooth in the car, but Kim and I are almost always together 24/7 and we don’t know which of our phones is going to ring. Easier for the passenger to do the phoning and for the drive to listen and talk via speaker phone.

    I worry more about my daughters and the new laws than I do myself. But then I worry more about my daughters than myself in all things πŸ™‚

  6. There’s another good option available – many mid priced GPS navigation devices like the Garmin Nuvi 660 have bluetooth and you can use them as a hands free phone.

  7. Kary, I don’t care if any phone works for our lockboxes, I am too frequently in areas with poor cell reception that I am not taking the chance. I use the ekey, which is clunky, but always works.

    Ardell, awhile ago, I was showing a couple, and they had a teenager with them. At one point, we were all on our phones, and all three of them were plugged in with their chargers, since during their travels their phones had run low …. it was pretty funny, should be a scene on Saturday Night Live !

    Rhonda, if they’d ever just design a phone that I liked, I think I might pay just about anything for it …!

  8. Leanne, you don’t need cell phone reception for it to work the lockbox (assuming it’s been updated). That’s the PDA function of the phone. But it will allow you to read the showings and set the opening options for the box, which are really nice features.

    I’d really like to move to a smartphone so that I’d have one less device to remember to bring. As it is I have my PDA, which does lockbox and GPS, and my cell phone.

  9. Leanne – I have both a Treo 650 and iPhone. I had a Blackberry too, but recently retired it. Three phones seemed a wee bit….. excessive. But I’m kind of a gadget geek. Besides my 2 phones I carry 2 Cannon Powershot digital cameras, a Cannon Hi-Def digital Camcorder, a Flip video recorder, an iPod, a laser measuring device, a HP laptop with built-in EDVO broadband internet (with Skype for VoIP), as well as extra memory and batteries for all this stuff. Needless to say my pockets are always full and my car is my overflow storage location. My car’s integrated GPS is fantastic, so that’s one device I don’t need to carry.

    I hate my Treo in many ways, but the eKey functionality overrides everything else. I wanted a phone I would enjoy, so I got an iPhone. I love it, even though it doesn’t record video or have Flash. I use it for much of my mobile email and mobile web browsing. I try to hook in to wiFi networks when I can, because the AT&T Edge network is usually very slow. (mute point with the upcoming 3G iPhones) Yes, I use it to listen to music and to watch some video. If you get one you may find your habits and usage of a phone changes. It becomes an extension of your iTunes account. Biggest drawback is the keyboard, IMO. The Treo is MUCH easier to type with.

    Both phones have Bluetooth, and both phones are “paired” to my car’s integrated “hands-free” bluetooth system. It can get confusing at times. When I say “Call John” I never know which phone my car is going to use. I don’t really care, unless the reception is bad. In which case I just turn off the bluetooth on one, and let the car’s bluetooth “grab” the other phone.

    So for me, I can’t live without my Treo’s eKey. I’m not going to downgrade to a dKey and loose that functionality. Beside, I would STILL be carrying around yet another device. If I had to, I could live without my iPhone, but REALLY don’t want to and I would cry myself to sleep. Creating videos of your listings and showing them off on your iPhone impresses Buyers and Sellers to.

    If you’re thinking of getting an iPhone, the new 3G version due out in a few weeks promises and significant speed increses at a much lower price point. Still no video recording, but the new software upgrade is going to pack some VERY cool features into it. If you use Microsoft Exchange and Outlook, this is going to be the best phone for you. It will give Blackberrys a real run for their money.

    Just my two cents.. Let me know if I can help.

  10. Jim, that’s probably the best comparison of treo, blackberry, iphone that I’ve seen. πŸ™‚ I see a new iphone in my future. I think I live w/o video on my phone…that’s what my Flip is for.

  11. Dear Jim, I mean Mr. Gadget Geek,

    I’ve heard from others that they have had keybox problems with their
    phones, have you not had this? With the clunky ekey, the only problem I’ve ever had is forgetting to sync it, and having to endure the painfully slow manual telephone update when out in the field.

    How can anything in the entire world not be better than the pygmy sized keyboard on the TREO??!! πŸ™‚

    How come Verizon doesn’t support iphones?

    I did have a flip, and loved it, but that’s the problem there – no WiFi or email.

  12. Leanne,

    I’ve never had a problem with my phone regarding keyboxes. If I forget to update it or it “Failed” it’s update in the morning, I just tell eSYNC to “Update Key” and it takes about 45 seconds or so. Not a big deal.

    TIP: DO NOT tell eSYNC to “Update KEY and MLS”. That will take 2-3 minutes and is quite annoying while standing on the steps in the rain with clients – always at the first house of the day, and maybe first experience of that client with you!

    RE: pygmy sized keyboard
    LOVE that moniker!
    Well, the iPhone’s keyboard is not tactile. You cannot FEEL yourself typing. This sounds like not a big deal. But when you get going fast, it really is. It’s also small and very easy to accidentally touch the wrong key. So yes, it really is worse, IMO. Many others have said the same. But hey, you could be the exception!

    RE: How come Verizon doesn’t support iphones?
    Simple. Money. Apple and AT&T have a VERY lucrative exclusive arrangement. Oddly, Verizon was first approached way back in pre-iPhone-launch times a couple of years ago. They had “control issues” with Apple. Steve Jobs was very clear on how customers were to be handled and Verizon was …. “offended” that Jobs wanted to dictate how everything would be handled and snubbed him. Sort of typical stuff for Steve Jobs, actually. Big mistake for Verizon, IMO.

  13. Jim, do you have different phone numbers for all your phones and if so, which one do you use? My treo is verizon and it looks like I’ll have to go AT&T w/the iPhone.

  14. Rhonda, technically I have nine different telephony numbers. I have 5 Verizon numbers and phones for my team (family plan), and a separate Verizon number for my EVDO data line into my laptop. I have a Skype number, also mostly unpublished and only used for VoIP. I use one Verizon number as my main number with my Treo 650. My iPhone AT&T number is private and unpublished. I also have a Qwest land-line at home for DSL backup to my Comcast cable, but I never answer it.
    Michael, I know what you mean about the Motorola headsets! I have a couple of them too. They seem quite muffled. I got the Motorola Mini-blue H9 last year as soon as they statred grey-importing them from Taiwan. At the time it was the smallest bluetooth earphone you could get. It looks more like a hearing aid. I was excited about the size, but I was put off by the quaality too. And then the darn thing kept falling out of my ear! Kind of killed the coolness factor when I had to use duct tape on my ear to keep in in!
    Pantronics is suppose to have the highest fidelity, if that’s your hot button. Personally, I think a mix of quality and noise-cancellation is more practical. Who cares if youir voice is clear if you are being drowned out by traffic noise?!

  15. Jim, re keyboards, no I am a typist from age 12, so I need to feel the keyboard … guess I’ll stick with my nasty TREO till someone invents me a new, improved Leanne phone.

    I keep telling my dentist that we should just implant one in my teeth, like a filling.

  16. Leanne,

    RE: I keep telling my dentist that we should just implant one in my teeth, like a filling.

    The problem with teeth is the reception. The first bionic bluetooth will actually be implanted in the ear canal, half way to the eardrum. The pressure-sensitive on-off switch will be implanted in the earlobe. Probably squeeze once for on and off, squeeze-and-hold for volume control. Jawbone vibration technology will be used for microphone. This is on the way and is the holy grail of bionic bluetooth devices. I’ve heard the FDA is trying to get involved in the regulation of it and that might slow it down. All this poppy-cock in the news about cell phone brain cancer might become a road block as well.

    BTW, I hope I was clear before. You DO NOT need to “call in” to Supra for a code to update your Treo’s keybox access authorization. That was just in the early days of eKey. Now it does it over the network just by using the eSYNC’s “Update Key” function.

  17. You don’t need bluetooth. You need handsfree. So, you don’t need to upgrade at all. You can buy a wired headset for about $6. and you will meet the requirements of the law. You may not be cool but…

  18. Pingback: Ryan Todd Rose » Blog Archive » Cell phones - New Law (2008)

  19. I saw a lot of people breaking the law today, and a copy may have gone after one of them (I didn’t see who he pulled over). On the secondary offense thing that would be easy. One car I saw was tailgating and then changed lanes in an intersection.

    On the smartphone topic, if you get a Palm OS device, get one with more than the minimum memory, which if I recall is 128k. It’s needed to run programs (and can’t be supplemented with expansion cards), and some programs take a lot of room.

  20. Jim, maybe you and I can be the test guinea pigs for the ear canal bluetooth. ‘Bluetooth’ … hmmm a new marketing strategy …

    And, if you totally 150% swear on your real estate license that if I get rid of the ekey clunker that my TREO will never have a problem opening a keybox, I’ll do it … πŸ™‚

    b – a centro? I’ll go look that up, thanks.

  21. Good article and besides what earpiece becomes the hot new item, I am just glad that this law is no in place. Too long in coming. I myself talk here and there on the phone in my car but more and more have tried not to or pulled over to the side of the road if it was a call “I had to take!!”

    I think any hands free or speaker phone works well and is a lot safer than holding a phone up to your ear.

  22. Leanne, Usually I LOVE to beta test products and software. I’ve done it for dozens of companies over the years. But this is one product that I want the bugs and kinks worked out before I get one. Can you imagine the pain and anguish of having your eardrum blown out because of a “Stuck” volume control? No Thanks.

    RE: 150% swear.
    Very funny! I’m a REALTOR. I wouldn’t swear on anything these days. Too much risk. Anything can happen. However I WILL say I’ve seen many people in my office have problems with updating D-keys over the years. And while I’ve seen people have OTHER problems with their Treos, I haven’t seen them have update issues. Worst case scenario I’ve seen is agent has to reset phone and reload software. That’s not that big a deal cause you can restore from your Palm Desktop software, keeping all you r contacts and prefs. It backs up every time you do a hard-wire synchronization, so things should be current. (still need to load in ekey software separately after the restore, however)

    That being said, the Palm OS is getting very long in the tooth and I’m not sure I would recommend an agent get into a Palm Treo at this stage of the game. There are some pretty attractive Windows Mobile 5.0 and later devices worth considering. Look over Supra’s approved list and talk to people who are using some of these before you jump into an eKey / Smartphone.

    Supra Current Devices PDF

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