As of July 1st, Washington State is mandating the use of hands-free devices
while driving. This law makes it illegal to have a cellphone up to your ear
while driving a vehicle. So Bluetooth cellphone accessories are becoming more
and more the rage (when little old ladies are wearing them at the shopping mall,
you know a technology has left geekdom and hit the mainstream). Southwing
has created several in-the-ear and hands-free speakerphone car kit options enabling
you to focus on driving while talking on your cellphone. In this article I will
be reviewing one of each type by Southwing, the SH505
Bluetooth headset and the SC310
Bluetooth car kit.
Southwing SH505 Bluetooth Headset
The Southwing SH505 Bluetooth headset easily
paired with my Treo 680
and Blackberry 8800. The SH505 is about average in size compared to other Bluetooth earpieces, black
and sliver, and made of a hard plastic. It definitely has unique styling. The package included the earpiece, ear hook, headset cord, wall charger, USB data/charging cable and user guide.
The sound quality of this device is good. Its in-the-ear design does
a great job of blocking out ambient noise, making the calls easy to hear. The device passed my worse-case test of walking through downtown Seattle at 4:30pm with flying colors.
The SH505 is engineered be used with or without the provided ear hook. I would
have preferred to use the earpiece without the earhook but was never able to
get it to sit properly in my ear. But the ear hook enabled the SH505
to sit securely and comfortably on my ear.
The headset has four function buttons that control all the typical functions that we have become use to in a advance earpiece (pairing,
connect/disconnect of phone calls, volume, quick dial, and on/off of the headset
itself). The on/off button is on the bottom of the earpiece and is also the button for pairing the Bluetooth device to your cellphone. The small round button on the side of the earpiece (with the Southwing symbol) allows you to connect/disconnect calls and quick dial (Push4). The Push4 feature enables you to program a single quick dial number. To activate the Push4 quick dial, you push the round button for a second and it will have your phone dial whatever number you have programmed. The volume controls are touch sensitive; so to increase the volume, touch the upper black portion on the side of the earpiece and to lower the volume, touch the lower portion (where ‘SOUTHWING’ is stamped on the side).
According to Southwing, the headset’s
built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts up to 10 hours of talk time and 300 hours of standby time.
A unique feature of this earpiece is that you can manage upgrades and some
of its features with a program called ‘Wingman’,
a PC application available on the Southwing website. The program allows you to upgrade the SH505’s firmware and manage the headset´s
main settings and high-end capabilities such as the favorite number button, volume, ring tones and automatic
call pick-up. With the Wingman software, I was easily able to upgrade the firmware,
enter my Push4 number, and change my ringtone.
Sadly, the SH505 broke after just 7 days of moderate use (no drops or excessive stress). I have attempted to contact Southwing through email and web interface on their site. I have yet to receive a response. Southwing devices come with a two year warranty and this failure should be covered. I will update this review if/when Southwing gets back to me about my warranty inquiry.
Overall, I like the fit, function, and call clarity of the SH505. Although, even before it self-destructed, I had decided that after I was done testing I was going back to the iPhone Bluetooth headset I have been using for awhile now. Primarily due to the fact I still love the simplicity, look, and fit of the Apple earpiece. The bottom line is the Southwing SH505 does work well and has a very good feature set for the cost (especially considering its current sale price), making it a very great bang for the buck….. But obviously, since the device failed almost immediately and I have not received a response or replacement earpiece, at this time I cannot recommend this product. *see note from Julie at end of review*
SH505 Review Summary:
Bluetooth enabled cellphone
Price: $29.95 (currently on sale at wirelessground.com, normally $89.95)
– Great sound quality
– Unique design
– Touch sensitive controls
– Push4 quick dial
– Program and upgrade through downloadable PC application
– Broke in the first week and Southwing has not responded to my emails regarding a warranty replacement
Southwing SC310 Bluetooth Car Kit
I typically use a Bluetooth earpiece while driving and the Southwing SC310 is the first Bluetooth car kit I have ever tried. I was surprised how well I could hear and be heard. I tried the SC310 in four different vehicles. And overall, was very pleased with the experience.
All that is included in the package is the SC310 and user manual.
Installation is a breeze, simply slide the plug into any vehicles cigarette lighter or power port. Then slide the locking sleeve over the plug securing the car kit into place. The plug powers the Bluetooth speaker head through an adjustable (yet rigid) 6" metal cable. I was worried the speaker head would not stay in place and sag due to its weight and vibration of the vehicle while moving. But the system really does a good job staying where you put it.
Once installed, pairing the SC310 with my Treo 680 and Blackberry 8800 was quick and easy.
The microphone is on the bottom front edge of the Bluetooth head.
The speaker is on the top. As I said earlier, it is easy to hear the person you’re talking with and according those I talked with they heard me just fine as well.
The intuitive button layout is located on the front face of the Bluetooth head and is easy to use while driving. The ‘answer’ button is on the top left, the ‘power’ / ‘hang up’ button is on the upper right, the ‘volume up’ button is on the lower right, the ‘volume down’ button is on the lower left, and the center a toggle switch enables the ‘Push4’ (quick dial) / ‘mute’ functions when clicked upward, or ‘voice dial’ / ‘transfer’ to cellphone when clicked downward.
There are many ways to make a call:
- dial a number through your mobile phone.
- press the ‘answer’ button (top left), and the last number dialed will be redialed.
- press the ‘Push4’ toggle button (up center), and your (preprogrammed) favorite number will be dialed.
- press the ‘VDIAL’ toggle button to for voice dialing (if your cellphone has this capability).
According to the Southwing website, the SC310 has full duplex and DSP technology which reduces echoing and background noise. The SC310 has Bluetooth 2.0 technology and is compatible with all Bluetooth phones. The keys are backlit making them easy to see in any lighting conditions.
If Bluetooth earpieces are not your thing or you’d like a dedicated Bluetooth capability in your vehicle, you should consider the Southwing SC310. Like the SH505, the SC310 Bluetooth car kit has a very good feature set and call quality plus with this car kit no charging is needed; it is a good alternative to an earpiece.
SC310 Review Summary:
Bluetooth enabled cellphone
Price: $49.95 (currently on sale through wirelessground.com; normally $99.95)
– Good materials and construction
– Great sound quality
– Highly adjustable
– Push4 programmable quick dial
– Backlit keypad
– Full duplex and DSP
– Bluetooth 2.0
* Note from Julie * I was just contacted by Southwing’s new US based National Sales Director. He commented on the fact that they could find no record of Dave’s support request but they he would be happy to help Dave. At this point, Dave has moved on to other headsets and is no longer interested in trying to get a replacement for the one that failed.