April 4, 2012 at 11:43 AM ET
Chapel Hill, N.C., has become the first town in the U.S. to forbid drivers to use hands-free devices. In many other places, however, Bluetooth headsets remain the only way to legally talk on a cell phone while driving. A high-end headset from Bose can cost around $150, but brands such as Sony, Motorola, and Samsung sell these must-have mobile accessories for less than $50.
Below are Cheapism’s top picks for affordable Bluetooth headsets.
All our picks employ some sort of noise canceling or noise reduction intended to minimize sounds other than the user’s voice. Manufacturers tout proprietary features with names like CrystalTalk and NoiseAssassin, but in general the technology seems to be adequate, if not excellent, at this price level.
The Bluetooth headsets on our list can all be paired with more than one device -- both your work phone and your personal cell phone, for example -- at the same time. They also support A2DP (advanced audio distribution profile), for streaming music and podcasts. The LG Tone is the only stereo headset in the bunch; the rest are more typical monaural designs that go on or in one ear. They come with various sizes of earbud covers for a precise fit.
Choose a Bluetooth headset with a battery life at least as long as your phone’s, so the device doesn’t frustrate you by dying in the middle of a call. Our picks feature audio alerts that let users know how much battery remains. The Motorola and LG models offer Android users the potential to listen to text messages by downloading an app for their phones. After all, the cell phone bans encompass texting, too.
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