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Parrot has built a solid reputation for bridging together different technologies within the vehicle, which can come in various forms and sizes. Not everyone likes how a Bluetooth headset feels, so if you’re on the hunt for a good Bluetooth speakerphone for your car, the Minikit Neo is a good place to start.
The Neo is a smaller version of the previous Minikit Parrot first brought to market. Looking at it straight up, smartphones with 4.5-inch screens or higher pretty much dwarf the Neo. With that in mind, you probably don’t have to worry about where you put it. Mind you, the flexible clip can be pulled just enough to slide into the sun visor (under an inch thick) because it has limited extension. Since most visors are under an inch, you shouldn’t run into any problems there.
With the unit charged up, you can pair it with your phone right away. Just go to your phone’s Bluetooth setting to add the Minikit Neo. Or as an alternative, you can use NFC (Near Field Communication) to do it instantly. If you have a phone that is NFC-capable, turn the feature on, move your phone really close to the Neo’s arm, and boom, you should have instant pairing.
With that out of the way, you can play around with the unit to figure out how it works, since it uses a combination of physical and audible controls. The green and red lights each have buttons for accepting or initiating calls (and voice activation) and ending calls and exiting menus, respectively. In between is the rotary dial that you use to cycle through the menu, which is spoken audibly to you, or to raise the volume while a call is in progress.
The matte black rubberized face of the unit is actually the speaker, even though it doesn’t look like it. Impressively, the sound coming out of this is superb for listening to someone speak, and the microphone, located just in front of the rotary dial, does a good job of picking up your voice as you speak. People I talked to could tell I was using a speakerphone, but couldn’t be sure whether it was the one I have in my head unit or the Minikit Neo.
By the time you turned the unit on, you would’ve probably already played with the three settings on the switch at the side. Pushing it to the middle naturally turns it on, while pushing it all the way to the left tells you the battery life left. In my testing, I managed to get close to three hours on one charge, though this may not matter if you tend to keep topping it up in the car all the time (the Neo does come with a 12V car charger).
When you first pair the unit, it automatically syncs your phone book, so that all names and numbers could be recognized when you say them. You’ll notice this also when browsing through your contacts. Push the rotary dial once and you can then cycle through the main menu. If phone book is what you want, push it again and you can then cycle by letter. Push again, and then go through the names. You normally won’t have to go through all this because simply initiating a call and saying the recipient’s name should be enough to get the call going.
One feature you will want to use in that regard is called “Magic Words”. Cycle through the main menu and when you get to Magic Words, press the dial again and make sure that it’s activated for both incoming and outgoing calls. The reason why is because it enables you to make or take calls without touching the Neo. Say “Minikit” and it will say “Who do you want to call?”. Say the name and it does the rest. When a call comes in, you can say “Accept” to answer or “Reject” not to and send the caller to voice mail.
If you have an iPhone 4S or 5 and use Siri a lot, you can set the Neo to defer instead to Apple’s voice assistant instead. However, this is agnostic, meaning it can work with other voice activation systems for Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry, including third-party apps. Dual mode allows the Neo to be connected to two phones simultaneously and to recognize different phone books for each one.
While you’re not obligated to use it in any way, there is an accompanying app that goes with the Neo for additional features. These include locating your car, like, for example, in a busy parking lot, where the app records the longitude and latitude of the last time your phone was connected to the unit. Since you would probably keep it in your car, it makes sense that you would probably use it most when looking for your car in a packed parking lot. The parking meter timer is self-explanatory. You park at a paid lot or a street meter, and you can keep track of when your time is up before getting tagged. These can turn on automatically once the Neo recognizes your phone again.
If you don’t take every call that comes in, you can choose to automatically send a text message to incoming text messages or rejected callers to let them know you’re on the road and can’t respond yet. You can toggle the voice recognition and dual mode features as you see fit, and play around with the jingle feature.
For the price and what you get, the Minikit Neo is one of the best Bluetooth speakerphones I’ve personally tested. The learning curve behind it really isn’t steep, and getting the hang of its features turns into a satisfying hands-free experience.
The Parrot Bluetooth Mini Car Kit lets you take calls, select songs and speak hands-free while you drive. Sporting a six button remote control and a steering wheel mounting kit, it's the perfect accessory for drivers looking to stay in contact while they drive.