When BlueAnt introduced the BlueAnt V1 last year, we were blown away by BlueAnt's unique voice user interface, making the V1 the world's first voice-controlled Bluetooth headset. Indeed, we could pair and manage calls just by going through a series of voice prompts, without ever having to look at the manual. The sound quality wasn't too shabby, either. BlueAnt has not stopped there, though. This year, it introduced an updated version of the V1 with the BlueAnt Q1, a headset with the same voice user interface plus a new design. We encountered a few issues with it; however, it's overall a quality headset with great performance. The addition of voice controls and incoming caller ID is particularly helpful in places with hands-free calling laws for drivers. The BlueAnt Q1 will be available in May for $129 MSRP.
One of our criticisms of the BlueAnt V1 was its less than remarkable design. BlueAnt seems to have taken that to heart, as the Q1 looks dramatically different from its predecessors. Measuring 2.17 inches long by 0.63 inch wide by 0.27 inch deep, the Q1 has a sleek gunmetal design that's slightly curved outward. On the front is large multifunction call button with the BlueAnt logo on it, while the volume keys are on the right side. All buttons are easy to press, though the volume increase key is a bit on the small side.
On the back of the Q1 is an earpiece covered in a soft silicone ear bud. The ear bud is slightly tapered toward the bottom to fit snugly in the ear. The Q1 comes with two different size ear buds for different size ears. There's also an optional ear hook for additional stability. We found the ear bud to fit quite comfortably, but we admit that it does take a bit of fiddling so that it fits just right. This is especially important since the dual microphones on the Q1 needs to line up with your mouth for the best performance. Wearing the right size ear bud is quite crucial to this--wearing one that is too small or too large might result in the Q1 shifting ever so slightly away from this alignment. When the alignment is off, the voice controls won't work as well.
We paired the BlueAnt Q1 with the Apple iPhone 3G and the Samsung Blackjack. Like with the V1, there was no need to refer to the manual to know how to pair the devices. Just wear the Q1, turn it on, and follow the voice prompt tutorial to pair and connect your phone. When you first turn it on, the Q1 automatically goes into pairing mode. However, if you want to do it manually, just say "Pair Me" as a voice command. The BlueAnt Q1 has multipoint technology, which means we could connect to both the iPhone and the Blackjack at the same time. Bear in mind that you have to press the multifunction button every time you want to say a voice command.
The voice user interface is definitely one of the highlights of the BlueAnt Q1. There's no voice recognition tutorial; it'll recognize your voice right away. If you feel lost and want some clues on how to use the voice interface, just say "Teach Me" for some tips and tricks. Other voice commands include "What can I say?", which will just list the different voice commands, and "Phone commands," which will activate the voice command feature on your phone. You can say, "Answer" to answer a call, "Ignore" to reject it, "Redial" for last number redial, "Check Battery" for battery status, and you can say "Call" followed by one of eight speed dial numbers. Unlike the V1, you cannot map the "Call" command to specific words like "Home" or "voice mail." There isn't a "Call GOOG-411" service either.
We did encounter a couple of problems with the voice controls. As we mentioned, angling the headset toward the mouth is the best way to get the voice commands to work. If the alignment is off, we found the voice controls not to be as good. For example, we would say something like "Settings Menu" and it would redial a number instead. This also sometimes happened if we were in a very noisy environment, since your voice needs to be louder than the surrounding noise in order for the voice controls to work properly.