The default mode is a noise-cancellation mode that uses a single microphone to pick up dialog in a narrow 90-degree cone, while the second microphone listens for background noise and echoes to filter out. This mode is best for noisy environments, such as the driver's seat of a moving vehicle, where the R1 does a great job of filtering out road and wind noise while leaving dialog clear.
The second mode is accessed by holding the answer and end buttons during an active call (being careful not to hang up) to enter conference mode. Conference mode uses both microphones to expand the unit's sensitivity to a 360-degree cone, better suited to picking up multiple speakers. This mode sacrifices some of the noise- and echo-cancellation, making it best suited for quiet, indoor environments. However, the more sensitive microphones mean that the R1 can be tossed onto the center of a table for impromptu conference calls.
Lacking a screen and only having four buttons to work with means that the R1 uses key combinations to access higher-level functions beyond simply answering calls and tweaking the volume. However, these key combinations aren't always the most intuitive. Adding complexity, many of the commands can only be accessed when the speakerphone is in a certain mode.
For example, to turn off the flashing Bluetooth indicator for nighttime driving, the unit must be put into standby (which means unpairing your phone), then double tap the volume up button. To pair an additional phone, the volume up button is held with the unit in standby until the unit speaks a four digit PIN. Most heinously, to check the battery level you must first turn the unit off. Then hold both volume buttons to make the power indicator LED flash. One flash is 20 percent charged up to five flashes for 100 percent. That's far too many steps and far too much counting and math just to check the battery!
Ultimately, there is much to like about the iVoice R1's performance, but just as much to dislike about its interface.
We love the long battery life that won't leave us stranded without a charge and the slim, pocketable design--but we would skip the faux-carbon fiber look. However, the unit loses points for an overly simple interface that makes the user jump through overly complex hoops to change the settings. We're just not fans of memorizing key combinations or carrying around instruction manuals.
To be fair, once you have the R1 set up to your liking, you could just leave it there and not bother with the medieval settings. Most importantly, in the category that really counts--call quality--the R1 is second only to our Editors' Choice T505 thanks to its two-mode, dual-mic array.