iSimple BluClik Bluetooth remote control review:

BT remote puts car audio, voice control at your thumb

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The remote's buttons require only a light touch and the rounded design stays mostly out of the way. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The central microphone button, when tapped, paused and unpaused my currently playing audio source. Holding the microphone for a few seconds should have fired up Google's Voice Search, which it kind of did. On my device, instead of hearing the "bloo-doop" of the voice command system, this command would call up the Android Launcher's search bar. From here, I could say "OK Google" and then launch into a voice query, but I was annoyed by the extra step. Additionally, I was unable to launch into Google voice search when my phone's screen was locked, which it often is when I'm behind the wheel.

Admittedly, there could just be a weird setting on my phone that I have missed which is causing this annoyance, so I'm not counting Android's handling of voice command against the BluClik hardware, which performed exactly as advertised.

In contrast, iOS users will instead call up Siri with a long press of their microphone button and enter Siri's Eyes Free mode.

Lack of feedback

There are no lights, no speakers, and no indicators on the BluClik hardware. But while I am grateful not to have to look at another glowing LED while driving at night, I think that the BluClik needs to give the user some sort of feedback and notification of its status in certain situations.

As is, you've no way of telling that the battery is dead until the BluClik simply stops responding and no way to tell if the battery is charging when plugged up, or when it's full. Most devices have some sort of light that shines when you're charging them to let you know they're receiving the juice, but the BluClik does not, which leads to a lot of uncertainty. I'd left the BluClik plugged into a USB port for hours only to return and realize that it hadn't been charging at all. A small, multicolor LED near the USB port would have let me know this immediately and could give other users some visual feedback of the charging state, if the battery's about to die, or if it is already dead.

Putting a small charging LED near the USB port would have saved me a lot of frustration. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

By design, the BluClik pairs with your phone using the keyboard Bluetooth profile, so your phone basically things that you've hooked up a tiny keyboard. This is fine under most circumstances, but if you want to input a navigation destination before you pull out of your parking spot or pull over to respond to an urgent message, you may notice that the onscreen keyboard won't appear until you temporarily disable the BluClik's control over your phone. On an Android phone running KitKat, you can do this from the notification shade, so I wasn't too annoyed. If anything, this is a subtle deterrent to texting while driving and could encourage more use of voice commands.

In sum

The BluClik works as advertised, making interacting with digital media on the road safer by putting controls for play, pause, skip, and volume control at the tip of the driver's thumb. Voice integration with Android phones can be wonky, but that's almost par for the course with that OS; iOS users who are also fans of Siri will appreciate quick access to the eyes-free voice command system.

I found the lack of power and charging indicator lights frustrating; I was never sure if the product was charging, fully charged, or dead. Thankfully, a long-lasting battery means that charges should be few and far between.

The BluClik is currently available at an MSRP of $39.95.

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