Parrot, a company known for pushing the innovative design envelope forward, has created an ultra-thin, hands-free, voice-driven phone controller with a shape that wraps around a visor. Read on to learn how the Neo performs and compares with other hands-free, visor-attached phone hardware.
Once paired with the phone (the MINIKIT Neo supports up to ten device associations and two phones being used in the car at the same time) via the usual Bluetooth '0000' authorization code, the Neo will attempt to synchronize your phone's contacts with the Neo (up to 2,000 contact entries per phone are supported). Neo uses this list of contacts to populate its voice-activated dialing features so that you can place a call by simply saying the contact's name and, if they have multiple phone numbers, their location (ex: "Call Mike Riley At Home") and Neo will initiate a call through the phone. The voice recognition engine used by the MINIKIT Neo is excellent. Yet in the event that Neo doesn't properly recognize a name, you can assign a particular voice tag with a contact name and Neo will remember that entry for more accurate identification.
Neo also has a pleasing text-to-speech engine that announces the name of an inbound caller and allows you to accept the call simply by saying the word "Accept". I found the voice recognition for these established commands to be surprisingly accurate, even in a noisy car with the windows down. Should you need to increase the call volume due to the noise, you can use the Neo's jog wheel (it looks like a black volume nob on the front of the curved portion of the Neo… the jog wheel also serves as a way to navigate other Neo options available) to do so. Volume settings are saved per each phone paired with the Neo, keeping any re-settings hassles to a minimum.
When the Neo is not in use for hands-free phone calling, you can use it to play music via the Bluetooth A2DP profiled pairing. The MINIKIT Neo will also relay spoken GPS directions on supported GPS apps. It also uses a vibration sensor to turn on or off so you don't need to remember to turn off the Neo when you leave the car. Fully charging the Neo takes a couple hours via its standard micro-USB plug, included micro-USB cable and 12-volt power adapter.
The Neo is also one of the first wireless devices I have seen that can be paired via NFC, but until an iPhone is released that supports the standard NFC stack, this cutting edge feature will never be used by current iPhone owners.
The one key differentiator of the Neo compared to competing products like the SuperTooth HD
is Parrot's Neo App Suite
, available for free from the App Store. This iOS app provides an easy interface to functions that extend the Neo beyond its embedded hardware functionality. For example, the suite provides a free 'Find my car' function, parking and driving timers, the ability to customize Neo power on/off jingles and more. Hopefully this idea will continue to open up with an API that iOS developers can hook into their own iOS apps. For example, with a dashboard-mounted iPhone, I'd like to tell Neo to tweet and/or Instagram a photo of the sites ahead, whether that be a traffic accident, a beautiful sunset drive or an exotic car.
Ultimately, the Parrot MINIKIT Neo is all about effectively fulfilling the need for an attractive hands-free iPhone solution while driving, and it hits the target with its variety of supported features. If other hands-free solutions haven't caught your eye, either due to their design or feature set, the MINIKIT Neo is delivers an excellent experience with its sleek, compact visor clip design and remarkably accurate voice recognition facilities.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars