What is a Hands Free?

Ken Black

A hands free device is one that allows an individual to talk without holding a cell phone directly to his ears. Over the years, these devices have evolved from nearly an afterthought to a must-have accessory. In some jurisdictions, using one is the only way to legally talk on a cell phone while driving.

Hands-free options allow drivers to take calls while avoiding taking their hands off the wheel.
Hands-free options allow drivers to take calls while avoiding taking their hands off the wheel.

In most cases, a hands free device involves the use of a headset of some sort. There are two main types of headsets used for these devices, wired and unwired. Unwired headsets often use Bluetooth® technology to transmit signals between the phone and the headset.

A headset for a hands free cellphone.
A headset for a hands free cellphone.

Some phones also offer a speakerphone function, which is an option for hands free use that is totally contained within the phone itself, with no special equipment needed. In such cases, people can use the phone without holding it, though it still needs to be relatively close to the speaker in order to have clear voice transmission.

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Over the years, some jurisdictions have become increasingly aware of how using a cell phone can distract drivers. To combat the issue, many places have passed, or are looking at passing, laws relating to the use of a hands free device while driving. These devices are also capable, in many cases, of automated voice dialing, further adding increasing safety. In some locations, however, any cell phone communication at all while driving may be prohibited, whether or not it is done hands free. This is especially true for younger drivers and those who drive buses.

Which type of hands free device a person chooses depends on his or her cell phone's capabilities. While most will support some type of wired interface, some may not support a wireless device. Most phones that are Bluetooth® capable will advertise so on their packing and list of features. For many, this is an important selling point, especially in those jurisdictions where it's illegal to hold a cell phone while driving.

The price of a hands free device varies. Many phones comes with wired interfaces, but for those who lose them, the replacement cost is usually pretty low. Wireless devices are typically more expensive, with the price depending on the brand and the features. Some more expensive products feature noise-canceling technology that helps to filter out background sounds.

A hands free headset with microphone typically used by office workers.
A hands free headset with microphone typically used by office workers.

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