At the moment there are two approaches to staying connected to your digital world while driving: a dedicated vehicle system with a permanent screen, or a phone in a car dock. (Or you could just be a dangerous jerk and use your phone in your hands while you're driving, I suppose.) JBL would like to offer a more elegant alternative: the Smartbase. This gadget combines a phone dock, wireless charger, and an external speaker for hands-free calls. Even better, it works with existing voice control and safety services - Google Now on Android and Siri on iOS.
The biggest draw seems to be the speakerphone function, which boasts noise cancellation features that block out wind and road noise for clearer calls. Anyone who's tried to have a hands-free conversation in an old Ford pickup should be able to appreciate that. JBL seems to be aiming for the boardroom type with this feature: it allegedly works great for conference calls "when the car windows are open or the rooftop is down." If the implication that you'll be making high-powered deals from your convertible isn't enough, the price tag for the standard version of the gadget is an eye-watering $150, with a $200 upgrade for the wireless charging version.
Two hundred bucks is a lot to swallow for what amounts to a really nice car dock, especially with dedicated Android Auto systems becoming more widely available. The Smartbase can do other things with its dedicated Android app, like add lane departure warnings and dashcam-style video recording, but Android phones can already do those things without any extra hardware help. I think this thing will be a hard sell when it comes to retailers in March. Perhaps JBL's other CES announcements will be more appealing:
JBL Pulse 3 - a new version of the company's dedicated Bluetooth speaker with a lava lamp-style LED visual accent. $200, coming Spring 2017.
JBL Playlist - a plug-in speaker with Chromecast functionality. $150, coming in the spring in black, blue, and white color options.
JBL Soundgear - a neck-worn Bluetooth speaker system. Like an old boom box, but more stylish and without the D-cell batteries. $200, available in the summer.
JBL Flip 4 - a new version of the rugged Bluetooth speaker. IPX7 water resistance, 12 hours of playback, comes in black, white, teal, grey, red, or Blue for $100 in the spring.
CES 2017, Las Vegas – January 4, 2017 – HARMAN International Industries, Incorporated (NYSE: HAR), the premier connected technologies company for automotive, consumer and enterprise markets, today announced JBL Smartbase, a Bluetooth, hands-free communication kit for vehicles.
The JBL Smartbase transforms a smartphone into a personal driving assistant that mitigates distractions and provides users with a safer, more convenient driving experience. Once installed on the dashboard, the driver attaches their smartphone to the device to easily make calls, play music, access navigation apps and send messages through the JBL Smartbase’s voice control features supported by Siri and Google Now.
JBL’s patented VoiceLogic Noise and Echo Noise Cancellation technology means drivers never have to worry about the quality of a conference call taken away from the office. The technology significantly reduces background noise when the car windows are open or the rooftop is down, delivering superior audio quality for phone calls.
Drivers with the JBL Smartbase can also utilize safety technology features often found in the latest car models on the road. The integrated award-winning iOnRoad Android and iOS app provides a range of personal driving assistance functions including augmented driving and “black-box” like video. In addition, the JBL Smartbase works with Advanced Driver Assistant System apps to add lane departure and front collision warnings as well as traffic signal recognition technology, video recording capabilities and vehicle location options.
“Today’s drivers are increasingly distracted on the road, so we wanted to create a hands-free communication kit that allows them to stay connected in a safe and convenient way,” said Jeffery E. Fay, VP and GM of Car Audio Aftermarket at HARMAN. “The JBL Smartbase provides motorists with the newest, best in class technologies so they can drive safer and smarter, no matter the car model.”
JBL Smartbase Features:
- Award-winning iOnRoad personal driving assistant app
- VoiceLogic – exclusively patented noise cancellation technology
- Wired and Qi wireless charging versions available
- Bluetooth version 4.1
- Works with Advanced Driver Assistant System apps on smartphone
- Voice control with customization that supports Siri, Google Now
- Micro suction cup cellphone holder
- Easy on dash installation
- Power input: 12V, 2.0A
- Transducer: 2 x 33mm
- Rated power: 2 x 5W
- Frequency response: 100Hz to 18KHz (-6dB) Signal-to-noise ratio: >80dB
- Support: A2DP V1.3, AVRCP V1.5, HFP V1.6
- Bluetooth® transmitter frequency range: 2402 – 2480MHz
- Bluetooth® transmitter power: 0-4dBm
- Dimensions (H x W x D): 67mm x 144mm x 131mm
- Weight: 580g
Pricing and Availability:
The JBL Smartbase will be available for purchase for $149.95 for a wired charging version and $199.95 for a wireless Qi charging version at JBL.com and authorized retailers March 2017.