Under the Radar

speeCup Adds Handsfree Calling to Any Car


How you react to the speeCup will depend on whether you suffer from the problem it aims to solve: if you've got an older car or truck that doesn't have an elaborate sound system that pairs with your smartphone, this travel mug-shaped speaker allows you to stream music from your phone and even make hands-free phone calls.

It's not cheap, but the $129.95 price for the Bluetooth speaker is less expensive that paying to upgrade the audio system on a car that you might only keep for a few more years anyway (plus you can move the speeCup between multiple cars). And, if you share a household with someone who can't see the point in the upgrade, it's easier to steal a slot in the cup holder than convince them to let you rip out the dashboard and put in a new device.

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speeCup isn't just a wireless Bluetooth speaker: it's also designed to work as a speakerphone with the iPhone's Siri and Samsung's S Voice systems. You can answer and end calls with the wave of your hand and use the Siri/S Voice services by pressing a button on the top of the speeCup.

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The speeCup comes with a micro USB charging cable, a car charger that allows you to simultaneously charge your phone and an audio cable.

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The audio out and charger ports are high enough on the speeCup to clear the top of most cupholders. There's also a cutout on the back of the cup that acts as sort of a subwoofer. The micro end of the charging cable isn't quite standard: the slot opening on the speeCup is a little tight and most other micro USB cables I had lying around didn't fit. You'll need to keep up with the cable that comes with the device.

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The power switch is on the bottom of the cup so you won't accidentally turn it off when you're using it. There are a lot ridges on the top of the speeCup so you can easily learn to operate the controls by feel without looking down at the cup. You activate Siri/S Voice by pressing the microphone button at the center of the controls. Once you learn to allow for the lag in activating the service (and there's a lag), the system works well. You raise and lower the volume of the speaker by turning the outer ring.

Answering calls by waving your hand requires that you have your hand close to the top of the device. It's a technique you need to learn but, again, it works effectively once you teach yourself how to do it.

speeCup is most useful as a hands-free speakerphone. There are a lot of Bluetooth speakers that offer better sound quality in this price range. Of course, none of those speakers fit in your car's cupholder or offer the handsfree options built into this device. If your car has an auxiliary audio port, you can plug the speeCup into it and use the device as a head unit to turn your car's audio system into a streaming device and hands-free phone.

If you need a speakerphone in a workshop or on a job site, the speeCup's travel mug profile makes it easy to use in those situations as well.

The idea (and execution) of the speeCup is incredibly clever. It's available in glossy black, white or red. If you're driving a 2014 model car, you've probably got this stuff built into your vehicle. If you've got a 1994 pickup in your driveway, you can start answering those calls from home without violating any state laws.

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