Hardware

Two weeks with the Jawbone Bluetooth headset

First, let me say that I love the *idea* of a Bluetooth headset; however, I almost never wear one. Why? Because I don't want to be lumped in with the dude at the grocery store who wears one while browsing the cereal aisle when he isn't on the phone. Sure, headsets are convenient when you're driving or typing or juggling; however, you look like a dork when you're just walking around Target with one on your ear.

Even with my aversion to joining the Bluetooth Nation, I must confess to owning 2 different headsets from Motorola and Jabra (and having owned a few others in the past). I keep one in my car for when I need hands-free calling. I have one on my desk for use with my laptop and Skype.

I recently saw this impressive video demo for the Jawbone Bluetooth headset, which claims to provide a noise-free calling experience (even with a guy using a leaf blower right behind you), and decided to see if it actually worked. I used it exclusively for two weeks (i.e. answered and made all calls using the headset) and here is what I found out.

The Good

The first thing you will notice when you see the Jawbone in stores is the flawless retail packaging. It really showcases the headset (it puts it inside a clear plastic box on a clear plastic pedestal) and the "Noise is Nothing" tagline.

Jawbone package 1

The Jawbone in its retail packaging

And the headset itself has a very sleek, modern design which is one of the reasons so many people have been pairing it with Apple's iPhone. Of course, the fact that Apple sells the Jawbone in its stores probably helps some, too.

Jawbone up close

The Jawbone perched on it's tiny plastic pedestal

The Jawbone's biggest strength is that it works as advertised in terms of sound quality and noise cancellation. I tried the Jawbone in a variety of noisy environments over the past two weeks and it performed flawlessly. I tried it on a busy city street with lots of traffic. I tried it driving in my car with the windows rolled down and radio blasting. I tried it outside at my son's flag football game. In every situation, the caller on the other end could not identify any background noises. I was so skeptical that I actually had other people use the headset while I got on the other end of the call. I can verify that the results were pretty amazing.

In addition to noise cancellation for the person on the other end of the call, the Jawbone adjusts the volume in the earpiece to compensate for changes in the ambient noise around you. I experienced this quite a few times. Once, I was using the Jawbone at home in the kitchen. The caller on the phone was talking and, when I turned on the kitchen sink, the sound of the caller's voice automatically got louder while the water was on and got softer after I turned it off. Very cool.

The included accessories also make the Jawbone stand out from other headsets I've tried. They include 4 extra earloops (the piece that goes around your ear) and 4 extra earbuds (the piece that goes inside your ear) to customize the fit of the Jawbone. I found that it fit my ear just fine with the default earloop and earbud.

They also include an AC adapter for charging your headset. The cord can be unplugged from the AC adapter and used to charge the headset via USB on your PC.

Jawbone accessories

Jawbone's accessories

I also found some small touches that make the Jawbone easy to use. For example, there is a white light on the side of the headset that blinks every 5 seconds to let you know that the Jawbone is powered on. When the battery begins to run low, the light begins flashing red instead of white. Also, when you plug the Jawbone into the charger, the light turns solid red to indicate that it is still charging. When charging is complete, the light turns solid white. These aren't big features; however, I found that they did make the Jawbone easier to figure out and use.

The Bad

I really had a hard time finding anything wrong with the Jawbone. The only somewhat negative experience I had while using it was caused by my abuse of the product. When pulling the headset out of my pocket once (I never wore the headset unless I was on the phone), I dropped it on the sidewalk. This caused a small ding on the gray plastic face of the headset. Again, this was totally my fault; however, drops are inevitable when you're talking about cellphones and small gadgets. The Jawbone didn't take this abuse as well as I would have liked.

Depending on your budget, you may find the$119 price of the Jawbone to be on the high end; however, given the features that it offers, especially the superior noise cancellation, I think the price is appropriate.

The Bottom Line

The Jawbone is the best Bluetooth headset I have used. You can use it in the car. You can use it while walking in the city. You can use it when your kids are going nuts. The person on the other end of the call just hears your voice. It is so useful that it has me questioning my own aversion to wearing a headset in public. That says a lot.

So what do you think of Bluetooth headsets? Handy, annoying, dorky? All three? Post your thoughts in the discussion.

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