Gadgets

Gadget Review: Jawbone Bluetooth Headset

I’ve tried several Bluetooth headsets before, always punting on them because they didn’t connect with the phone well, had crappy battery life or let in too much background noise to have a reasonable conversation.  Disappointed with the poor performance of the devices, I bagged them completely and chose to use a wired headset or just none at all.  So when Bijan mentioned the Jawbone a couple of months ago, I yawned and didn’t give it a second thought.  Then one day, after almost killing myself while on the phone in the car, I decided that I had to give it a try.  Now that I’ve used it for a month, I’m a complete convert.

This thing is a noise-canceling monster.  It’s almost unreal how it cuts out background noise without much of a penalty to the spoken word.  I’ve made calls and rolled down the windows at 50mph and the person on the other end had no idea.  Yesterday, I was in a torrential downpour that caused a racket in the car, but again, the person on the other end didn’t hear anything but my voice.  There’s a cool demo on the Jawbone site where they demonstrate the performance with lawnmowers, jackhammers and assorted other noisemakers.  It really works that way.  Cool.

Voice isn’t perfect, it’s a little clipped, but no more than with other noise-canceling headsets.  I also have a couple of gripes.

  • There’s a little rubber nib on the face side of the headset that is supposed to rest against your cheek while you talk.  If it doesn’t, sound quality degrades to unacceptable levels.  With the standard ear bud and hoop (see picture, above), I couldn’t get the thing to rest against my cheek without leaning my head to one side and letting gravity give it a hand.  Perhaps it’s my rugged, superhero-like chiseled jaw shape that caused the fitting problem, but it became pretty annoying.  To the manufacturer’s credit, they ship the Jawbone with a myriad of ear buds and hoops in a variety of shapes and sizes.  After loads of trial and error, I finally found a combination that was better, but not perfect.  It now rests on my cheek for the most part, but even aggressive driving causes a gap between my cheek and the device in corners.
  • The Jawbone is yet another device that that requires a custom charger connector.  There appears to be plenty of room for a mini-USB connector, but the manufacturer chose to go another way.  Just a waste, IMO.

Battery power has not been a problem.  I have yet to run it down, so I don’t really know its bounds yet.  I’ve used it for a couple of days without charging, which is all I really need, so I don’t see it as a problem – as long as you’re carrying the stupid custom charger.

Overall, this headset is simply outstanding.  The drawbacks are minor nits compared to the quality of the device and the great job it does.  Highly recommended.  You can get it directly from their web site or through Cingular (you don’t need a Cingular phone).

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