Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth Headset Review - January 1st, 2008
So. I’m not the first tech reviewer on the block to do this, but I finally procured myself one of the oft-talked about Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth headsets. The Jawbone is a MSRP $129 Bluetooth headset which has been much-heralded for it’s ability to “shield” your calls from noise.
My first impression of this device was near the release of the iPhone, back in July 2007. A friend of mine who I was traveling around San Francisco with had one of them, and in the car I was driving we had a bit of a challenge. He wanted to test how good the Jawbone’s noise-shielding technology really was. We were driving about 60-70 MPH on the 101 freeway over the hills North of the Golden Gate Bridge. I rolled all the windows down in my rental car, we turned the radio up, and he placed a phone call. He then asked the person on the other end whether he could understand him properly and if it was noisy. The person on the other end said they could only hear his voice, and the distant sound of the radio. I was impressed to say the least, but didn’t get the chance to actually use one myself until now.
In The Box
The Jawbone is a well-built, almost art-like device, the packaging borrows a lot from the book of Apple. Clean box art, clear acrylic plastic, and something that almost looks like it belongs in a museum (the headset) is contained in the box. It also includes 4 different ear loops and 4 different ear bud attachments to try to secure a better fit. It includes two charging cables, one that connects to a computer via USB and another that plugs into an AC outlet, which requires the same USB cord. The device in the box was gloss black, one of three colors.
I found the box almost impossible to get back together properly after opening it, similar to when you buy an iPod. It was an interesting puzzle to try to figure out the proper way to remove the headset from the box without feeling like you were about to break something.
Being someone who hates reading directions, I tried to figure out how to get the Jawbone into “paring mode” (for non-techies, this is the mode where the headset is open to accept Bluetooth wireless connections from your phone or computer). Since the device itself doesn’t have traditional buttons (they are actually part of the design itself), it works by certain points in the Jawbone’s frame being buttons. I eventually found which of the two buttons I needed to press to get it into pairing mode (and for how long) after that it was quite easy for my BlackBerry Curve to find it.
Using The Headset
Most current generation phones use Bluetooth headsets the same way, and this was no exception, I could initiate a call to the last number dialed by pressing the button on the outside of the Jawbone. I could also pick up or hang up on someone using this same button. The noise shield technology is active on the device automatically but you can disable it if you wish by pressing in a button on the top of the unit.
The Jawbone seemed to have a better signal and less connection issues than two other Bluetooth headsets I’ve tried, a low-end Motorola HS820, and a Jabra BT250. The Jabra especially had signal drop even when the phone was in my pocket or a few feet away. The Jawbone didn’t have this issue.
Even though the Jawbone includes 4 different ear loops and 4 different earbuds, I couldn’t find any combination of these that made the device comfortable for me to wear for more than a few minutes. I wear glasses, and the Jawbone’s earloop kept catching on my glasses and just generally didn’t fit snugly. The Jabra BT250 was definitely more comfortable in that regard.
Naturally when using a Bluetooth headset it’s easy to make a comparison to the cell phone’s speaker when referencing quality. I was using mine with the T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve 8320, as mentioned earlier. I found the sound quality through the Jawbone to be very cheap sounding versus the built-in speaker on the phone. This isn’t really anything surprising to me, as I’ve found most Bluetooth headsets, especially ones that don’t fit your ear snugly, to have poor sound (not that a cell phone has great sound quality in general, but there has to be some kind of baseline here).
"Noise Shield" Technology
This is the feature that sets the Jawbone apart from the other Bluetooth headsets I’ve used. In my extremely unscientific testing, I tried calling people while watching noisy TV and listening to noisy music and when asked how it sounded they said they couldn’t hear anything but me, which is great. I think this feature makes up for a lot of other things I mentioned in the review regarding sound quality. I would like to see more scientific data on it, but as far as I’m concerned it works very well.
I didn’t use the Jawbone enough to kill the batteries, but it lasts several days without charging on standby. It’s very convenient to be able to charge it off a computer’s USB port as well.
Summary and Conclusions
How do I feel about this device after using it? Is it worth $129? It depends. If you get an opportunity to try one of these before buying it, you should. My gripe isn’t necessarily with the Jawbone itself, but I’ve found out after using these that I don’t think I’m the target market for them. I find it annoying to have to remember to bring it with me, and to charge it every few days. I have enough trouble remembering to bring my keys and cell phone with me places. I’d rather just use my cell phone’s built-in speaker. Not to mention you (and I) look like a fool walking around in public with one of these.
There are certain scenarios which I like it, and if it’s around I use it. I do laundry on Sundays and use it while ironing my shirts for my 9 to 5 job. It’s nice for that because you can work without having something up to your ear. If you have it in your car, it would also be useful so you could concentrate on driving, but I always forget to bring it with me.
If I was asked to make a recommendation for people who use Bluetooth headsets a lot, I’d have no hesitation to recommend this device, I think it’s the best Bluetooth headset I’ve used overall. It’s a bit expensive, and the fit is a bit iffy on my ear, but it does seem like the creators of the unit spent a lot of time developing it. It oozes quality and attention to detail in design, which is more than I can say about all the crappy Motorola Bluetooth headsets I’ve seen over the years.
- Noise shield technology is unique and works well!
- Very classy looking design.
- Easy to charge with two charging options included.
- Pretty expensive for a Bluetooth headset.
- May not fit people’s ears with glasses without a lot of effort.
Aliph’s Jawbone website: www.jawbone.com