Jawbone Noise Canceling Headset

The level energy is so high due to the impending release of the iPhone that on a clear night you can almost make out an aurora-like glow over Cupertino. Itis iPhone-mania that, for better or worse, is interesting to watch.

If you shield your eyes from iPhone for a moment you might see products being placed into orbit around it. Cases and clips to protect your investment are some of the first peripherals to appear, but one iPhone accessory deserves a bit of limelight all on its own: the Jawbone Bluetooth headset from Aliph.

Jawbone in Red

Here is a headset that actually sets itself apart from others by emphasizing style and technology. Sounds familiar, no?

As Bluetooth cellphone headsets go, Jawbone is sizable, but its minimalist design and color selection (you can choose black, grey, or red) makes it look good. Really good.

Even the packaging makes an impressive presentation: A clear plastic box with the Jawbone headset seemingly suspended inside. It really looks like you are getting something.

Noise is nothing, presentation is everything

Presentation is one thing, function is another, and the Jawbone delivers that as well.

First and foremost the Jawboneis noise canceling feature works. It not only dampens noise so that the person you are talking to hears you clearly, it makes their voice intelligible to you as well. The Jawbone site has a demo where a guy stands next to someone with a leaf blower and turns on the noise canceling, of course his voice comes through nice and clear.

In reality the noise canceling is almost as good as in the demo. Wind noise, lawn mowers, noisy restaurants pose no problem for the Jawbone. I can hear and be heard without yelling, which means I donit have to be telling the world my business when I am out in public. I like that!

In fact, its noise canceling ability is Jawboneis biggest advantage over other headsets. If you doubt how well noise canceling is working you can always turn it off. (hold down the back button for 3 seconds until the down-tone is heard) Youill definitely notice the difference.

Jawbone includes 4 metal and rubber ear clips (2 for wearing the headset on the right or left side, and they are necessary) and 5 earbuds for a more customized fitting.

You can recharge your Jawbone by using the included USB cable and either connecting it to your computer or using the included AC converter. The headset fully charges in 2 hours, giving you 6 hours of talk time and 120 hours of standby time. The headset gives you a tone and flashes red when the battery gets low.

Jawbone is Stylishly Large

There several negatives to consider if you are thinking of buying a Jawbone headset.

I mentioned the size - I donit think itis a disadvantage, but some might. If you want the absolute smallest headset available look elsewhere.

While minimalism is often a good thing sometimes it can be taken to extremes. Such is the case with Jawboneis buttons: there are only two, and their function depends on the current state of the Jawbone. Aliph crammed a lot of functionality into those two buttons and I think the headsetis usability suffers for it.

For instance, the volume control is the rear button and pressing it cycles up the volume, meaning that each button-press makes the volume increase to the next of 6 volume levels. When it gets to the uncomfortably loud sixth level it cycles to the barely audible first level. The design is good on paper, but in practice it makes for frustrated users. Luckily, once you find a volume you can live with you likely wonit need to change it.

Another design problem is the buttons themselves: they are not distinct, which isnit a problem until you try to use them. The italki button can be readily located by a little raised surface feature, but the effort it takes to press the button makes you unsure you actually pressed it. The Jawbone sounds a tone when a button is pressed properly, but it can be a bit confusing especially when you are trying to hurry up and answer a call. I did get used to the buttons, however, so donit let them throw you.

My only other gripe is not peculiar to the Jawbone, other headset makers do the same silly thing: I wish headset makers offered earbuds that actually fit IN the ear, like premium stereo headphones do, and not these silly earbuds that kinda, sorta, almost fit, but not quite. As I mentioned before, Jawbone includes 5 swappable earbuds, one of which should work in your ear, but I have yet to find one where the headset stays securely in my ear. Maybe I generate an overabundance of wax, or maybe my ear canals are shaped funny, but none of these earbuds keep the Jawbone in my ear. I have to reach up and push it back into place, a lot, which is annoying. To be fair, my other headsets have the same problem, even the ones that donit have earclips.

Two peculiarities I need to mention: First, you will likely notice what looks like a very small button on the earpiece side of the Jawbone. It is a voice activity sensor that must touch your cheek in order for the Jawbone to function properly. The ear clips are designed to help keep the sensor touching your cheek so you really shouldnit have a problem. Iim not sure how this will work if you have a full beard or oddly placed dimples, however, so you might want to test one out first before you buy.

The white dot must touch your cheek

The other oddity is the little cover that is suppose to protect the recharging port. This little piece of black plastic is suppose to snap over the back of the headset where you connect the charger. Well, it doesnit so much snap, it kind of grabs the headset loosely and its a pain to keep in place. Youill likely lose yours. I just left mine in the box.

If the recharge area needs to be covered then Aliph should have figured out a way to integrate the cover so that it exposes the port when charging is needed, but slides or rotates into place when not charging the headset.

The Bottom Line
The Jawbone sounds great, you and the person you are calling will love the noise canceling feature. Youill likely get a good fit due to the extra ear buds and ear clips included in the package, and long talk and standby times are a big plus. You may enjoy the styling as much as I do, but styling is a subjective thing and it may not make up for the size of the headset. I think it does, but thatis just me.

I didnit care for the two-button controls, but I got use to it quickly enough, and the earbuds donit fit my ears as well as Iid like, but I have strange ears. All in all the Jawbone is one of the best headsets Iive ever used, even considering my minor complaints.

Aliph will be selling the Jawbone along side the iPhone when it becomes available for public purchase on June 29 for US$119. As accessories go, it is my opinion that the Jawbone will be one of the hot ones.

I highly recommend the Jawbone Bluetooth Headset.
Review Item Jawbone Bluetooth Noise-Canceling Headset
Manufacturer Aliph

iPhone or any Bluetooth capable cellphone