Review: Jawbone Bluetooth headset

Recently, I went through another round of a roughly annual “find a Bluetooth headset that actually works” exercise after throwing the latest failed attempt in the electronic junk drawer beside the cracked Palm V and the old SCSI Jaz drive. First of all, let me state for the record that I don’t consider myself one of those Bluetooth headset guys and generally observe a personal “only use in the car” rule. Also, when I’m looking at Bluetooth headsets, I’m definitely not looking for something that doubles as a fashion accessory, nor am I looking for something that fits comfortably enough to wear all day. I want something that works reliably with my phone, fits reasonably well, and doesn’t degrade call quality. While I generally do my best to be in a quiet place for calls, it’s inevitable that I’m out and about sometimes and need call someone from the car, in an airport, etc. Anyone who does many business conference calls knows that the guy calling from a car or at a busy airport gate can be a distraction to everyone else. “Can you mute, please?” is a common refrain in those situations.

Until recently, I used the Jabra BT5020 with my iPhone and even though Jabra claims “wind noise reduction” as a feature, a lot of my calls began with the person on the other end asking, “where are you, in a wind tunnel?” I tried the Samsung WEP-200 on Tim Bray’s recommendation, but had trouble pairing it with my iPhone (this seems to be common), and it fell out of my ear if I moved my head even slightly. In my latest round of research, all roads pointed to the Aliph Jawbone. (Disclaimer: just as I was about to go buy it, I serendipitously got an email from the PR firm representing Aliph asking me if I wanted to review the Jawbone, so I received a complimentary review unit).

After a couple months of using the Jawbone regularly, I can attest that it works as advertised and has exceeded my expectations. The online demo of the Jawbone’s Noise Shield technology seems too good to be true, but it isn’t — what a pleasant surprise. The Noise Shield works so well that I sometimes use the Jawbone in situations where I could actually use my phone without the headset, e.g. standing outside a restaurant on a noisy San Francisco street. This breaks my “only in the car” rule, but the noise reduction is worth it. I’ve tested the Jawbone in the car with the Noise Shield off (“you sound like you’re in the car”) and with it on (“wow, you sound like you’re in a quiet office now!”) In all cases, the caller on the other end comes through loud and clear, too. The battery life for my level of usage has been excellent, too.

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I do have a few minor gripes. The unit can be a little clumsy to get on and off of your ear. The variety of included earbuds and ear clips were impressive but I couldn’t find a combination that fit my ear really well. Still, the Jawbone fits well enough and its enthusiastic users have some suggestions to create a better fit. When the Jawbone is on standby, I have to turn it off and then on to re-pair it with my iPhone, but that is only a minor annoyance.

All in all, the Jawbone is an excellent product that delivers on its promise. Since I’ve been using it, no one has asked “where are you?” or “can you mute, please?” I never thought I would say this about a Bluetooth headset, but I love it.

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9 thoughts on “Review: Jawbone Bluetooth headset

  1. Hey Chad, great review, thanks! Say, I also bought one of these for my iPhone and experience a lot of static at random times, other times it’s clear. Also, the sound quality is nothing like the sound quality of the iPhone headset, so I ended up just going back to the headset.

    Is this consistent with your experience? Or is yours always crystal clear and do you think I got a bad unit? It would make sense to me that it would be really tough to make a btooth headset that can compare to the iPod audio quality, but my experience hasn’t been as glowing as yours so wondering if my expectations are too high or I got a dud and should try again.

    cheers, scott

  2. Hi Scott,

    I think you might have a bad unit, or there could be an issue with the Bluetooth in your iPhone. I haven’t had any problems at all with static — works like a charm.

  3. BUT, there are a bunch of features missing. The Jawbone, although highly rated for it’s technical design, lacks simple functions. For example, you get ZERO audio feedback when you press buttons. So, unless you actually look at your phone when receiving or making a call, you don’t hear anything that tells you it’s safe to talk. Also, THERE’S NO MUTE BUTTON!! So, now I can’t be on a conference call from my car. I have to keep pressing the mute button on my phone. So, let’s face it, the Jawbone is NOT hands free; or at least not “eyes” free. This lack of design consideration needs more press. When I contacted Aliph about whether or not there would be an upgrade forthcoming, they said no. So, I’m done. Time to go back to my Plantronics Voyager 510. It’s quiet as a mouse in a car and it HAS all the above features. Tsk tsk. Never let an engineer design the front-end.

  4. Thanks for your review but not much help for me you see I’m using 665 ( its light&I a beard)but need a swap 4 my Treo(755&Centro)keep hering about 510 but they rnt made anymore(antique) thanks anyway but I’m still lost.Oh need 2.0 enabled noise reduction.

  5. Jawbone! « ifindkarma. elegance is refusal.

  6. I bought a Jawbone unit back in 2007, it didn’t work as effective as everyone advertised. I might have dampened the background noise, but the people who I was calling was constantly complaining about not being able to hear me well. Which is why in 2008, I RMAed for another unit, but the results are the same. You can test this by calling your voicemail and recording a personal message then replay it. I am somewhat disappointed by the Jawbone, but oh well, it’s all spilled-milk now. The bluetooth headset hunt begins anew.

  7. I purchased a Jawbone, because I was hoping it was the solution for my Sebring Convertable. I use my phone allot and drive with the Top Down. The person I was talking to said it sounded like I was taking through a Fan. I recorded my voice using the cell phone voice recorder and I could bearly make out what I was saying. I don’t know if there is some magic in making the unit work properly. I was sitting still at an intersection and there was a light breeze blowing across my head and the jawbone picked up that noise as well. I hope some company makes inprovements and tests with the Top Down at 70MPH

  8. asking anything to eliminate wind noise in a convertible is a bit much to ask, don’tcha think?

    BT headsets are a very personal thing to be able to recommend 1 for everybody: ear size, version of BT your handy supports and how well that’s implemented differ greatly, not to mention expectation(a biggie), distance between headset and phone and RF environment, those play a big part as well in the performance of any headset/phone combo.

    what I’m saying is not every headset will be great for everybody, Ive had tons of them in the ~8 years Ive been using them, right now I have the samsung wep 200, but I’m looking at the jawbone, now that you can get them for like 60$ shipped… Ive had headsets I loved and some I hated, none of which My wife liked, I got her a sony ericsson akiono(sp?) its big but fits her small ear well, has an incredible battery life and good reception both ways and she loves it, I hate it but that’s my point isn’t it???

    bhang

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