The Bluetooth version of the Jawbone headset from Aliph is one of the best selling and highest rated BT headsets on the market. Though also marketed as the stylish man's Bluetooth headset, the Jawbone is sold mainly based on lofty claims made by manufacturer Aliph about the Jawbone's noise reduction/elimination technology. According to Aliph, this "revolutionary Noise Shield technology combines the latest innovations in acoustics, audio processing and product design to produce a quantum leap in headset performance."
Outlets such as CNET (who gave the Jawbone it's highest ever ranking for a Bluetooth headset), Walt Mossberg of the WSJ, and the Financial Times have already given the Jawbone rave reviews. Regardless, I was skeptical. You see, I've tried many other Bluetooth headsets that were positively reviewed. However, I've never found one of them the least bit useable or practical. Sound quality is always lousy (both in and out), pairing is often difficult and unreliable, and most headsets are downright unwearable because of comfort or fit issues.
So, I figured I'd give the Jawbone a try.
When the package arrived, I was certainly eager to give it a shot. The Jawbone lures you in with it's
sexy packaging. You'd expect to find a Swiss watch in a the sleek case that houses the Jawbone. Instead, you get a tiny little mobile phone headset. So, no Swiss watch, but so far so good.
As mentioned above, the Jawbone is marketed for it's styling, and rightfully so. The new look for the Jawbone comes from well known designer Yves Behar. Though composed completely of plastic, the main outer body of the Jawbone is housed in a perforated glossy casing that looks like perforated metal. The look is sleek and industrial and quite appealing.
One of the nicest design elements of the Jawbone are it's LEDs. Absent are the obnoxious and gaudy bright blue lights (often flashing) found on most BT headsets. The Jawbone's white and red LEDs are soft and subtle. They're bright enough to convey the information they're meant to, but not nearly bright enough to call the attention of every man, woman and child within a square mile to the fact that you're wearing it.
The Jawbone is available in silver, red, and black. All three colors work quite well, though I'm partial to the silver (the red can be a little ostentatious).
Despite the one size fit's all mentality of most BT headset manufacturers, there is actually quite a bit of difference between your ear lobe and ear canal and mine (or the next guy). This fact is why so many headset owners complain about fit. Unfortunately, most manufactures choose to continue ignoring these complaints.
Aliph hasn't. The Jawbone not only comes with 5 different loops for maximizing the fit of the headset on your ear, it comes with 5 different earbuds for maximizing the fit of the headset in your ear. These options provide a wide variety of fit options which, once you've determined your best combination, greatly enhance the wearability and effectiveness of the headset.
The buttons on the Jawbone are completely concealed and are actually located under the housing of the unit. The Jawbone has two buttons, the main talk button (located under the primary, perforated housing) and the noise shield button (located under the black housing next to the perforated portion). Both buttons are pressed by putting pressure on the outer housing. Though this conceals and eliminates the buttons from the appearance of the Jawbone, it does - at times - prove to be less useable than simple, external buttons.
This is of course the meat and potatoes of the Jawbone. Though stylish and comfortable, is the Jawbone really a stand out when it comes to function?
One of the frustrating aspects of many Bluetooth headsets, in my experience, is pairing it with the mobile phone you plan to use it with. Mostly, this is because the headset often takes multiple attempts to pair properly or doesn't maintain it's association with the phone.
Thankfully, neither seems to be the case with the Jawbone. In my tests with the iPhone, pairing was simple and painless. By holding the noise shield button on the headset, the device indicates it is paired when the LED flashes red and white. The Jawbone paired with the iPhone quickly and the iPhone recognized and offered the Jawbone as an audio source immediately. What's more, during weeks of testing, the pairing between the iPhone and the Jawbone never broke down even once, unless I instructed it to do so.
Answer, Dialing, and Hanging Up Calls
The Jawbone performs as expected here. The buttons answer calls when they are coming in, hang up active calls, and redial previous numbers. In fact, it is almost not worth mentioning. That is, if it weren't for those buttons. The aforementioned "concealed" buttons can sometimes be a bit of a pain. Though this is only an issue when wearing the Jawbone, depressing the under-housing buttons can take a bit of getting used to. When you first get the Jawbone, you're often fumbling around to find the locations on the housing under which the buttons lie. Once located, they also sometimes take a bit of extra force to really "take" the push.
Though this was, to put it mildly, extremely frustrating at first - the good news is that with time this issue fades greatly. Once your fingers and brain become adept at finding and pressing the buttons, you almost begin to forget they used to give you such heartache. At this point, I'm hitting the buttons reliably without thinking about them.
The battery of the Jawbone is of average quality. I wasn't blown away by extra long battery life nor frustrated by short battery life. No big surprises here.
Sound Quality and Noise Cancellation
Here is where the Jawbone really shines.
The noise cancellation technology in the Jawbone was originally developed for US military through DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). The Jawbone's technology separates background noise and speech through advanced signal processing and voice detection. During my weeks of testing, I used the Jawbone in noisy car environments, on busy city streets, crowded cafeterias, and even next to a construction site with heavy machinery. In every situation, the caller on the other end had no idea that I was in a crowded or noisy location. From a noise cancellation perspective, the Jawbone had a lot to live up to - and did.
The incoming sound quality of the Jawbone is extraordinary when compared to other BT headsets. That is to say, I can actually hear the incoming caller when using it. Whether this is due to the improved fit of the Jawbone or it's technology, I can't say, but it doesn't really matter. It works.
The incoming volume also features automatic volume control. Using the same technology used to detect and reduce ambient noise on outgoing sound, the Jawbone detects the volume of your environment and adjusts the incoming sound to suit.
Overall the Jawbone is an absolute pleasure to use, and well worth the $10-$20 price increase over many Bluetooth headsets. If it weren't for early frustrations with the buttons, I'd have nothing bad to say about the unit at all.
Originally sold for as high as $129.95, the Jawbone is now available for $99.95 directly from the iPhoneFAQ store.