The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Yet Another Bluetooth Headset – Jawbone II

Posted by Deliverator on September 22nd, 2008

My brother purchased a Jawbone II headset for me for my birthday. I’ve really liked my Jabra BT3030 stereo bluetooth headset for use with my Nokia 95 phone, mainly as a way to listen to music and Podcasts hands-free. The BT3030 has generally worked well for phone calls as well, but I spend a lot of time talking while driving in my car and have received comments from some people about the road noise being distracting. I am still keeping my BT3030 for hands free listening while on foot, but have switched to using the new Jawbone II for most phone conversations.

The big selling point of the Jawbone II is it’s noise canceling technology. The headset has a little rubber probe that presses against your check. While talking, the Jawbone II uses the sound transmitted through your…jawbone, hence the name, and subtracts out anything that is significantly different than this signal profile from the device’s conventional microphone input. Interestingly, the effect of this is that your voice will always be heard clearly while speaking, but outside noises will be heard when you are silent.  This effect is pretty dramatic. I’ve tested talking while standing next to radios, air conditioners and while walking near an ambulance siren. In each case, the listener has been able to hear me clearly and while talking, background noise almost disappears, but will reappear as soon as I stop talking. This is a bit of an odd experience for the listener, but the net effect is positive. Your voice will be heard in almost any aural environment imagineable.

The Jawbone II is one of the few headsets on the market with any effective noise cancelation, so it is hard to make apples to apples comparisons with other products, so I thought I would just list its good and bad points and let you judge whether any of these would be deal breakers for you.

-The Jawbone II comes with three different ear loops and three different sizes of ear inserts, to allow you to use the one most comfortable for your ear anatomy. This is an improvement over the previous Jawbone model, which many people found uncomfortable. I found the Jawbone II to be comfortable to wear for up to several hours at a time.

-All functions of the Jawbone are accessed through pressing one of two buttons for various durations or tap patterns. This is fairly common on Bluetooth headsets, but it doesn’t make me like it any more. I’ve disliked this sort of interface on small devices before, as it basically forces you to memorize an extensive state table to make full use of the device, and judging duration accurately isn’t always easy. Thankfully, the simplest commands like “answer this call” and “hang up” are typically accessed by the simplest combos and I don’t really make use of the more advanced functions.

-The two buttons on the device aren’t physically discrete, tactically discernible buttons, but are instead activated by mashing down on the device casing. On several occasions, while trying to reposition the device in my ear, I have accidentally hung up on a caller. I think this particular issue is one that you will simply become aware of with use and will simply become accustomed to handling it with kid gloves while making calls

-It is possible for the probe which is supposed to make contact with your check to instead hover just above it, resulting in no noise cancellation. Whether you experience this problem is probably dependent highly on your own unique anatomy.  Most of the times where I have accidentally hung up on someone have occurred when I have realized that the probe wasn’t making contact and have gone to adjust the positioning of the Jawbone II mid conversation.

-The Jawbone II comes with a USB charging cable (yay) with a non standard mini dock connector at the end (boo). This mini doc has a magnetic locking system that keeps the Jawbone II in place while charging. While I like that it uses a USB cable to charge, I wish it had a standard USB mini end connector like most of my other portable devices. If you are a frequently travelling techy, you know that having to carry around a slew of charging cables and wall warts is a royal pain in the ass. The Jawbone II does come with an optional wall wart, but it is just a AC to USB adapter, which most laptop carrying travelers won’t need.

There is a lot to like about the Jawbone II. The noise cancelation is the first that I’ve seen that actually works effectively. It has about as attractive styling as you can get in a borg implant and is small enough to keep in a shirt pocket all the time. There is definite room for improvement in a future model or from a competitor, but if you need noise cancelation now, you probably can’t go wrong with a Jawbone II.