Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jawbone Era

Jawbone has truly revolutionized the way bluetooth headsets work. They know how to cancel background noise, they know how to cancel wind, they recognize that not every ear is the same and they compensate for it by including different sized earbuds and ways to attach the bluetooth to your ear... but does the latest offering - the Jawbone Era - live up to all the hype and is it worth the $129.99??? Great questions to be asking for sure. Find out by reading the full review.

Important Specs:
  1. Noise Assassin 3.0
  2. Micro-USB charging port.
  3. A2DP (It allows you to listen to music through it)
  4. Up to 5 hours of talk time

  1. Excellent noise cancellation, battery life (5 hours of talk time), and sound quality
  2. Multiple options for ear pieces
  3. Ability to play music
  4. On-screen battery display when hooked up to an iPhone, Android, or Blackberry
  5. Internal memory
  6. Lots of features with more options coming in the future
  7. Motion Sensors
  1. Expensive ($129.99)
  2. Can sometimes create problems when connected to an iPhone 4
For the full review, click the "Read More" button below.

So, before I get too far into the review the Jawbone, I would like to tell you a background story of how I landed on using my first Jawbone I ever used. Here goes.

The first bluetooth headset I ever bought was $45. It was an old Jabra headset that was basically a speaker and a microphone that fit on your ear with the help of a loop. It was scratchy, picked up background noise better than it picked up my voice, and it blinked blue with a HUGE light on the outside that doubled as the button. While wearing it, I looked like I had an alien implant attached to my head and other people would always pick up bakground noises over my voice. By over my voice I mean they would come out of no where and blast off the ear of the person I was talking to. This frequently happened when I would run water in the background or be driving in the car. Basically it happened whenever I would be doing tasks that required the use of my bluetooth. Disappointed was an understatement.

I decided that if I spent a little more money on a bluetooth, I would probably be getting what I was paying for. I bought a $55 headset and it made me mad too. Same experience.

Finally, I bucked up and bought a $75 Plantronics headset. Mind you, this was 5 years ago from the time of this post, and these companies I'm mentioning have come a long way since then. It was better, but not $75 better.

By this time, I'd had it. I decided bluetooth headsets just weren't going to work for me. I gave mine to my girlfriend at the time (now she's my wife) and didn't think about it again. Until I saw a sweet commercial for the Jawbone Prime. One hundred dollars promised a headset that would cancel background noise, only transmit speech when you're actually talking, and would cancel even noise from wind. I was sold. I bought it, swearing that if this didn't work, I would never get a bluetooth headset again.

Here I am writing this and wearing a Jawbone Era. Guess who loves bluetooth headsets.
The Jawbone's talk button pictured directly below the micro-USB charging port.

I've been sold on them since I owned my first Jawbone, and since then they've only been improving. Better noise cancellation, better software, and more features are what defines the Jawbone Era. It is everything I ever wanted from a bluetooth headset with some things I never would have thought of including (that's why I write about technology, not invent it).

Contents of the Jawbone Era package
The first thing I love about the Era (and all Jawbone headsets being released nowadays) is that you have so many options for sizing. No more "one-size-fits-all" with the earpieces. Jawbone has recognized that people have different sized, shaped, and otherwise deformed ears. So they include four earpieces like the one pictured above that allow you to go a little bare on your headset. The loop on the back pins the headset in your ear and the typical loop that goes over the top of your ear is not needed. This works well for me even while talking, but I have found that it doesn't work for everyone. For those that don't like this option or it just doesn't seem to work, you have the option of putting in a normal earbud with the typical loop that wraps around the top of the ear. I appreciate this because if you are going to be talking on the phone for a long time with a bluetooth in, it NEEDS to be comfortable. Jawbone recognizes that and makes it possible. They also include a small, 3-inch charging cord that can hook up to a computer and charge along with the standard charger option. This charger is the new universal micro-USB charger, so chances are (unless you have an iPhone) you'll be able to use any existing chargers you have from your other phones with your headset. There's also a cool protective bag of sorts to put your Jawbone in.

The Jawbone, when paired with the iPhone, will
display its battery meter on the iPhone screen.
The next feature is the ability to update the software (yes, I said software) on your headset. These headsets actually have software in them that can be updated to be better or, if they have bugs they can easily be fixed with a software patch. These upgrades to the software come from and are completely free. You can also customize your headset options there, and with the Era you can enter in names and phone numbers so that when those people call, the Era announces their name into your ear rather than saying "Call from 555-555-5555." This makes the Era truly handsfree (you don't have to take the phone out of your pocket just to see who's calling you, only to put it back in seconds later and answer the call "handsfree"). To top it off, are you sick of the voice constantly whispering things in your ear and telling you who's calling? Change it. There's seven other voices to choose from. While you're on the website, why not enable to feature that lets you listen to music through it? And if you have an iPhone, you're in for a special treat in the form of Jawbone Thoughts. Android user? Download the Jawbone Companion App from the Market.

Picture of the on/off switch, currently turned off, and the
"Voice Activity Sensor" that senses when you're talking
by the vibration on your jaw and transmits your voice only
when your talking.
Another feature is the accelerometer. Right now the accelerometer's only function is to allow cool little movements to activate certain modes on your headset. For example, if you have taken your headset off and you are receiving a call, simply shake the headset twice and then put it in your ear. If it's already in your ear, tap it twice. Either of these gestures answers the call. Have you had troubles putting bluetooth headsets of the past into "pairing mode" to pair them with a new phone? Simpy shake the Era four times and it is in pairing mode, ready to pair with a new phone. In the future, Jawbone says on their website that they will be upgrading their software to include more functionality with the accelerometer (possibly some noise increase/compensation while traveling?).

Backside of the Jawbone Era
A new feature to the Era is an upgrade to their noise cancellation software called "Noise Assassin." The Era has version 3.0, an upgrade from the Icon's 2.5 and the Prime's 2.0. This just helps cancel background noise even better. It also recognizes when background noise is loud and will compensate by turning the volume of your headset up automatically. My first reaction to this was a bit of fear. "If I enter a loud room, will the Era blast my ear off?" The answer is, "no." I've never experienced that. The Noise Cancellation software was originally developed for tank drivers and helicopter pilots. Impressive.

In all, the Era is the best bluetooth headset I've ever used. It cancel's background noise the best, it plays quality HD music (although only through one ear - please come out with a two-ear version in the future???) and it is highly customizable. My verdict - I won't use anything else until someone proves to be a competitor... and so far they haven't.


  1. The mic boom is adjustable to allow for precise microphone placement. Also the boom can also be turned around to modify the headset for both left and right hand wearing.