Jawbone Bluetooth Headset review
Good sound quality, average
A very distinctive
appearance is makes the Jawbone stand out from many of the
'me too' other styles of Bluetooth headset design.
of our series on Bluetooth - more articles listed on
For most people, the most
important feature in a headset is sound quality. Nothing
else matters if the sound quality isn't good.
The Jawbone scores highly on
this essential measure, and has the added value of working
extremely well in a noisy environment. But don't play this
feature out of proportion - most of us are seldom in a noisy
environment, and when we are, the need to use our cell phone is
For normal users with normal
needs, you'll find the Jawbone good but not great, and starting
to show its age compared to the latest offerings now available.
With a list price of $120, and a
street price of about $75 on
Amazon this is a
premium priced headset.
NOTE - NOW REPLACED BY THE
SUPERIOR JAWBONE 2 PRODUCT
What you Get
Aliph's Jawbone comes inside
a regular cardboard box with a clear plastic window to see the
headset itself. It is easy to open and get the unit out of
the box. Surprisingly, perhaps, my headset came in a box
that was branded with AT&T/Cingular rather than with the Aliph
name on it, even though I bought the headset through Amazon
rather than from an AT&T/Cingular store.
But maybe that makes sense.
Almost no-one has heard of Aliph - it is a brandname with no
value associated with it, even if it is a good company with a
Note that just because the
headset is sold in an AT&T branded box, it can work with all
normal Bluetooth compatible phones, not just AT&T phones.
In addition to the headset
itself, there is a brick style power adapter that has a USB
socket on it, a cable that then connects the Jawbone to either
the power supply or a computer, four different sizes of
ear-piece (plus a fifth one already on the headset) and four
different loops to go around your ear (two left side loops of
different sizes and two right side loops of different sizes).
A user manual, a warranty
card, and a warning sheet (about not having the volume too high)
complete the package.
The warranty is for one-year
and is non-transferable.
The unit lists for $120,
and can be found for less at the usual sorts of electronics
resellers such as
(where it is currently $75).
Use this information to
quickly understand the capabilities of the unit and to compare
with other units.
Amazon for $75,
Note - this is an obsolete model and has been
replaced by the better in almost every respect
Jawbone 2. We do not recommend you buy an
original Jawbone headset, because the new
Jawbone 2 is comparable in price and superior in
Easy to put
on and take off
difficult than some.
apparently needs to press lightly against the
side of your face to work properly, and so there
is a moderately tight fit between your ear and
the ear loop, and not much space to fit your ear
into the ear loop.
fit also made it harder than average to remove.
Easy to use
the control buttons
is a larger than average sized unit, with plenty
of space on its front and sides for controls.
all other headsets to date, this space is not
put to good use. The unit has only two
buttons - one is an on/off and control button,
the other is used for volume control, pairing,
and turning the noise cancellation technology on
Why does the industry
make use of such simple concepts as, eg, a slide
switch to turn the unit on and off, eliminating
the sometime ambiguity of 'is the unit actually
on or off at present'.
gets zero marks for the ease of use of its
buttons, this is no worse (but also no better)
than any other Bluetooth headset to date.
interesting added complication of this headset
is that its two 'buttons' are hidden beneath the
outer 'skin' of the headset. There's no
visual clue, just from looking, as to where or
what the buttons are at all.
After only a few minutes it became increasingly
seen some people walking around malls with these
units on their ear semi-permanently - so either
my discomfort is not universally the case, or
else some people will go to ridiculous lengths
so as to 'look cool'.
enthusiastic Jawbone user said that he has
become so used to his Jawbone, which he finds
completely comfortable, that he even fell asleep
probable that some experimentation with the four
different ear pieces and two different ear loops
is needed to fully optimize the comfort.
Can you use
nature of the ear loop may interfere with
glasses being worn at the same time, and you'd
probably need to take your glasses off being
putting your headset on or off.
This headset is one of the less well designed
ones for use with glasses.
Can use with
Because the ear loops are curved in all
dimensions, rather than just being a flat loop,
Aliph provides different ear loops for use with
the left or right ear.
mounted on ear
Oh yes, the
tight fit with the ear loop ensures there's no
way this is going to fall off.
How to carry
I have no
idea how to best carry this.
comparatively bulky, and with a flimsy seeming
ear loop that can wiggle around, it seems likely
to get caught up on any other things in your
pocket if you keep it in your pocket when not in
Compatible with Nectar
necklace style headset holders.
unit weighs 0.7 ounces - heavier than most other
current headsets, but not objectionably so when
actually on your ear.
Because it is held firmly in place, you're not
worrying about it wobbling or coming off.
Ease of Use
intuitive and easy to remember
thing to remember is how to turn the headset on
and off - not as easy as it might sound with
hidden buttons beneath the skin of the headset.
With a more
restricted set of features than some other
headsets, it is perhaps easy enough to remember
only how to turn the headset on and off, and how
to answer and end calls, doing everything else
from the phone rather than from the headset.
The unit will cycle through six different volume
levels by repeated pushes of the button at the
end of the unit.
does it turn on
about four seconds to turn on and about another
four or five seconds to synch with the phone.
A small (4.6" x 2.8") 29 page manual comes with
the unit and can be downloaded from
Aliph's website as well.
Strangely, the printed version of this manual
appears to be more up to date than the
electronic version on the website.
Disappointingly, there's no way to get phone
support. There are a few FAQ questions and
answers on Aliph's website, and if your question
isn't answered there or in the manual, you have
to fill out a form to send a form based email.
is silent about any promised turnaround time for
responding to questions.
question sent at midnight had still not been replied to
when this article was published after the close
of business the next day.
This is an unacceptable level of (non)support
for a premium priced product.
password printed on device
But like almost every other headset, it is 0000
so in an emergency you have a good chance of
guessing what it is!
Up to 6
hours of talk or 120 hours of standby time
timings are about average or perhaps slightly
below average compared to other units
on sale in April 2008.
will flash red and give warning beeps when the
battery is getting low.
specified, but some type of rechargeable lithium
As with other headsets, the chances are by the time the battery has died,
you'll probably have bought a new headset.
another unit that gratuitously features a
non-standard charging socket. What is
wrong with these people? If nothing else,
one has to believe that using a standard off the
shelf Mini or Micro USB plug and socket would be
less expensive than designing and custom
building their own style of connector.
designed and bulky four pin connector is used
for charging. Why four pins? It only
needs two (for power + and power -)?
Not only is
this connector bulky (it wraps around the entire
rear of the headset) it also has insufficient
polarity control to prevent you from plugging
the headset into it round the wrong way.
mitigating point here is that at least the other
end of the charge cable ends in a standard USB
connector, so you do have the option of charging
from a USB hub or computer.
light on the headset goes on while charging and
changes to white when
A small brick charger.
2.6 oz total
for the charger and removable cable.
provided, but because the cable that has the
charger-to-phone connection at one end
terminates in a regular USB plug at the other
end, you can connect the unit up to any regular
5V USB port or power supply.
pairings can be stored
can store at least two profiles (exact number
not stated), but it can only be linked to one
phone at a time.
profiles are supported.
profile for computers
It says it
is a Class 2 device, but this is almost
certainly wrong, because it also claims a 33'
range, which implies it to be a normal Class 3
performs similar to most other Bluetooth
headsets. It gives up to about 50' of
range if there are no obstructions - ie, if the
headset can directly 'see' the phone.
This range drops off very quickly if there is no
direct signal path, with some loss of quality
even being noticed when the headset is on my
left ear while my right hand is holding my
iPhone down on my right hip.
is a generous one year warranty.
policies will vary.
offers a sophisticated multi-layer approach to
ensuring that background noises are minimized
and your voice is clearly heard at the other
end, using both analog (multi-microphone) and
digital signal processing techniques.
It also has another feature - it not only
controls the sound signal that is sent to the
person you're talking with, but it makes some
modifications to the incoming side of the
conversation to help that cut through any
background noise too.
I can't provide a recording of how the incoming
sound is changed, but here is a sample showing
how the headset manages to send out a clear
voice signal in a noisy environment.
As you listen to this
notice a couple of things. Until the
headset first heard my voice, it didn't know
what to do with the background noise, so it was
feeding through at a high level. But as
soon as it heard my voice, it knew what to
filter out and did so, and continued to do it
any time I briefly paused.
Notice also how in a couple of places the tone
of my voice changes. This is because the
Jawbone is modifying my voice as well as the
background noise to get maximum clarity.
This test recording, if anything, massively
understates the capability of this headset to
eliminate noise - see comments in the section
below about using the headset for more testing
is the best noise controlling headset we've
quality was excellent and as good as any other
units tested to date.
Here is a
you can hear the difference between talking
through the Jawbone and directly through an
iPhone, in a quiet environment, and draw your
is simple - press the main button on the body
rather than top of the headset and wait until the LED flashes
this takes about four seconds.
is also simple - press the same button for
about four seconds until the LED flashes red.
(if also supported on the phone, of course).
Briefly tap the control button, then say the
name of the person you wish to call.
Press the main button twice.
call to/from phone
a call from your phone to the Jawbone, press the
main button once.
a call back to your phone, press the main button
for about three seconds.
waiting/Three way calling
strange answer to the question 'does the headset
support call waiting' on Aliph's website says :
While call waiting is possible on the
Jawbone, we are currently not supporting this
feature. In some cases, your phone may not allow
call waiting to be routed to the Jawbone which
may prevent you from answering or swapping
between calls using the Jawbone buttons.
apparently the Jawbone can - but can't - handle
Press the 'other' button (the one on the end of
unit is already on, a short press of the main button
will answer an incoming call.
To end a call, a short press of the control button is
The unit signals incoming calls with a
quiet tune which
you'd only hear if the unit was in your ear, so
you probably need to rely on hearing the phone
You can turn
the Jawbone's noise cancelling feature on and
off by pressing the 'other' button for three
seconds, but you'll probably never want to do
distinctive and unmistakable design, and
available in three colors (black, grey and red).
indicators on standby
a white light flashes once every
six or seven or so seconds
while the unit is on standby.
can not be switched off.
measures about 2.3" x 0.9" and is 0.6" thick,
with the earpiece protruding out another 0.5".
increases its size to about 3" x 2.4", with the
earloop makes it difficult to carry in a pocket.
This is an attractive
headset boasting very good sound quality and
excellent noise filtering.
With a list price of
$120 and currently available
$75, it is considerably
more expensive than all other headsets tested to
date, and so unless you have a special need for
its noise cancelling, you might want to consider
a lower priced headset.
Using the Aliph Jawbone Headset
The first thing one notices
about the headset is its distinctive styling. I imagine
some people dislike its design, but I like it and it is a far
cry from some of the incredibly ugly designs that were all too
common when Bluetooth headsets first started to be marketed, or
some of the glitzy trashy uglinesses that are being sold on a
fashion/style basis these days.
When one picks it up and
puts it on one's ear, the first thing one notices is how awkward
it is to fit. And, before (and after) having it on one's
ear, where do you put it to carry it? Its loose swiveling
ear loop conveys a sense of fragility, and even if not fragile,
it is easy to get it caught on other things in a pocket.
One more comment - it comes
with a soft rubber protective cover that fits on the back of the
headset to protect the charging terminals when not connected to
the charger. This cover readily falls off and will be lost
within a few days of use (I lost mine the first day), and Aliph
says it is only there to protect the unit during shipping.
This is a bizarre statement
on Aliph's part. The headset is securely held in place in
a blister pack with no possibility of the charging contacts
being short circuited by anything, either inside or outside the
pack. Why would they go to the bother and expense of
making this special part when it isn't needed for the stated
In use, the headset is
convenient, and the default volume control seems to be fine.
Quality is good, and the only detracting point is its
uncomfortable fit and difficulty in putting on or off.
Typically when I have a call coming in I answer it on my phone's
handset, then while holding the phone and talking, try to fish
out of my pocket, turn on, and mount my headset onto my ear.
This is easy to do one-handed with some headsets, but much
harder to do with the Jawbone.
The most impressive aspect
of the Jawbone is its noise cancelling. I spoke to a
fellow Jawbone user while he was driving in his car, with the
windows open, on the freeway at 70 mph. Apart from
occasional minor bursts of noise, it was difficult to tell the
difference between talking to him in his parked car with the
windows closed, and when he was driving fast with windows open
on the busy freeway. That is staggeringly impressive.
The company that invented
the Jawbone, Aliph, is a US company based in the San Francisco
area, but the headset itself is made in China.
Connecting with phones
Everything worked fine with
no problems encountered.
The Jawbone, which as been
available since 2006, is starting to show its age. It no
longer is the 'latest and the greatest' in any respect except
perhaps for its noise control circuitry.
It doesn't have the latest
Bluetooth 2.0, it has slightly below average battery life, and
is larger and heavier than many of its more modern competitors.
It has none of the increasingly common new features like
simultaneously pairing to two phones, and even omits a simple
standard feature like mute.
When first released, it was
truly remarkable. Today, it is still good, but it no
longer is the clear leader of the pack.
The Jawbone is also aging in
one other important dimension. Bluetooth headset prices
continue to fall, but with a list price of $120 and a street
price of $75, it is still a premium priced product in a
marketplace where it no longer offers so much premium to go with
The Jawbone has a current (May 08)
street price of about $75 through
This puts it in the higher price bracket and is appreciably more
expensive than other units that perform almost as well.
So - bottom line - the
Jawbone is twice the price of the other current best recommended
high end headset (the Cardo S-800).
Should you spent $75 for a Jawbone or settle for the S-800 for
To find out the answer to
that question, we've provided a comparison page highlighting the
differences between the Jawbone
and the Cardo S-800.
Chances are you'll be happy
with either choice, and if your work or life-style requires you
to be able to carry out phone conversations in unusually noisy
environments, you would probably find the extra cost of the
Jawbone to be money well spent.
This is still a good headset, but the Jawbone 2 is better and
comparably priced. For that reason, you should not choose
a Jawbone, but instead should get the newer better Jawbone 2.
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2 May 2008, last update
28 May 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.