It’s been a while since I looked at Bluetooth headsets. After all my Jawbone ICON has been working just fine. However, I ordered the new 2014 Era by Jawbone because I thought I had lost my older model. I keep my Jawbone along with a couple of misc. adapters and wired Apple EarPods in a small vinyl pouch that I carry in my pocket. That pouch went missing for a week. I couldn’t find it in all the usual spots that I normally leave it or drop it in. I figured that it was gone for good and that I had to replace the contents. I ordered the NEW 2014 Era by Jawbone. Although I hate buying things to replace lost, stolen or broken things, I wasn’t going to go without one any longer. When the new Era arrived I was immediately taken aback by how small it was. Oh by the way, I found the pouch containing my old gear one day after I placed the order for the replacement gear. It was at the cleaners, probably in one of my pants pockets. They returned it to me with all the contents intact. Anyway, I now have this new Jawbone Era (yes I could have returned it, but then you wouldn’t be getting this review 😉 ) and like I said, I was really taken aback by how small it was compared to almost all other headsets I had used. The only other small one that came to mind like that was the Apple Bluetooth Headset. Yes, Apple made their own for a while and then quietly discontinued it. The new Era is very sleek looking. Jawbone did away with the former cheese grate design and this one has smooth lines. It comes in four colors and rather than going with my default (black), I decided to live a little and get the bronze one.
Setting it up
It came with four ear gels. You get left and right small and medium size ones. I like to wear it on the right side and the small size was the best fit. After the initial charge I then made sure I had the latest version of the Jawbone updater on my MacBook. The software integration is what really sets the Jawbone headsets apart from the competition. Not only was there a firmware update waiting, but I also configured it with the more sexy “Bombshell” voice as well as set up about 14 out of my 20 allowed caller ID names. If you add in the names and numbers of up to 20 contacts your Era will announce their name in your ear when your phone rings. These are the kinds of bonus features that make using the Era fun and more elegant.
Sound Quality and Battery Life
This is what really counts with any Bluetooth headset. If you can’t hear your callers or if your callers can’t hear you then what’s the point? I have yet to use any Bluetooth headset that made me say “wow” when it comes to sound quality. In most cases the quality is “good” or as expected. For me the new Era is “good”. The Jawbone Noise Assassin is designed to help cut down or eliminate background noise and it does a good job of it. As far as battery life goes the smaller size means a smaller battery. Therefore your battery life will be about 3-4 hours of talk time. For many that may be a step down from the larger units. My older, larger Era got 4-5 hours of talk time. If you talk a lot throughout the day you will either want one of two things. You’ll either want the new Era charging case, which extends the battery life up to 10 hours of talk time, or you’ll want a different headset. I didn’t go with the charging case because I simply don’t spend that much time talking on the phone throughout the day. If I ever find that my talking on the phone is increasing I could always order the charging case separately.
Apple’s Siri and Google Now Integration
There are only two controls on the Jawbone Era. There is the physical on/off switch and the multifunction button on the end. When your phone rings you press the multifunction button once to answer the call. Press it again when it’s time to end the call. While the headset is idle and you’re not on a call you can press it once to hear the remaining battery time/status. However, if you press and hold it will activate Siri on the iPhone and Google Now on select Android devices. This is pretty cool as it gives you a more discrete conversation with Siri. I enjoy using Siri this way without having to physically pick up my iPhone to hold down the home button. Speaking of iPhone integration, you’ll also like the fact that the Jawbone Era’s battery indicator shows up next to the iPhone’s battery indicator on the iPhone display.
After reading my buddy Jason’s review of the Jawbone Up over at BestAppSite.com I decided to order one. Like so many of my fellow Americans I’m simply not active enough. I know it. No need to tell me. The idea behind the Up is that you wear it all day (and night) and it monitors your activity/steps. You can sync it with your smartphone and get reports anytime you want. You can see how many steps you’ve taken on a given day as well as how many hours you’ve slept and if you’re diligent about entering the food you eat, it can monitor that too. If you have friends that use the Up you can become buddies and see each other’s progress. This is where my competitive side kicks in as I want to have as many or more steps than my friends on a given day. Having used the Jawbone Up for a couple of weeks now I can give you guys some feedback. Before I jump into the feedback though, I recently received the Nike Fuelband as a gift! Wow! Now I can compare and contrast between the two and tell you which one I like best at the end…
It seems that I’m always on the look out for the ultimate portable travel speaker and I’ve reviewed quite a few here. With each one I think I’ve found the right one, that is until I find the next one. The Jambox is not a new product. However, for some reason I resisted it until recently. I was in my local Apple Store picking up something else and I saw the Jambox on the rack. I was immediately drawn in by the compact size. It’s much smaller than I thought it would be. Next thing you know I was doing the self check out using the Apple Store App on my iPhone and I was out the door.
I got back to my office and charged it up. One thing I appreciated right off the bat over previous speakers that I’ve reviewed here was the minimal amount of cords/cables. Other speakers that I’ve tried that separate and have a cable attached between them kinda bother me. The Jambox comes with a thin stereo cable to attach to your computer, mobile device or other music source. However, since this is a Bluetooth speaker that cable is totally optional. The only other cable is the standard micro USB cable for charging. Once you charge it up and disconnect the USB cable there are no other cables required to listen to your tunes wirelessly.
How does it sound?
I expected the sound to be good and it was. However, the bass was better than I expected for such a small box. I had no problem pairing it with my iPhone and iPad and the music playback from the Music app and Pandora app was flawless. No skips or drop outs.
Speaker phone bonus
If you do pair it with your smartphone you can also use it as a bluetooth speakerphone. There’s a dedicated answer call button right on the top of the Jambox. My iPhone 4s rang while the music was playing. It paused the music and I just tapped the button on top to answer the call via the built-in speaker phone. Nice!
The Bottom Line
I know I’ve said this before, but this time I really mean it (until I find a better one 🙂 ), this is hands down my favorite portable speaker for travel. It’s small, sounds good, charges via USB, works wirelessly, and can be used for my conference calls.
I've been totally happy with my Jawbone ICON headset (see my original review here). I did notice a new model called the Jawbone Era, but I didn't really get around to looking at it. Then my buddy Jack did his review of it and I read it. There was one thing in his review that caused me to place an order on the spot. Well actually it was two things. The first thing and probably the one that stood out the most was actually a little thing. When I receive a call on the Jawbone ICON it rings in the headset, but it also reads off the phone number from the caller-ID. While that's fine, in most cases I'm not going to know whose number it is because I don't commit phone numbers to memory. This means I either just take the call or look at the display on my phone first. The Jawbone Era has a feature that lets you enter up to 20 favorite numbers with names via the MyTalk website and it will actually read off the name aloud when that person calls. This makes an already great headset that much more "handsfree". The next thing was the Noise Cancellation. According to Jawbone, this headset has their "Military-grade NoiseAssassin 3.0" and while I never had a problem with people hearing me with the ICON, there have been times I've been in noisy environments and better noise reduction would have been nice.
But wait, there's more
Those reasons might not be enough for the general population to upgrade. So Jawbone didn't stop there. This new version while it's slightly longer than the ICON is also slightly thinner. It appears that this configuration allowed them to use a bigger or better battery. So now instead of 4 hours of talk time I get 5 hours. This is also the first headset with a built-in accelermeter. That's right! You can shake to answer a call. I didn't say it wouldn't make you look strange, but the feature is there if you want to enable it and use it. I much prefer the new "doubletap" to answer feature. Like the Jawbone ICON, the Jawbone Era is software upgradable with firmware updates as well as software add-ons. My favorite voice is "The Ace". If you have an iPhone or Blackberry the headset's battery indicator will display right on your phone. I also commend Jawbone for including several different ear gels at different sizes. It also supports A2DP which allows you to use this headset for your music and App playback as well.
I can't think of a single feature that I would add to this headset. It does it all and is a great step up from the ICON.
We're on the verge of seeing several new wireless speakers enter the market place. The question though is which wireless technology is going to be right for you? The two formats that will likely be competing for our attention (and dollars) are Bluetooth and Apple's New AirPlay technology found in iDevices running iOS 4.2.
In the meantime Jawbone just announced their new Jambox Bluetooth wireless speaker. This one got my attention because in the iOS 4 Apple finally brought "full" Bluetooth Stereo support to iOS. You might remember my review of the Sony Bluetooth Stereo headset and using it with the iPhone. Back then I was able to use it to listen to music and make/receive calls, but the skip forward/back buttons on the headset were non-functional with the iPhone. Now they work fine with the latest iOS.
Advantages of Bluetooth Speakers
Bluetooth has been around a lot longer and is built-in to lots of devices. If you get a Bluetooth Speaker chances are you'll be able to use it with more than just your Apple gear. Bluetooth is also peer to peer which means you don't have to be on a network to use it. Once your device is paired to the speaker you can just use the speaker wirelessly anytime you're within 30 feet of it regardless of whether or not a Wi-Fi network is within range.
Advantages of AirPlay
AirPlay is new so the performance is yet to be seen. However, seeing how it's built on AirTunes that has been around for a while I'm not expecting any major issues. Video performance will be the only unknown factor at this point. AirPlay has the advantage of distance. While Bluetooth has a limited range of about 30 feet, AirPlay is based on Wi-Fi and therefore can go several hundred feet. You could fire up your iPad that is docked in the living room and pump music out to a speaker on the deck. AirPlay is also not limited to just audio. With AirPlay in theory someone could build a speaker with an LCD in it to be able to watch video content on, in addition to listening to audio content. I don't think we'll see a lot of devices in this category because in order to make sense the device would have to be the size of a TV. However, that does beg the question: will we see big screen TV's with AirPlay built-in? Now that would be cool! Lastly AirPlay has the advantage of being able to stream audio to more than one AirPlay speaker at a time. With AirTunes the current limitation is 3 devices. I use this ability now all the time by sending music from an iMac to the stereo in the living room and the Bose speaker in the Kitchen.
The Bottom Line
While I'm tempted to get the new Jawbone Jambox Speaker just to play, the $199 price tag is a bit of a show stopper for me. While I'm sure it sounds great, I just don't have enough of a need for a "Bluetooth" wireless speaker to drop $200 on it. However, if an AirPlay speaker hits the market soon I'd be more willing to spend the money on it to replace my current setup in the kitchen (a Bose SoundDock connected to an AirPort Express). While the Bose SoundDock has amazing sound, I'd replace it for something that was self contained. (Bose are you listening?) The only reason I have an AirPort Express in that room is to drive that speaker. We should also see some Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi devices in the coming months that will allow streaming without the need of a Wi-Fi hotspot. Ultimately this technology may surpass Bluetooth if it catches on because of the increased range. Things are going to heat up soon and you're going to have lots of choices. Stay tuned!