At $130, the Jawbone ERA is in the high-end of Bluetooth headsets for use with the iPhone and other Bluetooth-enabled phones and computers. You can find wireless headsets starting at under $20. But if you rely on one, and wear and use it a lot, especially outside your office, you may find the usability and feature set well worth the price.
The Jawbone ERA, for example, has wideband-quality sound (great for music listening), along with some audio UI capabilities, and even an accelerometer (no in-ear apps for it yet, though).
BUILD & DESIGN
The Jawbone ERA is reasonably small: 2.02 inches long by 0.57 inches wide by 0.95 inches high, weighing a mere 10.2 grams -- not the smallest Bluetooth headset available, and not the largest. In terms of colors and designs, it comes in Midnight, Shadowbox, Smokescreen, and Silver Lining.
Physical controls consist of an On/Off slide button on the underside (nearest your head), and the TALK button on the back end, and an accelerometer.
The box includes, aside from the headset, 4 Spout earbuds, 4 Round earbuds, an optional binaural earloop (wire thingy that curls around your ear, helps keep it in your ear, I use this), a carrying case, and small-but-clear user guide.
Audio features include a 10mm wideband speaker (HD audio), which does indeed sound great, especially for music; automatic volume control; NoiseAssassin 3.0 with wind reduction, and voice announcements.
The Jawbone ERA has a Bluetooth range of up to 33 feet. It paired up easily and almost instantly with my iPhone 4 -- and should support up to 8 paired devices, and manage 2 active connections. Once paired, it automatically put a small battery-level icon at the top right of the iPhone screen. Jawbone offers apps to handle this task for BlackBerry and Android smartphones, via their MyTalk site.
The headset worked with both phone calls and other audio applications, such as the NPR News app, Dragon Dictation for iPhone (see my Brighthand review), and the iPOD app.
Pressing the TALK button twice redials the most recent number called. Jawbone also offers two dialing apps -- "favorite," and voice dialing (which uses iPhone Voice Control). It looks like you can't use both favorite and voice-dial, though; you have to pick.
Noise-filtering is one of the most important things a Bluetooth headset can do -- one reason I prefer a headset to the wired earbuds/microphone that came with my iPhone is the wired microphone's sensitivity to wind noise. According to several callees, the Jawbone ERA's noise filtering did a good, if not perfect, job of filtering out background noise while I was talking. For example, I walked past several leaf-blowers, and my callee could hear me fine. (I couldn't hear him, though, of course, until I was beyond them.)
Like many new Bluetooth headsets, the Jawbone ERA has some audio user-interface capabilities. Rather than simply beep "On/Off," a voice (type and language-selectable) announces number-of-talk-hours-left, inability to find a Bluetooth device to pair to, and through apps you add via the MyTalk site, some voice control like phonebook dialing (which I haven't gotten to work yet) using iPhone's Voice Control feature.
One feature on the Jawbone ERA that I haven't seen on other headsets -- Jawbone says the ERA is the first -- is a built-in accelerometer. Currently, Jawbone says the only uses for its accelerometer are when you're holding it in your hand, not wearing it, to initiate pairing and to accept calls. I was able to, sometimes, accept calls while wearing the Jawbone ERA headset, by doing your basic "I Dream Of Jeannie" head-shake (with or without arms folded), but not reliably. But, says Jawbone, they're working on additional motion apps.
I tried installing some of the apps and tweaks available at Jawbone's MyTalk site, which include by-name Caller-ID customization, changing the voices and languages the ERA talks to you in, and the ability to send email and text messages by voice. Some -- but not all -- of these features are free, some have monthly fees.
You need to plug the Jawbone into your computer (Windows 7 and Vista XP, and for Mac OS X 10.5 and higher, via the USB cable) to do software updates and sync, through a web browser. All this worked fine with my Windows XP desktop.
The most important thing to note about it (and, to be fair, most small devices, accessories and apps these days) is that you should spend a few minutes reading or at least skimming the included manual (PDF) AND reading through the product's web site. This will be especially helpful if you haven't used this type of product before, or haven't used one less than a year old -- because there's lots of new capabilities and features that aren't obvious from the buttons and user interface.
The rechargeable built-in battery is supposed to charge 80% in 30 minutes, and 100% in 60 minutes, and be good for up to 5.5 hours of talk time, or up to 10 days of standby time.
This accessory comes with a micro USB cable and an A/C wall adapter with fold-in prongs. The manual says not to use other USB cables or AC chargers with the ERA headset. According to the vendor I asked, it's because Jawbone can't, of course, guarantee voltage stability, charging current and time, immunity to AC line fluctuations, etc. for third-party chargers
One missing feature I hope Jawbone (or Apple) adds soon: a "locate/find-me" like the one on most wireless handsets, which makes the headset beep as loudly as possible, and blink. Otherwise, you can sometimes find yourself searching high and low for this little accessory.
All in all, I like the Jawbone ERA a lot. It's comfortable, and works well. Whether it's worth the $50 to $100 more than a less expensive headset only you can decide. (New apps for the accelerometer may change the equation, also.)
Service, Warranty & Support
Ease of Use
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