Review: Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth Headset

By James Falconer on 17 Sep 2007 12:23 pm EDT
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Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth Headset

Stunning Design, Customizable Fit and Ambient Noise Canceling Technology

The Aliph Jawbone Headset is a truly unique design. It curves to match the outline of your face. On top of that you can get a truly custom fit with the included earbuds and earloops. Aliph claims to have amazing military-grade 'Noise Shield' technology (Developed by DARPA – The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) built into the Jawbone so I'm going to put that to the test. Apparently 'Noise Shield' can eliminate most background noise so that your speech comes through crisp and clear. On top of that, it also enhances incoming audio to improve the quality of what you hear on your end.

Before we get too far here I should mention that I'm a 'Newbie' when it comes to headsets, so this experience is a fresh one for me (a.k.a this is my first time using a bluetooth headset ever!).

Lets get down to it and see what the Jawbone has to offer. I'll take you through the product out of the box, my first impressions, noise canceling stress tests and a whole lot more. If you like what you see I'll even show you where you can pick one up! 

Out of the Box

The Jawbone ready to be un-boxed
The Jawbone ready to be un-boxed

...And what a box it is! The Jawbone is packaged beautifully as you can see from the  pictures. The Jawbone device sits attached to a 'pillar' of sorts within the top of the case. Beneath the Jawbone is a black livery with the Jawbone branding and details. I almost didn't want to take it out of the package it looked so good... But then I took it out of the package anyway :)

As I opened the box I thought to myself 'If they put this much time and effort into the packaging, the actual product HAS to be great too!'

Within the box you'll find the actual Jawbone device, 4 earloops (2 large, 2 small), 4 earbuds, a charger unit, and USB cable (to connect the Jawbone to the wall charger). 

The Jawbone un-boxed!
The Jawbone un-boxed!

First Impressions

Having never used a headset before, I really had nothing to compare this too. I suppose I was like a newborn baby in the headset realm. I'm sure there are others out their considering their first bluetooth headset, so I hope you find my perspective useful! Let me tell you my first impressions.

The first thing that struck me really was the bold red color of the Jawbone itself. It reminded me of Ferrari red (it also comes in grey and black). Second, I was impressed with the customizable setup and the parts included to achieve this. Included as mentioned above are 4 earloops and 4 earbuds. The earloops come in 2 sizes, LARGE and Regular (2 for each, right ear and left ear of course!). The earbuds come in 4 distinctive shapes. I really appreciated this as it must be absolutely impossible to design a product like this to fit everybody. It's not like a pair of sweatpants, you can't simply install an elastic waistband :P

Next was how comfortable it felt once I had it on. The earloop really wrapped around the ear great and the unit fit snug. I was pumped to take my first call at this point! So here we go.. Lets setup the Jawbone to work with my Berry!

Pairing with your BlackBerry

Pairing the Jawbone with my BlackBerry was mighty easy. Here are the steps I followed:

1. Placed the Jawbone next to my BlackBerry
2. Checked to make sure the Jawbone was OFF (LED indicator was not flashing)
3. Turned the Bluetooth feature ON on my Berry
4. Pressed the black 'Noise Shield' button for a few seconds until the LED flashed white and red.
5. The Jawbone then appeared on my Berry's display. I then selected it.
6. Entered the passkey '0000' and pressed OK on the Berry.
7. I was then prompted to connect. I hit YES.

That's it!

Although it was 7 steps, the whole process really only took a few minutes. Easy stuff!

As an FYI, the Jawbone manual does say that it is compatible with most other Bluetooth devices.

Fit, Comfort and Functionality 

The Jawbone's Buttons
Hidden, easy-to-find (but slightly hard to press) buttons are
functional and look great! The Jawbone fit hugged my jawbone!

The tricky part about this is getting the absolute perfect fit. It CAN take some time to get right, but believe me you'll want to take the time to get things right. Thankfully, the Jawbone comes with 4 earbuds and 4 earloops to ensure you'll find a great fit. It took me 10 minutes or so to get the optimal setup.

Since having and setting up my Jawbone I’ve run into a few users who said they just couldn't quite get it to fit right no matter what they did. One person I spoke with recommended purchasing Jabra ear gels and fitting them to the Jawbone. So hopefully if you give the Jawbone a try you'll be able to find the optimal fit.  But if you're one of the lucky ones who can't get a comfortable wear out of it, I’d recommend you find some home made alternatives - the sound quality is worth it! This is obviously an area where Aliph has left some room for improvement.

Take the time to tweak your own fit to get it setup perfectly. You won't regret it because you'll get much more use out of the Jawbone with less frustration! Try all of the earbuds and earloops till you get your magic combination and you won't want to take the Jawbone off :)

Indeed, once I was happy with the fit I didn't want to take it off. In fact, last Friday when I made it to my office I slapped the Jawbone on and forgot I was wearing it! It wasn't until a call came through hours later that I realized it. If that's not a compliment towards the fit and comfort of the device I don't know what is.

Once the device is fit, I was surprised at just how easy it was to use. To take a call, you simply press in the 'talk' button. To hang up, do the same. You can press and hold the 'noise shield' button for around 3 seconds to turn noise shield on and off, and you can use this same button to adjust the volume. The bad thing here is that it takes a lot of pressure to press the buttons, and when you’re holding it in for 3 seconds, it feels like you’re driving the Jawbone into your head.

The main control button is a little ‘hidden’ under the red guard, so you'll need to familiarize yourself with where it is, but once you get it... you're good to go.

The Jawbone in Use
Answering a call (top), and activating the 'noise shield' (bottom)

One-touch voice dialing is also an option with the Jawbone. This comes in handy especially when driving. Just leave your Berry in the console, click the ON button on your Jawbone and speak the name you want to dial at your Berry's prompts. I had no issues with this feature and it gets two big thumbs up from me.

Noise Cancellation

The Jawbone claims to have the best noise canceling technology out there. To do this, they use 'adaptive sound technology'. In a nutshell, the Jawbone has 2 microphones, and a voice activity sensor. When you wear the Jawbone, the sensor detects voice vibrations rather than the actual sound coming from your mouth. It also measures the ambient noise around you and adjusts the volume to make every incoming call sound clear and crisp.

With such hefty claims I knew I had to put it through a few tests. I have to make sure these claims are true don't I?

First, I went to a busy restaurant and made a few phone calls. The restaurant was buzzing and if I was using my Berry, I would have had to have a hand over one ear to cancel out the noise... Plus the person on the other end would have had trouble hearing me as well. The Jawbone did well. In fact, better than expected. The person on the other end sounded clear, and they told me that they had no troubles hearing me either. They could BARELY hear any ambient restaurant noise. So far so good!

Second (on the way home from a good meal) I did the head out of the window test. Called up the same person and went through the same process. This time the ambient noise was a little louder, but still not that noticeable. We had a conversation without any problems. I was going around 60km/hr (40mph) in the car and the wind was only a minor nuisance in regards to the call. Not bad!

Doin' the ol' 'Head out the Window' Test
Don't Try This at Home!

Finally I decided to put on the Jawbone in my office and crank the music on my stereo. To me this was going to be the true test because I have a very loud stereo. To my amazement the Jawbone performed yet again. I had the music so loud I did have to cover one of my ears to hear the incoming voice, but the person on the other end had NO troubles hearing me at all! This took the cake for me and I was truly impressed. Two big thumbs up for the ambient noise canceling technology in the Jawbone.

Charging Up

The Jawbone will require charging occasionally depending on how much you use it. It is rated for 6 hours of talk time and up to 120 hours of standby time. Plus at the end of a call the Jawbone automatically enters standby mode. Charging typically takes around 2 hours.

I've been using mine for a week now, and decided to give it a charge just in case. Thankfully charging the unit is easy. Simply slide the unit into the USB cable, plug the USB cable into the wall adapter, and then plug the adapter into the wall! You'll see the LED light turn red to let you know the unit is charging. Once done charging the LED light will change from red to white and then turn off. 

Charging up the Jawbone
Charging up the Jawbone

The downside to the charging system is the connector is a one-off Jawbone-only connection. What this means is that if you lose the USB cable, you’re out of luck and will have to order a new one from Aliph. A second cable would have been handy so that you could keep one at home and one at the office (heck, throw in a third one for the car!).

Device Weight

For me (the headset newbie) the weight of the Jawbone was not an issue. It seemed light in weight and felt good when I was wearing it… But after discussing with others that have used the Jawbone (and other headsets) they gave their opinion that while the Jawbone's sound quality is second to none, the Jawbone itself is a bit of a ‘lunker’!

The Jawbone weighs in at 1 ounce, over double what some of the newest higher-end headsets to hit the market weigh. This caught me by surprise, but hey I had to write about it.

I looked into it a bit more, and wouldn’t you know it… The Nokia BH-800 weighs in around .32 ounces. The BlueAnt Z9 weighs in at under half an ounce as well. So for what it’s worth the Jawbone is ‘heavy’ in comparison to other models out there today… But it wasn’t an issue for this headset newbie!

Long-Term Use

I could see myself using the Jawbone for a long time to come. I was skeptical at first... Not having used a Bluetooth headset before, I didn't know what I was missing.

The build of the device is quality. All buttons function crisply and I've had no issues with pieces breaking or needing constant adjustment.

The fact of the matter is that the Jawbone is ultra convenient. For busy executives, seasoned headset users, heck, even truckers that want to be able to talk safely on their phones while driving... I could see the Jawbone as an invaluable tool for all of them.

As a compliment to the design and function of the device from a newbie... When my first call came in I instinctively reached for the Jawbone and pressed the 'talk' button in. There was no hesitation or confusion on my part. It functions simply and effectively... And is designed intuitively for easy use. Two big thumbs up.

My Conclusions

At $89.95 (for a red one) the Jawbone is a great deal. It’s a solid device with amazing sound clarity. As long as you can get it to fit well I don't think you can really go wrong.

For my needs (as someone that has never used a headset before!) the Jawbone meets and exceeds them! I simply wanted something that fit well, that had great sound quality, and was easy to use. The Jawbone excels in each of those areas and I couldn't be happier. In fact, the customizable nature of this device puts it over the top for me. The attention to fit and comfort is huge for me and I appreciate all the work Jawbone has put into it!

That being said I could understand how some might have trouble getting used to the controls… and getting a good fit. I think I was lucky in that the earloops and buds fit well almost on the first try. I’ve read other reviews where the reviewer was not so lucky.


Jawbone Review Summary:
Aliph Jawbone
Ratings

Pros:

  • Amazing Sound Quality
  • Easy to use. Very intuitive
  • Stylish and dare I say... Sexy?
  • Very comfortable when fit correctly
  • Simple to setup and pair with your device
  • Lightweight and small (easy to store and stash)

Cons:

  • Getting proper fit could be an issue for some
  • Button controls can be tricky (and painful!)
  • More charging options would be nice
Discussion & Photos:
View more photos and discuss the Aliph Jawbone in the CrackBerry Forums. Go to the Forums >>

Buy Now:
Purchase the Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth Headset in the CrackBerry.com Store:

James Falconer James Falconer "Community Manager, Mobile Nations" 355 (articles) 823 (forum posts)

Reader comments

Review: Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth Headset

12 Comments

I would suggest the Cardowireless Bluetooth. Works great. They even have them with FM tuners now ... and his and hers bluetooth sets ... for the guy that has to have everything!

I ride a Honda 600rr Sportbike with a full face helmet. Works really well... answer by voice ... dialing ... etc.

I highly recommend this bluetooth. I have had three in the past and this one finally works good!

I have used the plantronics but it picked up a lot of background noise.

Jawbone eliminates the majority of the background noise and I can use it without having to worry about if people can hear me or not.

I use it in Airports, walking, outdoors, driving, works like a beauty.

I purchased my Jawbone on ebay about three months ago. Did not have any problems. Works great. I also have the Jabra BT8010 that I use for my music. Traveling....I prefer the Jawbone:) Also, I don't know of any headset that works in any type of mild, moderate, or strong wind - including the Jawbone or the Jabra BT8010:(

I purchased a Jawbone to use with my 8830 WE. Nice - except when pushing the button to activate the 8830's Voice Commands, the software would not initialize. After searching the web, I found a recommendation to do a hard reboot on the 8830 (remove then reinsert the battery OR ALT + SHIFT + DEL keys). That solved the problem. The Jawbone is a jewel.

First off, great review of this headset. I have read many reviews and this one definitely stands out as the most informative.

I just got mine last week, first ever headset too, and I am truly amazed. Sound quality is fantastic.

I do agree that the fit is a bit to play with. Tough it only took me a couple of bud changes and one loop change to get it to feel right and actually hug my face, as intended.

Worth every penny imo.

BgDM

Maybe I bought a dud but this is the worst headset I have owned. Despite the fit, this headset picked up the voices around me rather than my voice. The incoming voice was spotty and second rate at best. I am operating with a Blackberry Curve in full service never below 4 bars. I know I am not the only one. See www.cnet.com for a more thorough review. Buyer beware!

I just got this in the mail today. It pairs easily and seems to work fine. I tried the noiseshield feature with a fan blowing right in front of my face...the person on the other end said I sounded "far away" but that they couldn't hear any wind noise. So, it works well under fairly adverse conditions.

I did experience some choppy sound, but I attribute that to Sprint's spotty coverage. It's not as obvious when using the speakerphone, because that doesn't transmit all of the sound anyway. It fits me well, and in case it doesn't, they include all sorts of extra buds and arms.

After reading the review of the Blueant V12, I was thinking about getting one of those...but I've already got this, and it works fine, so I figure I'll stick with what works for a while. Maybe by then they'll have a Blueant with a color screen. :-)

I had an experience, that if it hadn't happened to me, I would probably be sceptical. About a week and a half ago I had an accident whlie driving in the snow. To make a long story short, I totaled my truck but here is the amazing part... I was wearing my jawbone headset, and when i crashed, the side windows exploded and my jawbone went flying. Next day, we went and looked in the truck... no bluetooth.. so figured it was gone for good. Two days later,my daughter and her boyfriend were over for the day, on the way home he wanted to see where I had my accident so they stopped, got out and walked around and guess what they found in the grass at the scene? yep the blutooth headset. They brought it back to me and to my surprise, after being exposed to wet cold conditions. it still worked and was still paired to my blackberry. So for me I will swear upon a jawbone for life or until they come out with a better one.

I was ready to love this device, especially after a mediocre experience with the Jabra. Of course, here comes the "unfortunately" -- Jawbone voice activation to my BB Curve was pathetic! I'd say "Call George," and back would come "Did you say 'call Henry?'" No. "Did you say 'call Victor?'" No. "Did you say 'call Andrea?'" NO! ... not even close! Not every time, only around 70% of the time. Sometimes it was just ludicrous, sometimes totally exasperating, depending on my mood. Another thing: in noisy cafes or out in the SF Bay Area wind, the person on the other end was not impressed by the much touted noise reduction. Lastly, though I've never been told so, maybe my ears have a funny shape; but for me the ear loop was miserably uncomfortable to put on. Sorry, the Jawbone gets one big thumb down... Next.

I AM A DRIVER.. ALWAYS ON call and ON AND OFF PHONE IN CARS; Best bluetooth I ever used.. when I traded in my motorola for Jawbone my friends asked if I had bought a new car... so much quieter (great noise reduction). FIT IS TRICKY START GENTLY AT THE TOP OF EAR AND CURVE DOWN AND IN... USE LOGIC! Don't force or bend it. Downside: wind noise WILL affect this piece and annoy listeners. And as it uses bone conduction, don't ever think you can eat and talk!!! If you keep your head out of the winds and the food out of your mouth, I think you will love this piece, too. I also love that it never falls off as it has a gentle spring to hold 'conductor' in place. Also charges quickly...good battery.