With my Cardo Scala abandoned in a New York taxi and my Motorola H800 falling apart, I decided it was time to pick up a new BlueTooth headset. As luck would have it, I decided to buy on the very day that Aliph released their next-generation Jawbone headset, the ICON.
The Jawbone Backstory
The Jawbone series has emerged as the most-hyped headset around, with a devoted user base that swears to its effectiveness. They praise its “Noise Assassin” technology, which uses special software and a nubbin that senses the motion of your jaw bone when you talk (thus the name!) But they complained about the proprietary charging cable, the lack of a physical on/off switch, and the “we are the Borg” look of so many business folks sporting headsets identical except for color.
The ICON moves everything forward. It comes in a variety of design themes with different colors and textures. It uses the same industry-standard micro-USB plug as my Motorola. It has a real power switch. The company even claims advanced noise reduction capability. Plus, the ICON is cheaper than its predecessors, though $100 is still pretty pricey.
I picked up my Jawbone ICON at an Atlanta Best Buy store. It was the first one they had sold; the guys had just put them on the rack and weren’t sure what the price should be! But I was willing to drop $106.99 (including tax) to take my iPhone call quality to the next level.
Unboxing revealed a stubby headset, a wide variety of rubber ear attachments, some tiny manuals, and a USB charger with the world’s shortest micro-USB cable. The headset fired right up and paired easily with my iPhone, not even requiring a ridiculous game of enter-the-useless-0000-PIN.
This is apparently the first headset, other than the now-discontinued Apple model, that reports its battery status back to the iPhone for display. It also integrates nicely with the voice dialing features of the Apple wonder-phone, though I can’t understand why “call” is not a synonym for “dial”.
The Fitting Room
I was immediately impressed by the Jawbone Icon, but this wore off quickly. Although it ships with no less than eight different ear attachments (including a hook that can be added to any of the seven pads), I was unable to get a good fit. The default pad-plus-loop (shown in the images and video above) just wasn’t snug enough, and the little jawbone nub didn’t touch my cheek securely. Without this, my smooth-talking voice kept cutting in and out, irritating the party on the other end of the call.
I switched to the small circular pad, which fit nicely into my ear but didn’t hold the headset securely. So I added the hook, which kept my new $100 toy from hitting the floor but was too small for my ear. That ear hook is impressive, with a ball-type connector allowing near-infinite positioning, but it doesn’t hold the headset securely either, allowing it to “fall away” from my face whenever I look up or down. No dice.
I finally tried out the largest pad-plus-loop without the hook. Lo and behold, this last-ditch attempt worked, holding the headset securely, correctly applying the nub, and allowing me to speak clearly. But it feels a tad too big in my ear, becoming a pain after an hour or so. I’m not one of those “ear mullet” folks who leaves my headset in all the time, but I do get on long conference calls quite often. Although I now have a functional Jawbone Icon, I’m still not 100% satisfied.
The final cool new feature of the Jawbone Icon is MyTalk. “Apps” are the buzzword of the moment, thanks to Apple and the iPhone, and Aliph isn’t left behind: The Jawbone Icon can run apps! Apparently, one can log into Aliph’s MyTalk web site and download different voices for the headset and even special apps that allow it to do nifty things.
I can’t tell you how cool MyTalk and the Jawbone Apps are. No, seriously, I can’t tell you. See, I don’t have access. MyTalk is in beta and, although Aliph allows folks to register for beta access, I guess I didn’t make the cut. I held off this review for a few weeks, even after posting the first unboxing video on YouTube, but still have had no response from Aliph about access.
So I’m going to make stuff up. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get Lt. Uhura from Star Trek to be the voice in the Icon Ear Mullet? Or Marvin the paranoid android from the BBC dramatization of Hitchhiker’s Guide? And I’d love it if I could tap and hold the button for 15 seconds and have Starbuck’s deliver a grande green tea latte with no syrup! Maybe it’ll have voice control so I can even order a venti nonfat cafe mocha with two pumps and no whip? Naah, that’s crazy talk! You’d definitely need to set a voice command macro to get a Hoffacino!
Seriously, I have no idea what MyTalk is all about. But I guess it’s cool. Maybe the Aliph bouncer will let me in once they read this review…
Update: Aliph approved me a for a MyTalk Beta account right after this went live. Look for a review soon!