I’ve been pretty pleased with my Jawbone Icon headset. It has good battery life, clear audio, and is comfortable to wear for an extended period (once I found a loop that works for my ears). But Aliph’s claim that the Jawbone Icon could be upgraded with “apps” was underwhelming: None of the launch apps were compelling, and the app site itself remains in beta. But the company redeemed itself last week by releasing something I’d long hoped for: Bluetooth A2DP streaming audio support as an app.
Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) is a Bluetooth “profile” defining how high quality stereo or mono audio can be streamed between devices. The most popular use is listening to music from an mp3 player or phone on wireless headphones or an in-car audio system. A2DP support is fairly new but becoming increasingly common. All wireless Bluetooth headphones these days support A2DP.
Apple added A2DP streaming to the iPhone 3G and 3GS in OS 3.0, and this has spurred uptake of the standard and production of compatible headsets, headphones, and other devices. I briefly experimented with A2DP headphones when this support was added but set them aside: There is no way I would wear the huge, clunky, ugly, heavy stereo Bluetooth headphones that dominate the market! I suppose that the Motorola MOTOROKR S9 isn’t bad, but can Sony and Plantronics seriously believe people will wear theirs?
What I Want
I was much more interested in streaming non-music mono content to my wireless headset. I frequently find myself doing other things while listening to podcasts and baseball games (thanks to the awesome MLB app), sometimes dangling a single earbud so I can pay attention to the real world. That’s why Aliph’s A2DP upgrade is music to my ears!
Immediately after applying the free A2DP update, I fired up the iPod app on the iPhone to try out the sound quality. Before using it, though, you must tell the iPhone to “forget” the Jawbone and re-pair it so the device will “see” the new A2DP profile support. The sound quality is good, even for music, and it doesn’t seem to be too much of a battery drain. I expect it to last a good three hours or so on a charge.
An added bonus of this upgrade is in-headset volume control and one-tap call canceling. Whether listening to A2DP audio or using the Icon as a standard phone headset, pressing and holding the button cycles through louder and quieter volume levels. But call canceling is even more important to me. The iPhone’s “voice control” often dials the wrong person from my contacts list, so tap-to-cancel is critical!
All in all, Aliph’s latest update is one more reason to declare that the Jawbone Icon is the ultimate iPhone headset. It sports an on-phone battery gauge, support for voice control, and now streaming audio, and it’s even cheaper than the previous Jawbone models! It works great with the iPad, too. The only thing I’d still like to see is an iPhone app to control the headset settings. Hey, a guy can dream, right?
Note: The original iPhone has A2DP-compatible hardware but Apple does not enable it even with OS 3.0. Only the 3G and 3GS models have official A2DP support. But I’ve heard that jailbreaking can enable A2DP even on first-generation iPhones.