BlueAnt Z9i Bluetooth Headset


Effective July 1, California law prohibits drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle. Instead, motorists 18 or more years old may use a hands-free device. While wired headsets and earpieces still exist, I suspect most drivers will use a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone to comply with the hands-free requirement. Of course, some cars (like my wife’s) has built-in Bluetooth. However, most cars (like mine) don’t. (Starting to see a pattern here?).

I mostly use Bluetooth devices in my car. I’m as geeky as anyone, but walking around with a flashing Bluetooth headset in my ear make me feel too much like a Borg from Star Trek Next Generation. And in retrospect, telling that L.A. Metro policeman “resistance is futile” probably wasn’t a good idea. But I digress.

I’ve been using both Bluetooth headsets and speakerphones in my car for a long time. Recently I’ve been using the Jabra SP5050 speakerphone, mounted on my visor. It’s good as far as speakerphones go. However, the sound quality of a speakerphone, both hearing and talking, just never seems as good as the corresponding sound quality of a headset. Maybe that’s because a headset is a lot closer to your mouth and ear than a speakerphone. Additionally, I find myself craning my neck towards the speakerphone to speak or hear. Finally, if I have a passenger in my car, they can hear the conversation, which isn’t always desirable.

The picture is of my latest Bluetooth headset: the BlueAnt Z9i, one of the “latest and greatest” Bluetooth headsets.

The Jawbone 2 is another “latest and greatest” Bluetooth headset. Its claim to fame is its “NoiseAssassin” technology, which originally was developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Basically the Jawbone 2 excels in noisy environments. You could be in the middle of a disco (boy am I dating myself) and the person at the other end of the phone wouldn’t know it (no I haven’t tested that). The Z9i doesn’t do a bad job in noisy environments, but the Jawbone 2 is in a class by itself.

I considered the Jawbone 2 but ultimately bought the Z9i instead. One reason was price. The Jawbone 2 lists at $129.99 and is difficult to find for much less. By contrast, the Z9i cost me $79.99 at newegg.

But price really wasn’t my main reason, especially considering how much money I spend on gadgets. Another reason was fit. I had the original Jawbone. It simply didn’t fit well, and the earhooks were brittle. The earhooks on the Jawbone 2 are improved, but they are fit remain a concern. By contrast, the fit of the Z9i is very comfortable. It’s a small and light device, and fits securely with the earbud and earhook.

Additionally, the Z9i has a mini USB connector for charging. By contrast, the Jawbone 2 has a non-standard USB connector. The less USB connectors I have to lug around, the better. See update after next paragraph.

But probably the decisive factor for me was the Z9i was Multipoint, whereas the Jawbone 2 was not. Multipoint means the Bluetooth headset can be connected to two phones at once. You can’t use the headset on two phones simultaneously. But you can initiate a call on phone A using the headset, end that call, phone B rings, and you can answer the call on the second phone using the same headset! Pretty convenient when you have 2 Bluetooth phones, such as your cell phone and an IP phone that also uses Bluetooth. Or in my case, a Windows Mobile phone (HTC Advantage x7500) and a BlackBerry phone (8700c). By contrast, with the Jawbone 2 and most Bluetooth headsets, you can pair them to multiple phones, but the headset can be connected only to one phone at a time.

Update: I called BlueAnt tech support to get answers to Geoffrey’s questions. Getting through was difficult. For the first several tries, I got a message that I either was calling outside normal hours (I wasn’t) or all representatives were busy. I then was disconnected. Not good. However, eventually I got through. The person I spoke to seemed knowledgeable. Here’s what I learned:

  1. The reason I could not find a firmware upgrade on their website was because there is no firmware upgrade available yet. However, he believes one will be available in a few days. He did not know if or how it will be publicized on the website. He took my email address and promised to email me when the firmware upgrade becomes available. When I know, you’ll know here through another update. Update: I received an email from support on June 27 which said: “There is not currently an upgrade for the Z9i which is why you cannot find a link. There should be an upgrade in the next week or so which will be clearly linked on the website you visited.” I just checked on July 4 and saw no upgrade yet.
  2. The USB connector is not mini as advertised on the website. I thought it might be micro. He wasn’t sure. He thought it might be proprietary. So this is still an unknown. I’ll try to find a 4 pin micro USB connector to test. I’ll post an update here if I learn anything further. Update: I received an email from support on July 1 which said: “Its is a proprietary connection, so it would need to be a BlueAnt cable that is used. Our parts retailer is a company called”

20 Responses to “BlueAnt Z9i Bluetooth Headset”

  • Has anyone been able to update a Z9 with the current Z9i firmware upgrade and get multipoint functionality? I was told that this might work by a reputable source.

  • Steve, I had multipoint functionality before and after the firmware upgrade. Currently I am using this functionality with my BlackBerry 8700c and my iPhone 3G.

  • Great – and that was with a Z9, not a Z9i, right? Are there any tricks or pitfalls to avoid in the firmware upgrade process? I read on another site that the upgrade process is not exactly the way Blue Ant’s PDF describes it.

  • No Steve, it was with a Z9i.

    I did not find the upgrade process particularly difficult. The instructions could have been better. But they were clear enough that I knew what to do. If you have questions on particular instructions, please post, and I’ll try to help.

  • Thanks Genghis.

  • 2 things
    First the connector is a 4 pin Mini-b USB instead of the standard and more common 5 pin. This is the same connector found on my Jabra BT500 and many other Jabra headsets. It is also the connector on the power cable for the FM transmitter I use with my Sony Ericsson W580i. I believe it is also used on some Sony digital cameras.

    I am very disappointed with the sound quality of the Z9I compared to my Jawbone. Far more background noise and harder for the other end to understand me compared to the Jawbone or Jawbone2. I just upgraded the firmware so I will see if the quality improves. I am not that happy with the Jawbone 2 either, so if the firmware upgrade doesn’t help I am going back to my OLD Jawbone. It may be held together with super glue and have an annoying ear hook, but the sound quality is far beyond anything else except the Jawbone2 and as i said the 2 has a lot of quirks of its own. Hopefully a Jawbone3 or better firmware for the Z9I comes out before my Jawbone’s 9 lives run out.

  • I noticed that when I am on calls my BB volume shows at only 50% not the max volume. I work in a data center which has a 100+ db environment level. People can hear me on my Z9i but I cannot hear them even with it turned up all of the way. Is there any way to get the BB volume to 100% then control the call volume with the Z9i. It doesn’t make much sense to have a good noise reduction headset and then not be able to turn it up load enough to hear what the caller is saying.

    My plantronics 510 let me have complete control at both the headset abd the BB

  • skprmark, as I think I’ve mentioned in another comment somewhere among the many here, I have confirmed with BlueAnt tech support that the Z9i takes over, by design, the volume control from the BlackBerry. The Z9i certainly does so on my 8700c. You should be able to use the volume up control on the Z9i to increase the volume to whatever the max is. However, I’ve noticed the max sometimes isn’t as high as I wish it was.

  • I was able to flash my z9 with the latest z9i firmware (v1.1). I first flashed the z9 to v4.0, and then to z9i v1.1. Everything seems to be working fine.

    Now the “multi-function button” requires only a quick tap to end a phone call – it used to require a 3-second press, very annoying.

    I use it with only one phone so I don’t know if the mult-point feature will work.

  • I just bought the Z9i and it came with a mini-usb cable aswell as a mini usb charger. I live in Canada, could this have anything to do with it?

  • Tom, are you positive it’s mini-USB? I originally thought mine was, but it wasn’t. I doubt BlueAnt is shipping different connectors to Canada than the US, though anything’s possible.

  • I am having trouble upgrading my firmware for my z9i. First I can’t find the software for the vista 64 bit. I have emailed blueant and it has been three weeks and no answer. My computer does not have a driver for it so I have no idea where to go with this upgrade process right now. Please help

  • Bluetooth really change the way of modern communication, instead of the tangling wires for gadgets headset accessories today, we use the most efficient way to do it. A protocol that was made to make all devices connect to each other without the worries of compatibility. Well the most important for me is, it makes life easier.

  • Does anyone know how you can switch between using your phone and z9i connected to your laptop? I have a Mac and have my z9i paired with both. Not exactly sure how to switch between the two. I see in the documentation how to do it between phones, but that does not seem to work when I pair it with my Blackberry Tour and Macbook Pro.

    • What did you do to pair your z9i with your macbook pro? My z9i pairs without problem with my iPhone 3GS, but my macbook pro (running snow leopard) doesn’t see it at all when I try to discover it. I tried resetting the z9i (deleting all pairings) but that didn’t help.

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