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:
- 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.
- 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 www.mobilecityonline.com.”