Archive for the 'Bluetooth' Category

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Aliph Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset

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More Premium Bluetooth Headsets discussed several new or upcoming premium Bluetooth headsets, including the Aliph Jawbone Prime.

Interestingly, both a Windows Mobile site, WmExperts, and a BlackBerry site, CrackBerry, have posted detailed reviews of the Jawbone Prime. See Review: Jawbone Prime and Review: Aliph Jawbone PRIME Bluetooth Headset.

The reviews reach similar conclusions. The Jawbone Prime is excellent, but pricey (can you say $129.95).

The Jawbone Prime certainly has the latest technology, including noise-cancellation and Multipoint. My concerns were different, as I stated in More Premium Bluetooth Headsets: “I had the first Jawbone. It really didn’t fit comfortably. Hopefully the third-generation Jawbone Prime has solved this problem. I’d also like to see if the connector is standard or proprietary. I suspect the latter, which would be unfortunate as it is yet another connector/charger to load into by device bag.”

The CrackBerry review in “Finding the Perfect Fit” addresses the fit issue, though I still would have to try the fit for myself. Maybe I missed it, but I did not see mention in either review of the type of connector. However, based on the last picture in the WmExperts review, the connector still appears to be proprietary. 

I may take a look at this bad boy myself, if only for the colors. Can you see me in “red Frankly SCARLET”?

More Premium Bluetooth Headsets

pvp-thumbNew Bluetooth headsets are being released almost daily. The premium end of this market has some new arrivals.

Plantronics Voyager Pro

The Plantronics Voyager Pro (pictured on the left) looks like it’s on the large side but would fit comfortably given its solid behind the ear piece. It features an adjustable boom microphone plus noise cancellation. This device is Multipoint. Thankfully, it has a standard (MicroUSB) connector.

Plantronics’ website has videos and further information. For a more unbiased perspective, see Slashgear’s review.

Plantronics has an excellent reputation for Bluetooth headsets. The Voyager Pro certainly has excellent technical specs. It also looks comfortable to wear. It’s just that it’s so … big. I look enough like a Borg already without a massive headset sticking out of my ear.  jawbone-earcandy

Aliph Jawbone PRIME

jawboneprimeAliph’s Jawbone Prime offers similar functionality to the Voyager Pro (e.g., noise cancellation, Multipoint) but with a smaller (and more stylish) form factor. No, you don’t get the lady.  But you do get the choice of some dazzling colors. The Earcandy series offers the red Frankly SCARLET, the yellow ‘YELLO!, the green Drop Me A LIME, and the purple LILAC You Mean It. If you want a more business-like appearance, there’s black Blah Blah Black, the satin brown Coffee Talk, and the platinum Going Platinum.

Aliph’s website has some information interspersed with the usual propaganda.  More useful to me is Slashgear’s (them again) Jawbone Prime hands on. Additionally, Slashgear’s Voyager Pro review compares the two headsets. Here’s some key passages:

“Whether it performs better than the Jawbone PRIME is a difficult question.  My back to back testing suggested that, in everyday situations, callers couldn’t tell the difference between the PRIME and the Voyager PRO.  I felt the Jawbone deals with direct wind-noise a little better than the Plantronics, while the Voyager Pro has the edge on natural voice clarity.  Its processing produces a louder, more defined sound, versus the PRIME’s smoother tone.  For most people in most environments, though, we don’t think there’s much to differentiate the technology.”

“While rivals like Aliph’s Jawbone PRIME have aimed for compact and jewel-like with their design, Plantronics have definitely put function over form….Plantronics told me that Voyager PRO is targeted to a specific market: hardcore business users.  The gamble is that those users are willing to sacrifice style for comfort and, to some extent, performance.  The Voyager PRO certainly offers superlative audio quality and – for non-glasses wearers at least – it’s comfortable enough to wear for long periods, but like I’m simply not convinced it offers enough over the Jawbone PRIME to balance its obtrusiveness.  The price tag of $100 is a lot of money and while the Jawbone PRIME costs $29 more, I reckon there’s more flexibility with it; I have a feeling most consumers will feel the same way.”

I’d have to try both on before making a decision. I had the first Jawbone. It really didn’t fit comfortably. Hopefully the third-generation Jawbone Prime has solved this problem. I’d also like to see if the connector is standard or proprietary. I suspect the latter, which would be unfortunate as it is yet another connector/charger to load into by device bag. As for the Voyager Pro, perhaps when I try it on it won’t seem large or heavy.

Blueant Q1

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Finally, there’s the BlueAnt Q1. I’ve posted previously on the BlueAnt Z9i (which I own) and the V1. The Q1appears to be an evolutionary improvement over these two. The Q1 has voice control, which I really like in my BlueAnt Supertooth 3 Bluetooth speakerphone, which I also own and have written about. The Q1 also has Multipoint, noise cancellation and a standard (mini-USB) connector.

In addition to BlueAnt Q1 website, Slashgear has a preview which includes a video.

Update (4/29/2009) – BlueAnt Q1 Headset Review

It’s nice to have good choices!

Never a Duh Moment

imageBlueAnt Supertooth 3 Bluetooth Speakerphone told you about my current Bluetooth speakerphone and its features, including announcing the incoming caller’s name (if in the device’s address book) or number (if it isn’t).

Yesterday, while on the phone, I heard a voice prompt from the Supertooth that sounded like “Slattery, Joe.” That was weird. There’s no Joe Slattery in my address book. Also, there was no evidence of an incoming call.

The “Slattery, Joe” announcement kept repeating every few minutes. It was starting to drive me crazy.

Several hours later I realized what was happening. The device was not announcing an incoming call from “Slattery, Joe.” Instead it was warning me “battery low.” Duh.

Lucky for me I don’t have a Joe Slattery in my address book.

Yet Another Bluetooth Speakerphone

jabraSP700 BlueAnt Supertooth 3 Bluetooth Speakerphone told you about my current Bluetooth speakerphone. Another Bluetooth Speakerphone told you about an upcoming competitor, the Sony Ericsson SE AB900.

Meet the Jabra SP700 Bluetooth Speakerphone (pictured). Mobile Gadget Spotlight: Jabra SP700 Bluetooth Speakerphone reviews this device. Like the Supertooth 3, the SP700 has voice prompts. Like the AB900, the SP700 is capable of routing sound through your car’s stereo system using the SP700’s built-in FM transmitter. Unlike the Supertooth 3, the SP700 connects to your car’s sun visor using a wire clip which the Mobile Gadget Spotlight article criticizes as cheap and flimsy.

Jabra is one of the top brands of Bluetooth headsets and speakerphones. Indeed, I previously used the Jabra SP5050 speakerphone. The SP5050 provided good service for its time until it was “nationalized” by my wife. By the way, the SP5050 also used a cheap, flimsy wire clip to connect to the sun visor.

The SP5050 is available now. Newegg lists it for $58.99. It’s another viable choice if you’re in the market for a Bluetooth speakerphone.

Another Bluetooth Speakerphone

AB900_2BlueAnt Supertooth 3 Bluetooth Speakerphone told you about my current Bluetooth speakerphone. I still like it. But it has competition; the Sony Ericsson SE AB900. While Bluetooth speakerphones, like trite sayings, are a dime a dozen, what differentiates the AB900 is its RDS feature that finds an empty frequency to broadcast to your car’s FM stereo. I don’t know if this includes calls as well as music. Regardless, SE’s propaganda press release promises “Your music will simply pause when you take an incoming call and resume when your call ends.”

Other features include “easy access to your five favorite numbers and voicemail at just the touch of a button.” You shouldn’t need to charge the AB900 very often given its promised 26 hours of talk time and 40 days of standby time.

Like the Supertooth 3, no installation required; it clips on to your sun visor. Not clear if the connection is a clip, or magnetic like the Supertooth 3.

No word yet on price or availability. But presumably the wait won’t be too long given the press release.

BlueAnt Supertooth 3 Bluetooth Speakerphone

Supertooth3_unit_front_side_angled My posts on the BlueAnt Z9i Bluetooth Headset and BlueAnt Z9i – Truth or Fiction? set a world record on this blog for comments, 61 and 102 respectively. Many comments were about a long-promised but delayed firmware upgrade. Others were about poor sound quality, particularly on Palm Treo headsets.

I still like my Z9i headset. However, any headset sticking in your ear starts feeling uncomfortable after a while. So I decided to try a Bluetooth speakerphone while driving.

My first speakerphone was a Jabra SP5050. It was OK. However, its sound quality, both on my end and the other end, just never seemed as good as the corresponding sound quality of a headset. Perhaps that’s because a headset is a lot closer to your mouth and ear than a speakerphone. Additionally, I found myself craning my neck towards the speakerphone to speak or hear.

The Jabra SP5050 since was “nationalized” by my wife along with a long list of my other former gadgets, including the BlackBerry Bold. For a while I did without a Bluetooth speakerphone. But recently I decided to take the plunge again. Bluetooth speakerphone sound quality supposedly has improved. Additionally, I thought I could use the gadget as a speakerphone on my business trips.

After reading a lot of reviews, I decided to purchase another BlueAnt device, the Supertooth 3 Bluetooth speakerphone. CrackBerry’s review is pretty comprehensive, and there are plenty of other reviews on the web. So instead of yet another review, let me focus on telling you what drew me to this particular Bluetooth speakerphone, and my initial impressions after two weeks of use.

The Supertooth 3 has TTS; text to speech. Speaking to it is supported but no big deal. Most modern cell phones have some form of voice command to dial numbers. However, the Supertooth 3 also speaks to you.

The fun starts when you start up the device (by holding down the green button for about 5 seconds). The device asks you if you want British English or another language. I’m an American, so I wanted American. That’s not a choice, but American English is.

After you choose your language, the device tells you to have your phone search for it. It then tells you how to pair the device to your phone (i.e., type 0000).

When I turn on the Supertooth 3, it tells me it is turning on, and then that it has (or hasn’t) found my phone. Pretty reassuring. When I turn it off, it tells me it is powering down. But I usually don’t turn it off. It seems to have a sleep mode. It also has “Automatic Vibration Sensor Reconnection.” This means when I return to my car, it senses the door opening and reconnects to my phone … and tells me it did. Very cool.

When I receive a call, the Supertooth 3 announces the incoming caller’s name (if in the device’s address book) or number (if it isn’t). I only need to say “OK” to accept the call. (You populate the device’s address book from your cell phone’s address book, which is doable even from a BlackBerry though not as automatic). To hang up, though, you have to press the end call button on the Supertooth 3 or your phone. Makes sense, given the risk that you inadvertently might utter the magic hang-up word during the course of a conversation.

According to the manual, the Supertooth 3 has a lot of other features that I haven’t even tried yet. But of course all the features in the world are meaningless if the sound isn’t good. This device sports Digital Signal Processor (DSP) technology, and the sound is loud and clear for me, and also for my listeners. And I do mean loud. I’ve had to turn the device volume down.

The Supertooth 3 seems to have a long battery life. Its charger port is Mini-USB, which means you don’t have to bring along an extra proprietary charger or cable. By the way, if its battery is low, it tells you. And it has LEDs to indicate the charge level.

The Supertooth 3 comes with a metal clip (actually two) that you can slide on to the sun-visor. You then attach the Supertooth 3 via the magnets on the rear of the device. The magnetic attachment seems more secure than via a clip as with other Bluetooth speakerphones. But with magnets, I’m not sure if I’m going to let this bad boy near any hard drive.

About the only technological bell and whistle the Supertooth 3 seems to lack is Multipoint. Multipoint enables a Bluetooth headset to be active (as opposed to merely paired) with two Bluetooth devices at the same time. By active, when a call comes in, the headset “knows” which handset is ringing and will connect to that phone automatically. (Of course, the headset can’t be so connected to two handsets at the same time). With Multipoint, I could use my BT headset (or speakerphone) to speak on phone #1, hang up, phone #2 rings, I use my BT headset to answer the call on phone #2, hang up, phone #1 rings, use the BT headset to answer that call, etc. With just pairing but no Multipoint, I have to disconnect phone #1 from the BT headset (e.g., turning off Bluetooth so it is still paired but not connected) before I can use phone #2 with the BT headset.

I would have liked the Supertooth 3 to have Multipoint, but it’s not a deal-breaker for me. Particularly since, though the device lists for $129.99, it cost me only $77.99 at NewEgg 🙂

BlueAnt V1 Voice Control Headset

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My posts on the BlueAnt Z9i generated a world record (for this blog anyway) of comments (83 and 55 respectively). Now BlueAnt has a new headset, the V1. The V is for voice, as in voice control, as in voice dialing and voice commands.

Voice dialing through a BT headset is not new, but usually is dependent on the mobile phone’s support for voice dialing. However, per BlueAnt, the V1’s voice control is embedded in the headset itself. Nevertheless, your phone could still be a limitation. James Kendrick of favorite blog jkOnTheRun reports: “Since the iPhone has no voice dialing capability you can’t initiate calls by voice which is disappointing.  This is a limitation of the iPhone and not the V1.”

Voice command of a BT headset is relatively new. Per BlueAnt again, the V1 supports such commands as “Pair Me”, “Redial”,”Answer Call”, “Ignore Call”, “Check battery” and “Call 411.” Users can even ask the V1, “What can I say?” and the headset will announce all features available on the device.  Say “Teach Me”, and the headset will teach users its functions.

The V1 looks like the Z9i, and the dimensions are almost the same. Two difference are the voice control (the Z9i doesn’t have it) and the price. The V1 is considerably more expensive, listing for $129.99, almost twice what you can buy the Z9i for.

There is a third difference though that I haven’t seen well publicized. The V1 does not support Multipoint. Multipoint enables a Bluetooth headset to be active (as opposed to merely paired) with two Bluetooth devices at the same time. By active, when a call comes in, the headset “knows” which handset is ringing and will connect to that phone automatically. (Of course, the headset can’t be so connected to two handsets at the same time). For example, I use my BT headset to speak on my iPhone, hang up, my BlackBerry rings, I use my BT headset to answer the call on my BlackBerry, hang up, iPhone rings, use the BT headset to answer that call, etc. With just pairing but no Multipoint, I have to disconnect phone #1 from the headset (still paired but not connected) before I can use phone #2.

To confirm this, I emailed my contact at BlueAnt tech support. He replied:

“Regarding the V1, it is not multi-point, and it is worth nothing that it also does not have the same on the fly switching capabilities as the Z9. In order to switch between phones you would first need to disconnect the V1 from the phone, potentially turn of the Bluetooth setting on the handset (with handsets like the iPhone) and then select the V1 from the Bluetooth menu of the second phone (if it is already paired).”

The lack of Multipoint is a bit surprising since this is a pricey headset. But then again, the Jawbone 2 is equally pricey, and it also doesn’t support Multipoint.

The lack of Multipoint is not a big deal if you only use 1 phone. However, it is a big deal for someone like me who has 2 or sometimes even 3 phones with me. I really like the voice activation, but the lack of Multipoint is a show stopper for me unfortunately.

Another SlimBlade Mouse

K72330US-18703New Mouse in the House! told you about my Kensington SlimBlade Presenter Mouse. It’s not a Bluetooth mouse. Instead, it uses a small USB wireless dongle.

The USB connection caused issues. Vista Mouse Blues told you about a Vista/USB issue. My GBM forum post explained that on my Dell Latitude XT the N-trig (capacitive touch) driver wouldn’t load if I restarted with the SlimBlade dongle in. (Apparently the N-trig hardware interfaces with the motherboard by way of an internal USB port). The solution is to remove the dongle before restarting, and then plug it in, but too often I forget, and have to restart again. Additionally, when I convert the tablet to tablet mode, the dongle sticks out like a sore thumb.

Yet, I do like the SlimBlade. It’s … slim. That makes it easy to slip into a gadget bag, or even a sleeve case. It also has auto-sleep and other battery saving features. And it doubles as a presenter!

The SlimBlade Bluetooth Presenter Mouse just became available. It looks and functions the same as its USB wireless sibling except it’s Bluetooth, so no dongle issues. Pairing is simple, and it starts and keeps its BT connection well. So it’s the newest edition to my gadget bag.

Aliph Jawbone 2 Discount

jb-ticket I’m sorry, but this picture just cracks me up. The Aliph Jawbone 2 is another of the “latest and greatest” Bluetooth headsets, along with the BlueAnt Z9i that we’ve been discussing (badmouthing?) here. This BGR article says it all:

“The recently-released Aliph Jawbone 2 is definitely one of the best bluetooth headsets out right now in terms of functionality, but it’s also pricey. At $130 a clip, it probably comes in north of most other headsets you might be considering. For a limited time however, Aliph is running a promo that knocks $20 off the price of the headset for recent recipients of tickets resulting from Hands Free law violations. $110 is still a healthy sum to pay for a bluetooth headset but, well, it’s better than $130. Of course it doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out that Aliph certainly doesn’t have access to traffic court databases around the country. Just enter any number with the proper amount of digits for the state you choose and you’re in. For example, NY traffic tickets contain 10 alphanumeric characters and NJ traffic tickets contain six.”

The good news then, is that crime doesn’t pay, and you don’t need to do the “perp walk” to get the discount. Rather, as the BGR article explains, go to the Jawbone site and click the “Hands Free Ticket Processor” link on the bottom right hand corner of the page. That takes you to a page that looks like the picture above. Pick a state, enter the proper number of characters and you get your $20 discount.

Of course, as your mother may have told you, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. The Jawbone 2, in addition to being pricey, may still have the fit problems of its predecessor (which I do own). Read the reviews, try it on at, say, an AT&T store, and make your own judgment. And if you don’t mind, share your comments with us here .

BlueAnt Z9i – Truth or Fiction?

3767I told you about one month ago in BlueAnt Z9i Bluetooth Headset about my purchase of the BlueAnt Z9i. This unit had rave reviews. My comments were more restrained. However, my experience, both then and in the weeks following, has been mostly positive.

My BlueAnt Z9i Bluetooth Headset post, unlike most of my posts, received a blizzard of comments, mostly negative. For example, Ileana, C. Scott and Raj are frustrated by repeated disconnects, whereas MrsDotOne and PME are slowly being driven mad by incessant beeping. The comments also discuss the long-promised but thus far non-existent firmware upgrade.

Yet, the rave reviews keep coming. CrackBerry just posted Review: Blueant Z9i Bluetooth Headset. Strangely, these reviews contain nary a mention of the problems reported by our readers.

What is going on? Are the reviewers shills who are “paid off” by the device vendor? I don’t think so. Their credibility is vital to the continued success of their website. Does Mobile Barbarian attract kooks and crackpots who like to whine and complain? Nonsense! Our readers simply are sophisticated users who are frustrated by a device not quite ready for prime time compounded by poor support, an all too common scenario nowadays.

My speculation: The reviewers likely are not testing the Z9i the same amount of time as are our readers, who actually are using the Z9i in real life. Further, the reviewers likely are not testing the Z9i with the variety of phones that our readers collectively are. As the comments reflect, the Z9i seems to work better on some phones than others.

The solution of course is not for the user to buy another phone, but for BlueAnt to fix the Z9i. I hope the upcoming firmware upgrade solves the many reported problems. Perhaps the slippage in the firmware upgrade release date is because new problems keep being reported? Stay tuned.