For many, when you think of bluetooth headsets, Jawbone quickly comes to mind. They’ve been leading the industry for years, and are on the cutting edge when it comes to packing new tech into a tiny little package that you carry around in your ear. They were kind enough to send us one of their newer devices, the Jawbone ERA, so we took it for a spin. You can see what we thought, below.
As is the norm with Jawbone, you get a lot of cool technology in a very tiny package. The ERA falls right in line with what we are used to seeing in a Jawbone headset and is very similar in look and size to their previous headsets. In my opinion, beyond the bluetooth headset itself, one of the cooler things that Jawbone does is the way they construct their packaging. The ERA came as a box within a box and the accessories, such as extra ear buds, a case, and an optional ear hook all come within another small box. They went all out on the packaging for this headset as you will see in our photo review.
As we’ve seen with so many of Jawbone’s previous headsets, they understand comfort and the ERA is no exception to that. The headset is very light and after just a little time in your ear, you can easily forget that it’s there. Jawbone provides a number of earbuds and an ear hook so you can really customize the way you wear your ERA and find what works best for you. If you want to maximize your comfort experience, it really is important to test out the various buds to find the ones that fit your ear best. If you don’t, you’ll never truly appreciate effortless it can be to wear a bluetooth headset.
Jawbone owns the market when it comes to sound quality. I’ve been using and testing bluetooth headsets for years and have never come across another headset that can do sound the way Jawbone can. Their NoiseAssassin technology makes conversation on a bluetooth headset very pleasant and quite for both parties. Background and wind noise are greatly reduced with this technology. In almost every case while I was testing the ERA, the person on the other end of the line had no idea that I was talking on a bluetooth headset. A number of times, I made or received a call while standing outside in light to moderate wind and when I asked if the other person noticed, they all said no. Even though I can hear the wind blowing around the headset while I was wearing it, the other individual had no idea I was standing outside.
Another area that impressed me with the ERA’s sound quality was in the delivery of their A2DP technology. I’ve struggled in the past to use a bluetooth headset to listen to music on my computer or to watch a movie on my iPad, but it was simple and provided pretty decent sound quality with the ERA. I could tell a minor difference in sound quality when using the ERA vs a wired headset, but it wasn’t a great enough difference to turn me off. The only thing I really missed when listening to music was the depth of bass that you can get from a good set of wired headphones. The ERA couldn’t match that, but otherwise I was very impressed.
Introduced at the release of a previous headset, app support is also available with the ERA. You can easily change the voice used for notifications and caller ID, you can also add apps that make dialing contacts easier without pulling your phone out of your pocket. All you have to do to use any of these apps is go to mytalk.jawbone.com, create an account or sign in to an existing account, download jawbone updater the first time you use the service, then decide what you want your ERA to sound like and update away. It really isn’t complex. However, on my MacBook, it took me about three attempts of plugging in the headset and unplugging it before the website recognized the device and let me proceed. It might have something to do with my lack of patience, but more likely it was just acting a little flaky at the time. I could have been a website, software, or computer issue. Once it recognized the ERA the first time, I never had another problem. Updating new voices was simple and only took a few moments. It isn’t something I would do often, but it is kind of a cool novelty.
The ERA has plenty of cool little features beyond the big ones we’ve already listed. For example, when pairing with an iOS device, you automatically get a battery indicator that visually represents the amount of battery you have left on your Jawbone. If you are using an Android device, there is an app called Jawbone Companion that gives you the same batter indication, but also gives you the capability of having voice reminders for calendar events and caller ID can be read to you. On the web site, you can import contacts from various email clients such as Gmail, then sync your ERA and you’ll have your entire contact list programmed into your headset waiting to be read to you as each individual calls. Also, with the push of a button, you can hear the time and talk time remaining. These can all come in handy and I found myself wearing my ERA more knowing that if I didn’t feel my phone vibrate in my pocket, I’d still hear what was going on from my Jawbone.
Like I said at the beginning, I’m a fan of Jawbone’s hardware. In fact, I’ve had several Jawbone headsets and have always enjoyed them. I’m also working on a review of the Jawbone Jambox so stay tuned for that, coming soon. The ERA’s hardware is appealing, the device is very comfortable, the sound quality is industry leading and the app support is a cool addition. On those points alone, I would recommend this headset.
Having said that, the headset isn’t perfect. The maximum battery life available is 5 hours of talk time. While this should generally be enough for most people, there will be some that might struggle with it. I found myself charging the headset more frequently than I have with past headsets to ensure that it would be up and running when I needed it. I never ran into a problem, but it is something worth considering.
Another concern that I had was that for some reason on a few occasions, the calendar and battery indicator notifications were so quiet I couldn’t make out what was being said. This never occurred on a call or while watching a movie or listening to music, it only happened with notifications, and even then only very rarely. I spent about an hour trying to figure out if I had missed a setting or if this was a known problem and I was able to find a couple of discussion boards where the exact same problem was mentioned. Again, this probably isn’t something that would negatively impact most users, but it can be annoying and people should know the problem exists.
With all that in mind, I can very easily recommend this device to anyone that is considering the purchase of a bluetooth headset. If you’ve never used a Jawbone, you don’t know what you’re missing and you will definitely be able to tell a difference in sound quality when compared to just about any other bluetooth headset on the market.
We really want to hear from you! What has your experience with Jawbone been like? Are you thinking about checking one out? Leave us a comment and let us know.
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