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Jawbone ERA Bluetooth headset review

By

August 17, 2011

Jawbone ERA Bluetooth headset

Jawbone ERA Bluetooth headset

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Jawbone has built a reputation for producing slickly designed Bluetooth headsets and the company's latest flagship model - the Jawbone ERA - continues that tradition. The ERA is an exceptionally lightweight package that has 25 percent more audio output than previous models, an updated version of NoiseAssassin noise cancelling technology, an onboard processor and flash storage, but its the first ever inclusion of an accelerometer in the unit that has really grabbed attention. So is this a case of tech for tech's sake or does it actually add up to a better headset? We've been putting the ERA through its paces to find out.

It's the job of ad copywriters to make a product sound fantastic. It's the job of reviewers to establish what's really going on. But on the odd occasion a product will do pretty much exactly what the PR blurbs say it will do, and that makes it an easy product to review. I'm happy to report that this is one of those cases.

"It's so light and comfortable, you'll probably forget you're even wearing it" we're told. "Yeah right" seems like a fair response, but using the 10.2 gram ERA non-stop during several two-hour car journeys I tend to agree - I did forget it was hanging out of my ear (once I'd found the right earcup attachment anyway). On that point you get a choice of eight earpieces in total - four have a small integrated loop that holds them in place while the remainder are for use with a flexible over-ear hook. In my case the integrated loop option did the trick and the over-ear hook stayed in the box.

Jawbone says the ERA's 10 mm wideband speaker is 25 percent larger than previous models and, backed by noise and wind cancelling technology and auto-adjustment of inbound call volume depending on your environment, it's certainly up there with the best headsets we've tried in terms of sound clarity.

Style-wise the ERA is clearly a continuation of the Jawbone "look" - at 2.02 inches (51.3 mm) x 0.57 inches (14.5 mm) x 0.95 inches (24.1 mm) it's a longer, thinner version of the ICON model and is available in four low-key finishes: Midnight, Shadowbox, Smokescreen, and Silver Lining.

Like the ICON it can also remember multiple paired devices (in the ERA's case up to eight), which proves very handy when - like many if us these days - you are juggling calls on VoIP and mobile phones.

The streamlined styling is also boosted by the lack of buttons - there's a small on-off switch on the inside but key functions are controlled by the accelerometer which, while its role is pretty basic at this stage, is very effective in simplifying the use of the headset. Using motion technology developed by Fullpower called "MotionX", the accelerometer does two things - it lets you pair the device simply by shaking it and it lets you answer or end calls with a simple "tap tap" on the side of the device. We had no problem pairing the device in this way and the ability to answer calls with a "tap tap" anywhere on the side of the device lets you get on with business without fiddling for buttons or taking your eyes off the road.

Jawbone sees the MotionX technology as a platform to build on in future and we can expect to see some new applications emerge - one interesting possibility that's been flagged is using the accelerometer to pan across images on your smartphone as you are moving your head from side to side.

These updates would come via Jawbone's MyTALK platform - an app store for the device that also gives you access to software updates and lets you customize voice profiles and other settings. For the ERA this also brings "Caller ID by Name" - a function that syncs to your address book and can identify incoming callers in a normal sounding human voice.

Battery updates are also given by voice and apps are available that show the amount of juice left on the screen of your smartphone. Battery life is specced at up to 5.5 hours talk time and up to 10 days standby time.

Overall we were impressed by the ERA - it's well built, comfortable and succeeds in keeping sound clarity high by throwing a lot of tech into a small bundle. The accelerometer throws a new element into the mix and definitely adds to usability ... it will be interesting to what Jawbone can come up with in terms of genuinely useful motion applications in future. It's in the high-end price range at US$130, but this is high-end gear and the extra outlay is probably justifiable if you are a heavy headset user.

Product page: Jawbone ERA

About the Author
Noel McKeegan After a misspent youth at law school, Noel began to dabble in tech research, writing and things with wheels that go fast. This bus dropped him at the door of a freshly sprouted Gizmag.com in 2002. He has been Gizmag's Editor-in-Chief since 2007.   All articles by Noel McKeegan
4 Comments

I have an ERA, and it works well with my iPhone 4. The only issue I had was that, when A2DP was active, /all/ sounds from the phone went to the headset. So unless it was in my ear, I did not hear calls or alarms. Fortunately you can disable A2DP via MyTALK, but that means you lose the enhanced sound quality. Swings/roundabouts...

RossB
17th August, 2011 @ 03:32 am PDT

I have had difficulty getting the Jawbone product to stay comfortably in place - just doesn't fit properly and swings around. Much better luck with the Samsung - seems lighter too.

Muraculous
17th August, 2011 @ 07:40 am PDT

I use my ERA with an HTC EVO running Android and an HP Laptop. Comfy fit, stays in place, and has crystal clear sound. Wind elimination is second to none, too.

@Muraculous with eight different ways to mount this into your ear, I find it hard to believe that anyone couldn't find a way to have the Jawbone ERA fit into your ear. I'm not sure what you mean by "swings around", but I'm guessing you aren't using the over the ear attachment. If you decided not to use that, then you should have swapped out the rubber ear buds until you found one that fits your ear and holds it in place.

Gene Jordan
17th August, 2011 @ 12:07 pm PDT

I disagree. I just upgraded from the Icon and have found that the call clarity is shotty at best. i'm not sure if I got a lemon from Best Buy, but 9-10 phone calls require me to return to the iphone head set to actually finish my conversations. If I had a dime for every time I hear "I can't hear you very well, you are fuzzy or you are breaking up" I'd be pretty rich.l'm personally switching back to the Icon. It worked perfectly well.

Billy Howard
25th October, 2011 @ 08:17 pm PDT
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