Jawbone Cell Phone Headset Dissapoints

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Update July 2008: The review below originally appeared in January 2008. At that time, the sound quality of the Jawbone I tested was lousy. Shortly after the review went live, a representative from Jawbone contacted me suggesting my review unit was defective. They offered to send me a new one.
I got busy with packing and moving and didn’t make the time to test the new unit. When the headset law went into effect here in Washington State in July, I finally unboxed the second Jawbone, tried it out, and found the sound quality to be dramatically better. I’ve had no complaints from anyone I talk to on the phone, which was my biggest gripe about the first unit. Jawbone has a new version out now, which I haven’t tried, but if the experience is as good as this second unit, I’m sure I’d recommend it.
January 2008 Jawbone Review
Jawbone headsets were one of the hottest giveaways at CES 2008. Aliph, the company behind Jawbone, claims to be so confident that their product is the best cell phone headset on the market they offered a free Jawbone headset in exchange for any other headset. The headsets come with high marks, quoting Walt Mossberg from the Wall Street Journal as saying, “The noise cancellation is far better than on any other cellphone headset I’ve tried.” Engadget likes Jawbone. CNET likes Jawbone. Financial Times and MacWorld both like Jawbone. I came away disappointed and won’t be using a Jawbone headset ever again.
The idea behind the headset is sound. It is supposed to pickup vibrations in your jawbone which translate to the audio the person on the other end hears, making it easier to eliminate background noise. In my case this apparently didn’t work. I started using the Jawbone headset at the Pepcom Digital Experience event Sunday night and continued using it for most of the next two days. 3 different people who spoke to me on the phone commented on how hard it was to hear me and how loud the background noise seemed to be, without my soliciting feedback on sound quality. The headset comes with multiple ear fittings both for in your ear and over the ear. I tried combinations of these to achieve a better fit and still ended up with complaints from parties on the other end of my call.
Maybe I’m the only guy on the planet who will ever have a bad experience with the Jawbone, but I simply can’t recommend this to anyone based on my own lackluster experience. $149.99 MSRP seems a bit steep for the kind of complaints I received from those on the other end of the call. The science behind bone conduction microphones is sound, so I may give Jawbone competitor, Invisio Q7 a try when it ships later this year.

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