Aliph Jawbone 2 Bluetooth Headset Review

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(Originally published on Colorado Social Security Law)

I am testing the new Bluetooth headset from Aliph, the Jawbone 2.Since I am frequently out of the office, driving to, or from, Social Security hearings, a quality telephone headset is an important part of my practice.

As other reviewers have noted, the headset is about half the size of the prior Jawbone, which I have been using for the last 8 months or so.

Style wise, I liked the “cheese grater” styling of the old model but I can see the new diamond design growing on me.  Headsets have been getting smaller and the new design is more in keeping with current models from other manufacturers.

Ok, but how does it WORK?

Sound quality is excellent.  Both what you hear and what the person at the other end of the telephone hears.  It is hard to say if the noise cancellation is better on the current model, but you will not be disappointed.

Here are my quick impressions:

Pros:

  • Sound quality is excellent, but that is a given at this price point.
  • The Jawbone 2 is much lighter than the prior model.  It is much more in line with the Apple bluetooth headset from last year.  You can put it on and forget it is there, it is that light.
  • The LED is much more discrete that the Jawbone 1.  Also, you can turn OFF the LED light if you do not want to draw further attention to your cyborg worship by having a intermittently flashing light in your ear.  Just press the main button 5 times to turn off the LED.
  • The magnetic power cable attachment is a substantial improvement over the clip design in the Jawbone 1.  Whenever I was attaching or removing the Jawbone 1 from the charging cable, I would feel I was about to bend or break a pin.  The cable is similar to the Magsafe magnetic power cables on Apple laptops.  You just place it into the little dock at the end of the cable and the magnets pull the headset in place and keep it there.
  • The buttons (2) are much easier to press than on the Jawbone 1.  On the first model, you really had to squeeze hard to get the buttons to activate.  This also meant that if you wanted to take a call by pressing the headset button, you were really jamming the earpiece and eraser nub into your face before the button would activate.  The Jawbone 2’s buttons are much easier to press and only require a small amount of pressure.  However, this is also a con — see below.

Cons:

  • The new ear loop, while stylish, is nearly useless.  My attempts to bend the loops into a more useful shape have so far been unsuccessful.  The problem is that either the earpiece is in my ear, or little eraser tip is against my cheek, but rarely both.  Several times while driving to the office, the headset would pivot away from my face and just hang off my ear by the loop.
  • Black headset, gray cable.  Yes, this is minor, but it is annoying.  Aliph wont even have a gray headset.  Silver, yes, but not gray.  So whichever headset you use, the cable looks like a cheap third party add on.  For a $100 plus headset, an ugly cable is disappointing.
  • As I mentioned above, the buttons on the new headset are much easier to push.  However, I usually take off the headset and put it into a shirt pocket when talking with someone.  As a lawyer, I am already at serious risk of being perceived as a pompous git, I don’t need a bit of tech tosh stuck to the side of my head to cement the impression.  Since the buttons are easier to press, there is much greater chance of pressing a button inadvertently while adjusting the headset or while it is in a pocket. Earlier today, I took the Jawbone 2 out of my shirt pocket and noticed it was off, even though it had been on earlier.

Regarding the earloop, I have found two workarounds.  First it looks like the new model will accept Jawbra eargels more or less like the Jawbone 1 did.  This allows you to go ear loop free and directs sounds more directly into your ear canal.  Your audiologist will, no doubt, be thrilled.

Sorry about the rubbish picture, but you get the idea.  Using one of the old ear loops, the ear piece stays in place and the eraser nub stays on my cheek.

UPDATE – JULY 23, 2008

I see a number of people are looking for instructions on how to pair the Jawbone 2.  While the Jawbone 2 starts up in pairing mode the first time it is turned on, it is not obvious how to pair in after that initial time.

Fortunately the process is fairly simple:

  1. Turn off the Jawbone 2 by pressing and holding the main button (you will hear a descending tone when the Jawbone turns off).
  2. Press and hold both the main button and the button on the back of the Jawbone 2.  There are only the two buttons so, just hold both of them forabout 5 2 seconds.

The light on the Jawbone 2 will start to  blink – alternating between red and white.  The Jawbone 2 is now in pairing mode.

Update – MAY 17, 2009 – The Jawbone PRIME

So, I have gotten the newest Jawbone — the Jawbone Prime. I have to say that the best thing about it is the new ear piece.  While the Jawbone Prime still has the round ear pieces available in the prior version, it also comes with new “figure 8″ ear pieces in small, medium and large sizes. These let you wear the Jawbone Prime without the over-the-ear loop, or without resorting to using the increasingly-hard-to-find Jabra Eargels.

Just like the Jabra Eargels, the new ear pieces take some getting used to. I found myself going from, “wow, this feels great and it stays in!” to “hmm, somewhat annoying,” to “oh my god, this thing is killing my ear!!!”

After a few days though, things settled down and it is easier and easier to wear the Jawbone Prime using the figure-8 ear piece.  And I do want to use that new earpiece because the Jawbone Prime really does stay in place when using it.

I have not noticed much difference in the sound quality between last year’s Jawbone and the Jawbone Prime. So, you may wonder if I am crazy to spend more than $100 on a new bluetooth headset whose main benefit is a new ear piece which probably costs less than $.08 to manufacture.

Unfortunately, the old Jawbone started to have problems and people would complain that the sound would go in and out. That is simply not acceptable. I have had no complaints since switching to the Jawbone Prime. I even recorded myself using the Prime and a wired headset and heard no difference. To me, that makes it worth the upgrade. If you want to give a try, you can get it from Amazon: Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset (Blah Blah Black)

Update – JANUARY 7, 2010 – Nectar Retractable Bluetooth Headset Holder

This is the best accessary for my Jawbone. I do not even want to admit how many Jawbones I have ruined by leaving them in a shirt pocket and subsequently washing them. I had thought that after destroying the first one, I would never, EVER, leave a headset in my shirt pocket again. But, a few weeks later, the same thing happened!

Finally, I broke down and ordered the Nectar holder. The headset attaches via an adjustable loop which is attached to a self retracting spool. It is like the retractable spools for keychains or key cards, except a smaller and styled to look less goofy. On the back is a clip that I attach either to my shirt pocket or my collar (when wearing a jumper).

When I get a call, I pull out a sufficient amount of line to get the headset to my ear (the spool ratchets at intervals so after say 3 clicks, it is long enough and not constantly pulling to rewind back to the spool). At the end of the call, I simply pull out a bit more line until the spool begins to rewind.

I have now been using this for 5 months and I have not lost another bluetooth headset to the washer. The very minimal additional weight and the fact that the headset is not clipped TO your shirt, instead of being in a pocket, has made all the difference.

The fit changes slightly since you have the loop and a extra bit of line with a bead on it at the level of the bluetooth headset. Also the bead can knock against the headset when walking making a small noise. If this bothers you, you can always cut off the bead and the extra bit of line at the end — the sole purpose seems to be to allow you to expand the loop around the headset if need be.

The other issue is looks. You are now wearing your bluetooth headset clipped to your shirt along with the Nectar holder. Either you will consider this the epitome of cool (“Look mom, I’m a cyborg!”) or as a sign of failing mental faculties (“How long before I need to keep a cord around my glasses to keep from loosing THEM!?!”).

The practical value of the Nectar bluetooth headset holder cannot be understated. Since getting it, I have not ruined another headset! If you want to give a try, you can get it from Amazon: Nectar Retractable Original Bluetooth Headset Holder with Stopping Functionality