Aliph Jawbone Icon Bluetooth Headset Review

Posted Sep 12, 2010
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Not too long ago, a headset was just an oversized piece of plastic that you would attach to your ear to take calls when driving, while hoping no body would spot you and ask what’s that big thing on your face. Bluetooth headsets have come a long way since then, both in terms of looks as well as the underlying technology, but they were still limited to their primary function of routing your voice to your phone wirelessly.

That was until I saw Aliph Jawbone ICON, the first Bluetooth headset which claims to have an OS of its own with full set of installable Apps, while boasting the sexiest headset design I’ve ever seen. Of course looks aren’t the only thing that make up a good headset, neither does the built in operating system, if the headset doesn’t deliver a good voice quality, reception and battery life while trying to offer a comfortable fit.

So today, I’ll be running the Jawbone ICON through a slew of tests to see if it really is as awesome as its design. All those interested in the detailed review should hop on over to the next page.

Specifications

Physical Attributes

Dimensions

45mm x 18.25mm x 24mm

Weight

8.2 grams

Connectivity

MicroUSB

Interface

One multipurpose talk button, One On/Off switch

Ergonomics

Multiple earpiece fitting options including an ear loop

Performance

Battery

Non-removable Li-ion Polymer

Talk Time

Up to 4.5 Hours

Standby Time

Up to 10 Days

Bluetooth Radio

V2.1 + EDR

Bluetooth Profiles

Headset, Hands-Free, A2DP (with firmware upgrade)

Range

10 meters (up to 33 ft)

While the specification table might seem just like an ordinary high end headset, features like upgradable firmware and apps which can be accessed via the MyTALK service are really the highlights of the Jawbone ICON.

Packaging and Design

I’ve always said that the packaging of a product is as important as the functionality it self because the first thing the consumer would lay his eyes on is the box. If you have designed an attractive case, then you are already halfway through winning the hearts of your user because a good box design reaffirms the fact that they are buying a quality product.

With that said, the ICON’s packaging was simply the most elegant I had seen to date. The plastic window on top houses the Jawbone ICON headset itself with the rest of the box posing as a large black stand. Pulling out the case from its sleek black cover reveals a wide selection of earbuds and an earloop which you can attach to the headset to get the most comfortable and personalized fit possible.

Open the box and you’ll find a wall charger, a MicroUSB cable and a bunch of well designed booklets they quickly walk you through your headset.

Jawbone ICON comes in six unique designs and textures covering a wide range of personalities. It doesn’t matter if your fashion designer, engineer, businessman, or a college student, there is a Jawbone ICON for you.

To turn the ICON on or off, you have to slide the dedicated switch on its underside which is quite easily accessible even when you’re wearing the headset. The earbuds can easily be replaced by simply pulling them off and replacing them with the one you want from the box, and installing the earloop is simple as well.

The top side of the headset – the one near the earpiece – houses the MicroUSB port which is used to charge the ICON as well as connect it to your computer. Right next to the port is the large, multi-purpose talk button whose functionality can be customized to your liking via DialApps.

The ICON employs a patented three microphone design to form up what Aliph Jawbone call’s the military grade Noise Assassin 2.5 technology which eliminates the background noise from your conversations. One Microphone is dedicated for your own voice input while the other detects ambient noise. Yet another microphone, dubbed the voice activity sensor listens to subtle changes in your cheek’s skin to detect when you are talking. The combined data of these three input sources is processed via sophisticated DSP algorithms to provide a crystal clear voice.

There’s also an LED indicator around the voice activity sensor which gives you some information like when the Jawbone is ready to connect to your device. But most other prompts like remaining battery and status information are actually reported via voice feedback – which you can customize using AudioApps.

Customization

The best thing I like about the Jawbone ICON is that it actually has a customizable firmware. You can connect your ICON to your PC, and then open up mytalk.jawbone.com. After a quick registration and driver installation, you can start customizing your headset with an updated firmware with additional profiles like A2DP, and change the functionality of the quick dial feature which is set to voice dialing as the default application.

There are basically two types of applications. AudioApps which are actually different voice profiles based on different styles (like the bombshell, the thinker, the rouge etc.) , and DialApps which customize the quick dial functionality to some other service, for example like Bing 411, Jott, and Voice on the Go etc. Most of these services are US only however so our international users might prefer to keep the voice dialing features if your phone supports voice commands. Oh and you can also change the language of the headset with the help of AudioApps.

What I really liked about the service was that how it seamlessly connected with my headset through the browser and allowed me to customize my headset on the fly. Oh and one nice little perk I wanted to share is that pairing up the ICON with an iPhone also displays the headset battery meter right next to the iPhone’s so you’d always know when to recharge.

Performance

Now for the real meat of the review. Connecting the Jawbone ICON to my phone was as simple as turning on the bluetooth on my device, switching on the ICON and taping the talk button once. The phone detected the ICON and offered me to pair it up, to which I agreed. For subsequent connections, all I have to do is turn on the bluetooth on my phone and it would automatically connect with the headset if its in range.

Speaking of which, the ICON operates well within the given range specifications. I was easily able to start a conversation on the ICON while my phone was in another room separated by a concrete wall, though I did fell that the quality had degraded due to the added interference.

The one button interface on the ICON is really simple to use. To check the status of the battery, just tap the button once. To accept an incoming call, tap it once – to reject it, hold the button for two seconds. While on a call, taping the talk button once would end the call. When you’re not on a call, you can double tap the talk button to redial the last number or press and hold it for two seconds to start your DialApp.

There aren’t any dedicated volume controls on the ICON, but the built in volume normalization works just great. I tested the headset in a quiet room, walking on a busy street and even in a noisy café, and I the audio was clear enough to be easily understandable, while my friends on the other side also confirmed that they can understand what I’m saying with good clarity, which suggests that Noise Assassin was doing its job rather well.

Fully charging the ICON would give a talk time between 4 and 4.5 hours, which easily got me through two days of usage since I wasn’t using the headset all the time. Even if you use the ICON aggressively, you would still be able to get a full day without requiring a recharge, which is remarkable for a headset with the feature set of the ICON.

Conclusion

Before using the Jawbone ICON, I usually stayed away from the Bluetooth headset bandwagon because I largely found them ugly and very unappealing. But one look at the Jawbone ICON (its packaging to be exact) made me want to try this baby out, and after putting it through its paces, I really was hooked to all the awesome customization features available that are the first in its class. Aliph Jawbone Icon is locally available at PKR10000 / US$70.

The Jawbone ICON really managed to raise the bar for bluetooth headsets in my opinion, and is easily the best choice for anyone who wants to talk while on the go.

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