Bluetooth headsets, as anyone without a popped collar will tell you, are often items of last resort for the average cellphone user. But Jawbone makes pretty good ones, and their new Era headset aims to be their best yet. More importantly, the company that helped define the headset market alongside its competitor Plantronics has cut its product line and is releasing the Era as its only headset for 2014, an interesting move to be sure.
First a bit about the product. It’s surpassingly small and it fits in the ear well thanks to a uniquely-shaped and swappable ear bud. It has a single button that controls calls, can activate Siri voice control, and skip through your music library. Because it is so small – about an inch long – it is surprisingly unobtrusive. It will come in four colors – black, red, brown, and silver. I haven’t tested the battery life but the vast majority of the headset consists of a battery topped by a very thin circuit board. An included charge case allows you to connect the headset to a secondary battery to top it up during the day. Jawbone expects it to last at least a full work day of jibber-jabber.
One great feature is a cool ping system that will force the headset to let out a loud tone if you’ve lost it in your bag or under a couch cushion. Triggered via a Jawbone app on your phone, the device will warn you first before sending out a screeching ping.
Jawbone is an interesting company. Over the years it has moved from just another headset maker to a high-design CE maker thanks to a partnership with Yves Behar. Their products – now focused mostly on highly designed speakers – the Jambox line – and their unique screen-less activity tracker, the Up. While others in the space, including Jabra, have taken a similar tack I think Jawbone is the first to really do high-design in low-cost/high-margin accessories well.
What’s even more surprising, however, is that Jawbone is betting the farm on this new headset. The company originally had a line of four separate headsets, including the previous version of the Era, and now it has one – a bold choice for an accessory maker.
I haven’t put the Era through its paces yet – Jawbone released it today – but I’m pleased to note it’s not ugly, it’s surprisingly small, and, I can imagine it would be a great driving companion and, barring that, an excellent choice for a loud middle-aged guy in line at the back who is howling into his headset about getting his Porsche detailed.