Every two years I find myself purchasing a new phone. With that purchase also comes a new bluetooth headset. One of the very first headsets I owned, in fact, was Jawbone's original bluetooth headset. Since then, I have tried many other brands but interestingly enough, I find myself wanting to return back to the Jawbone brand.
Recommend this product?
Perhaps my infatuation with the Jawbone brand lies with its sleek and artistic profile. Looking at the package, one can't help but admire the beauty of the headset, sitting upon its pedestal as if it were a museum piece. Weighing in at a mere 0.36 ounces, the device doesn't feel overwhelming when attached to the ear. The fit is another matter, which I will talk about shortly.
The ERA has a really nice black finish across the front. Unlike previous Jawbone models, the on and off switch has now located on the underbelly of the earpiece. I found this to be much more preferable as it gives the user better clarification as to whether the Jawbone is powered on or not. The round activation sensor located to the left of the power switch has a lit LED indicator that changes color to indicate charging and pairing status. The most important improvement to be found in the Jawbone Era can be found on the far right of the underbelly -- a 10mm wideband speaker that allows you to listen to music or podcasts in HD quality. This is the largest speaker to be found on a Jawbone to date. Turn the device on its side and you'll find a USB connection on one end and a TALK button on the other. The included USB CHARGING CRADLE plugs into the port for the purpose of not only charging the Jawbone, but for allowing software updates and add-ons which I will also talk about shortly.
Inside the packaging you will find all the necessary accessories at your disposal that include a charging cable and plug, user guide, carrying case and an array of earbuds and ear loop.
Getting the Jawbone Era to fit your ear correctly is perhaps the most daunting task of owning this device. I join the many who have complained over the years that despite all the included earbuds, it's almost impossible to get a perfect and comfortable fit inside the ear. After many attempts to do so, I was finally able to shove the smallest ring into the hole of my ear, creating a tight, slightly uncomfortable hermetic seal. After walking around for a bit, I had the Jawbone fall out of my ear more than once, which makes me feel rather wary that I may drop or lose this headset in transit. I am going to try attaching the included ear loop in hopes that it better secures the Jawbone to my ear.
Now, I am not suggesting that the Jawbone Era won't be a perfect fit for you. Everyone has a different ear size -- and to be completely fair to this company -- any bluetooth headset with ear fittings will give some users similar problems.
As I move forward with this review I am going to be discussing how the Jawbone Era interacts with an android phone, specifically, the Samsung Galaxy S3. Having previously owned an iPhone, I know that the Jawbone works quite well with that Apple product -- perhaps moreso overall since I found some minor limitations with my android phone. That will be discussed shortly.
Pairing the device to your phone is quite easy. The Jawbone Era is the first headset to feature a built-in accelerometer that allows users to simply shake the device to enter pairing mode. It also allows users to TapTap anywhere across the front body of the phone to answer a phone call. No buttons to push.
As illustrated in the photo on the left, when you turn on your device a white LED ring will indicate that the Jawbone is turned on. By shaking the phone, the LED ring will flash white and red (as indicated in the left photo) to let you know that it is in pairing mode. It took mere seconds for me to pair the phone with my Samsung Galaxy S3, and I was able to click additional options to allow the phone to play all media through the headset. This not only allowed for me to listen to privately listen to music, but for me to be aware of all internal phone notifications.
Speaking of listening to music...it certainly sounds very good through the wideband speaker -- not the least bit "tinny." However, personally, I have no use for making the Jawbone Era a primary music listening device nor something that I especially considered when choosing this product. If I am going to listen to music, I want stereo sound either through a full headset that can provide such, or via speakers in the car or home. To advertise this as a HD music playing device kind of seems "gimmicky" to me.
One of the aspects of the Jawbone Era that really interested me was the ability to customize it with software to further enhance the enjoyment of the device. Jawbone has a http://mytalk.jawbone.com/jb2/mytalk/?1 that allows you not only to download firmware updates to keep your headset running well, but offers all kinds of add-ons including character voices and dialing features.
I installed one of the 9 characters and actually prefer its use over the stock voice. Unfortunately, the voice dialing feature is not compatible with the Android phones, which is specifically pointed out when you go to download it. Furthermore, I found voice dialing with an android device is not very seamless if you want to do it with the phone in your pocket. You can press TALK and say a person's name, but the Google Voice control on the android device will always ask for some sort of confirmation that you manually need to touch the device to give. For me, this is a huge turn-off because the less handling of my phone that I have to do while in transit, the better.
* Please note that I have not tested this with the iPhone and there is always the possibility that the same problems exist.
Another aspect of the customizing the phone is that you can change the functionality of the talk button. For instance, you can program it to turn the NoiseAssassin on or off, or perhaps, just use it to raise and lower the volume. You can also program Caller ID settings or the manner in which the headset handles multiple bluetooth connections.
The Jawbone Era did quite well with phone calls. Friends that I phoned had no idea I was using a headset. Jawbone is quite renowned for its use of NoiseAssassin, a military-grade noise cancellation that eliminates most background noise. It certainly did that in cases where there was a moderate amount of background activity or wind noise. When I tried using the headset riding down the highway at 65mph with both windows open, the results were disastrous. The wind could clearly be heard and as it swept between the face and earpiece, it made my voice choppy to the person on the other end. So, in extreme conditions, even NoiseAssassin won't save the day.
One of the reasons I initially left the Jawbone brand was because, in order to get the headset to work exactly as advertised, it had to be perfectly positioned on the face which isn't always easy to do. The bottom of the earpiece has a small nub that needs to rest against the cheek. If it's not perfectly aligned, the party on the other end won't hear you. It's very easy when quickly slipping on the earpiece, or moving your head suddenly, for the device not to properly touch the cheek area. It was something that continually had me frustrated, and only time will tell if I experience the same problems.
On Android devices, through the Google Play Store, you'll find an app called https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jawbone.companion&hl=en. With this app enabled, you can have the ERA announce battery life, upcoming calendar events and current time. Getting this app to actually work was sort of clunky. You learn the hard way that in order for the app to talk to the phone you have pair the headset with MY TALK and go deep into its settings to turn on a communication switch. If you want it to announce calendar events, you have to make certain the phone's TTS engine is installed. It worked rather well once I finally figured out how to get it working -- but in the end, I question how valuable the app is to the overall experience of using the headset.
After all these years, it's sort of nice to return back home to the Jawbone brand again. I still think they make one of the best bluetooth headsets you can buy. The attraction for this particular model lies in its ability to completely customize it to your tastes, though at least one of the voice dialing apps is not supported on android devices. Of course, quality of phone conversations on both ends is as excellent as it always is, and NoiseAssassin does an admirable job of cutting out background nuisances and making certain both parties can hear each other clearly.
Talk Time: Up to 5.5 Hours
Standby Time: Up To 10 Days
Charging Time: 30 minutes (80%); 60 minutes (full)
Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters)
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