Last week, the Jawbone Era debuted as the “world’s first” motion-controlled Bluetooth headset with HD audio. Here's the hands-on review.
As with any gadget, the first thing you want to do is charge the product. Using the included 2-inch long USB cable, I plugged the Jawbone Era in while reading the user's guide.
The Era comes with a two fit options: four sizes of earbuds and an earloop with two sizes of earbuds. I opted for the earbud-only option, but I appreciated that Jawbone gave buyers some extra comfort choices.
To turn the device on, there is a very tiny switch on inner side. After swishing it around in the air for a few moments (as instructed), the Jawbone Era immediately popped up on my iPhone 4's Bluetooth menu. I clicked to connect the two, and it was as simple as that.
When I fitted the Era in my ear, I pressed the Talk button, which informed me I had "about five hours of talk time remaining." (If you tap it twice, it redials, and if you hold it down, it activates voice dialing, so be careful.)
What really sets the Era apart from other Bluetooth devices are the motion controls. If you tap twice on the outer surface, it will end and switch between calls. If you shake the headset two times in your hand (so not when it's in your ear), the Era will answer incoming calls. Shaking it four times will activate pairing mode, as I already did with the iPhone previously. All of this is explained in the tiny glossary included in the box, and it's not that hard to grasp.
All of the phone controls worked well enough and weren't that more exceptional from other Bluetooth headsets. There were two other fun features I wanted to try out.
First, the Era allows for audio streaming with A2DP-technology. So I tried it out using music from my iPod app. The music quality was not nearly as good as with my Apple earbuds, but it got the job done. However, listening to music in one ear only is almost always disorienting. Also, I was a bit annoyed that the volume can only be controlled on the iPhone (or whatever device you're streaming from), which I learned quickly when the Glee soundtrack blasted in my ear.
Furthermore, the Era also includes Noise Assassin 3.0 for (according to the User Guide) "automatically increasing the volume" in noisy places and decreasing it in quiet spaces. When I tried it out first indoors, the volume didn't budge from when I adjusted the level from the iPod streaming. I called my a friend, and she said the audio quality was "not the best, but pretty good." She also added that the volume was louder than usual. It was about the same on my end too.
There aren't many places noisier than the streets of New York City, so I braved the cold and icy conditions to test this out. Unfortunately, the volume didn't auto-adjust itself. I was holding my iPhone in my hands, so it wasn't a problem to adjust the volume myself, but I suppose if it were in my knapsack and having to search for it would be a problem. Nevertheless, when I called this same friend, she said that the call was clearer for her than when I normally call just using the smartphone by itself - or even when I use the Apple earbuds with a microphone. However, I didn't hear her as well as I normally do, but it was still clear enough.
Priced at $129, the Jawbone Era Bluetooth headsets are available online now and on the shelves at Apple Stores, AT&T and Best Buy locations. Buyers have four designs and shades to choose from: Shadowbox, Smokescreen, Midnight and Silver Lining.
Overall, the Jawbone Era is easy to use, easy to pair with other Bluetooth-enabled devices and quite attractive. The motion controls are a nice feature, but perhaps not worth the premium price tag.