You've probably heard of Aliph's Jawbone family of Bluetooth headsets. Since 2007, the company has been cranking out the devices with increasingly eye-catching style and quality electronics.
Earlier this year, Aliph released the Jawbone Prime, which replaces the Jawbone 2 and refines that headset's fancy diamond-patterned finish. It's a welcome change, since the Jawbone 2's look could be perceived as gaudy (it came in black and gold).
This time, the headset has been slimmed, curved and dipped in a bevy of colors -- black, brown, silver, green, red, yellow and purple -- with playful names, including "Drop me a lime" (green) and "Lilac you mean it" (purple).
Along with the new "earcandy" colors comes Aliph's formidable marketing, which pairs avant-garde fashion models with the company's headsets. I've spotted the ads in several national magazines, particularly women's titles, which clearly try to move the Bluetooth headset out of the realm of the pleated khakis set and more toward a high- and well-heeled audience.
In many ways, Aliph's business strategy is reminiscent of Apple's: design paired with quality; strong marketing; premium prices; thoughtful packaging.
For this test, I received "Frankly Scarlet," the anodized magenta model pictured above. (Most users will gravitate toward the satin "Blah Blah Black" or silver "Going Platinum" models.)
To be sure, the Jawbone Prime is hardly cheap, and sells for $129. That kind of dough gets you a headset that offers clear call quality, a unique look, a compact profile that curves toward the face and a bevy of options for fit.
The design of the headset hides two buttons -- a multifunction talk button designated by a slight notch on the surface of the headset, and another on the rear "butt" of the headset that controls volume and toggles the "NoiseAssassin" technology, which I will describe in more detail later. Some will appreciate that these buttons are almost completely hidden beneath the skin of the headset, but others will find it maddening to be without conventional buttons.
The Jawbone has automatic volume adjustment.
While style is the Jawbone Prime's calling card, the headset's true asset is the array of fit options for the device. Inside you'll find three sizes of silicone earbuds, three more sizes of silicone earbuds with an earloop, and an ear hook. The unique earloop'd buds help anchor the bud inside the ear, and I found these to be the most comfortable on a daily basis.
I mentioned in passing the Jawbone's stellar call quality. That's thanks to the company's "NoiseAssassin" digital signal processing technology, which offers military-grade (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense's independent research branch) noise cancellation. It can be turned on or off with the back volume button, but I can't imagine why you would turn it off.
The Jawbone Prime has a little plastic tip on the inside of the headset that rests on your face; it's a "voice activity sensor" that detects the vibration of your speech. While it's not necessary to have a clear call, it audibly increases quality, and it was fairly easy to ensure that it was positioned in the right place to function effectively.
In testing, call quality was admirable in a range of situations, and only shaky under strong winds. Callers told me my voice was quite crisp on their end, and that they couldn't tell that I was using a Bluetooth headset.
My only complaint with the Jawbone Prime is that I found some callers to be a bit on the tinny side on my end, lacking a fullness that I've heard on other headsets.
Talk time is rated at 4.5 hours and standby time is rated at "more than eight days," a bit on the short side compared to the competition. Range is 33 feet, and the headset supports Multipoint technology for pairing with more than one Bluetooth device.
While the Jawbone is not the absolute best sounding headset on the market -- many say that honor goes to the clunky Plantronics Voyager Pro -- it makes very few concessions to achieve a style that sets it completely apart from the competition.
Aliph claims the Jawbone Prime is "the best headset ever created," and while some may dispute that, it's certainly the most stylish and well-rounded headset on the market.