I don’t write about hardware much; I’m primarily a software analyst so I’m not on many pitch lists for the latest gadgets. But I’ve recently had the pleasure (sarcasm implied) of shopping for a new Bluetooth headset for my iPhone and had to share my adventures with readers.
I work remotely, far from Silicon Valley, so I spend a good amount of my day on the phone. And when DEMO screening gets hot and heavy, I can find myself bouncing between six and seven hour-long calls a day. So a wireless headset is a necessity for me and it needs to be a workhorse. My last one, the Plantronics Discovery 640, lasted two years and was generally satisfactory. Towards the end of its life, it became almost impossible to use during highway driving – the other party could barely hear me – but otherwise it did the job.
When the Plantronics died, I decided to fork over the cash for a Jawbone 2, a headset that’s received rave reviews. In the past, I’ve purchased headsets with a wary eye and much research into return policies but the Jawbone has been buzzed about so much, I figured it to be a no-brainer. That, unfortunately, was not the case. Much has been made of the Jawbone’s Noise Assassin feature, which isolates the speaker’s voice from background noise, but testing that feature requires that a call actually operate in the first place. It was one of the most haphazard headsets I’ve ever used – one call went through fine, the next had horrible sound quality, and the next didn’t even go through; I found myself repeatedly pressing the “audio source” button on my iPhone. In an effort to make the headset as sleek as possible, the buttons are underdesigned; I was never sure when I had accurately pressed one. And the volume – egads. I know I’ve blown out my hearing at too many concerts, but I’m not that deaf. Far too many callers could barely be heard and frantic pushing (or did I?) of the volume button didn’t help. In short, a big disappointment for a headset heralded as the second coming.
What ended up saving the day was a headset from a company I’d admittedly never heard of – BlueAnt. The fabulous folks at Porter Novelli Austin work with BlueAnt and, upon hearing of my travails, suggested I give this one a go. I’ve been using the BlueAnt Z9i about a week now and would give it a 9 out of 10 overall. It connects perfectly to every call, has excellent sound quality with two microphones, and features its own version of Noise Assassin called Voice Isolation. It’s multi-point, so can be simultaneously paired with two phones, and can even be paired with up to 5 devices at one time. You can also set up different ringtones for known and unknown callers – the first headset I know of with that capability. It can be clunky to put on quickly though, which is why I’m not giving it a 10. But if I have to choose between extra seconds to fit a headset on my ear and the ability to hear the other caller, I’ll take the latter every time.
So if you’re in the market for a Bluetooth headset, don’t be a chump like me and believe the hype. Give the BlueAnt a try and let me know what you think.