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Jawbone recently came out with a new Bluetooth headset called the Era. This is a follow-on to their last headset, the Icon. It's supposed to be a new and improved headset, with some added features – a couple of which in particular I was very interested in, so I ordered one.

This is my third Jawbone headset. I had the original, and was disappointed in it. The headset worked ok, not great, but it was very difficult to charge. It had a proprietary 4-pin connection that was very fragile, and lasted me only a few months before it broke. Even before that, I had to place everything just so to get a charge, because it was that touchy. I went back to my original Apple headset which, while not great (and the battery life was getting somewhat short), did at least work. It also showed the charge left right on the iPhone when connected.

The different Icon casesJawbone Icon headsets
Then Jawbone came out with the Icon. It comes in several different looking cases, but they all have the same features. It uses a micro-usb for charging, which is still a bit annoying, but at least not fragile like the old charger. It is smaller, and has better noise-cancelling. In addition, the Icon can load up a program – there are a few, like voice dialing (you phone needs to support this as well), note taking apps, speed dial apps, etc. You can load one at a time from the Jawbone website via a small program (hook up the headset via USB, go to the website with the program running, and download your program). It also has "personalities" you can load up – for instance, when you tap the button quickly and aren't in a call, a voice will tell you how much talk time battery life you have. If someone calls, it announces the number.

I've had the Icon for the past year and it's served me pretty well. Like the Apple headset, it too will graphically show you battery life on the iPhone when it pairs up. I don't know if any other headset manufacturers do this yet.

But the Era has a couple of features I really wanted – the main one being caller ID. Instead of reading off the phone number, like the Icon, the Era will read off the caller's name – much handier, because there are very few numbers I have memorized (why should I – they're in my Address Book!). Also, Jawbone claims better audio (the Icon audio is always kind of mediocre but usable). The claimed battery life is better (5.5 hours of talk time vs. 4). Also, Jawbone added an accelerometer to the Era, so you can shake it to pair the device (big deal) and tap it twice to answer a call. I really didn't think much of either, but have warmed up to double-tapping to answer – I don't have to find and hit the button, which occasionaly I had trouble finding, or would sometimes hit too quickly. The slight double-tap is easy and seems to work pretty well.

The Era cases 
I decided to test out the claims of better noise canceling, so I made a couple of calls to my wife. On her end, she said the audio was about the same – but on my end, she was much clearer with the Era. I cranked up some music on iTunes to my amp in the computer room, and she told me she couldn't even hear the music with the Era – with the Icon she couldn't hear me when I cranked the music up. I could still hear her too (although with the music up most of the way I could only tell she was speaking, not what she was saying, but that's a pretty extreme case).

We did have an odd problem with FaceTime calls. If she called me it was fine, but if I called her, we got no audio until I switched to the phone speaker and then back to the Era. We didn't have any trouble with the Icon in that regard. Oddly, I did hear the ringing in the headset, but when the call connected, nothing. Hopefully, Jawbone will fix that in a firmware release.

Yes, both the Icon and Era have firmware – I have updated both a couple of times now, sometimes for fixes, sometimes (for the Icon) new features. So these headsets aren't standing still.

Jawbone is still selling both the Icon and the Era, for $99.99 (here for less than $60) and $129.99 (here for $129.99 or less) respectively. Even with the FaceTime glitch, I'm happy with the Era. You could do worse for a Bluetooth headset.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8tR2qKrWyg

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  • Anthony T.

    Great review Jack! I was wondering if you had more information on the battery life of theJawbone Era? I know that they claim for it to have 5.5 hours of talk time, but was wondering what you’ve experienced.

  • I haven’t used it enough to run the battery down very far. I will say it’s claiming 4 hours remaining, and I haven’t charged it since I first got it nearly a month ago. I have had a few conversations on it, but none of them were very long ( a couple of minutes at most). So I can say the standby time is good!

  • Note that ti hasn’t been *on* all that time…I turn it on for use, or if I’m expecting a call.

  • I absolutely love my ERA, however……. I’ve very disappointed in the battery life. The 5.5 hour claim is NOT factual. I get about 3 hours TOPS with every use. (I’m on the phone an awful lot.) I’ve run this puppy down to zero several times now, and 3 hours is the most I can get. However, I’m happy to report that the charge time is only one hour for 100% and 30 minutes for an 80% charge, so it’s okay, I can live with that, as I love to listen to Netflix through this device and the sound quality is very impressive. Once you get used to listening in one ear, the sound for movies is amazing. I still don’t get where they come up with the 5.5 hour battery life though.

  • The same place laptop manufacturers get their figures, I suppose. I usually just chop their numbers in half, so 3 hours from 5.5 would be good for a laptop. Since I don’t use mine anywhere near as long as you do in a stretch, I haven’t really tested the battery life.