Bluetooth Headsets for Cell Phones

Our Best Buy, Aliph's Jawbone (upper right), and the second-place Plantronics Voyager 855.
Our Best Buy, Aliph's Jawbone (upper right), and the second-place Plantronics Voyager 855.
Given how much time your ear is likely to spend glued to a Bluetooth cell-phone headset (especially if you are a car commuter), the device needs to balance audio quality and comfort.

Even if a Bluetooth headset's audio technology is stellar, you won't be able to take advantage of it if the speaker feels uncomfortable in your ear. I have small ears, so I need a small earbud with an earhook to hold it in place. (People with larger ears should be comfortable without the earhook.) Aliph's Jawbone, our Best Buy, had enough earhook and earbud options that I found a good fit. Plantronics' Voyager 855 Stereo Bluetooth headset, with its form-fitting earbud, helped me hear voice calls clearly without having to jack up the volume. The Voyager 855's unique design lets you attach a second earbud to create stereo earphones, but the music audio quality doesn't match that of high-end stereo earphones. The small circular design of Samsung's WEP500 was the least conspicuous, though it fit me less securely.

Headset manufacturers tout different audio technologies that they say will help you and your callers hear each other in varied environments. In my subjective testing, the WEP500 did the best job with call quality. The Jawbone and the Voyager 855 finished close behind, in a virtual tie for second. Finishing a distant fourth was Jabra's BT8040, which can connect simultaneously to two phones so you don't have to keep resyncing them. With Motorola's uber-stylish Motopure H12, I had no trouble hearing people; but they struggled to hear my words, even when I spelled them out (as you would to directory assistance). The unique Callpod Dragon Bluetooth Headset, which missed the chart, delivered the worst call quality. It's a Bluetooth Class 1 headset, so it has a range of around 300 feet, but audio became garbled at about 75 feet.

We couldn't lab-test battery life for this story, but vendor-reported talk times for these models range from 3.5 hours (for Samsung's WEP500) to 8 hours (for Callpod's Dragon). The WEP500 and Dragon headsets and the Jawbone come with convenient USB chargers so you can charge them from a PC. Motorola's Motopure H12 includes a handsome desktop and travel charger.

Check to confirm that the headset you plan to buy supports the phone you own--and be aware that Bluetooth headsets don't support all Bluetooth phones.

At a Glance
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