Jawbone Era: Easy-to-Use Bluetooth Headset
At a Glance
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If you’ve been eyeing the Jawbone family of products for a while, and you expect to conduct calls in environments with background noise, check out the Era.
When you're trying to answer a phone call, fumbling around while you're putting on a headset can be all too easy. The Jawbone Era aims to fix that: The Era ($130 as of March 1, 2011) has a standout feature called ShakeShake, which lets you shake the Bluetooth headset twice to pick up a call when the unit isn't in your ear. This function worked great for me, as I like to keep my headset and phone on my desk; when a call comes in, I can see who's calling and can then double-shake the Era before placing it in my ear, so I don't lose the call.
For obvious reasons, I didn't try the wrist-flick action in the car; I just kept the Era in my ear at all times. You can also quadruple-shake the unit to put it automatically in pairing mode when the need arises. Bottom line: The shaking motion, whether double-time or quadruple-time, worked like a charm.
The Era bundles a generous amount of earbud covers and earhooks, which increase the chances of finding a solid fit. With or without the earloop, the Era felt snug and secure, even when I sauntered around.
When the Era was in my ear, I could accept calls either by tapping the outside of the unit twice or by pressing the slender Talk button atop the unit. I liked the tapping mechanism, although it took a few calls for me to get the taps down. I tapped too gently initially; for the Era to respond, you need to use a firm touch. I found that I needed to steady the unit with my thumb when tapping, to keep the Era in place.
I liked the Era's dedicated on/off slider knob. I also liked having to keep track of only one button--the Talk button, as mentioned above. The button fulfills a number of functions: You can use it midcall to adjust volume up and down, hold it down for 2 seconds to reject a call, press it once to end a call, double-tap it to redial, or press it once to hear how much talk time remains. In my tests the Talk button's feedback mechanism delivered a solid clicking response, but nonetheless it felt a tad too shallow for my taste.
Calls on the Era sounded mostly good: The other parties could hear what I was saying, but my voice regularly had a robotic or synthesized tinge. Even so, it wasn't off-putting, according to my contacts. Meanwhile, voices coming to me sounded up-close and clear. The Era did a superb job pushing background noise and interference out of the picture, even when I stood in a breezy area during a couple of calls.
I was impressed with the company's integrated Web service, MyTalk, currently in beta. Downloading the software lets you add a speed dial via the Talk button, use voice-to-text services, and set up caller IDs with names. As for other bonus features, I liked turning on my phone's navigation app and using the Era to listen to the directions. The Era also lets you stream music--but listening to my tunes in a one-sided way, with a monaural headset like this, is not my thing. Point me to a set of stereo headphones instead.
If you've been eyeing the Jawbone family of products for a while, and you expect to conduct your phone calls in a variety of environments where background noise will be a factor, check out the Era. And depending on where you buy, expect to fork out over a hundred bucks.