When it launched its debut headset, the Jawbone, in 2007, American outfit Aliph not only delivered class-leading military-grade noise isolating tech, but injected a dash of style to the staid functional world of Bluetooth headsets. Last year we looked at the Jawbone Icon and Aliph is continuing to innovate, with its latest Jawbone headset, the ERA, featuring a built-in accelerometer and the ability to run apps.
After experimenting wildly with designs and finishes on the previous more fashion conscious ICON headset, Aliph has dialled it down on the ERA; the double-layered but subtle perforated pattern and muted colours recall the original classic Jawbone design. However, for a headset costing £100 we did expect better build-quality. The overly plastic chassis feels cheap but very lightweight.
A range of different sized earbuds are supplied so you should find the right fit for your lugholes. We found the option to wear the headset sans earloop a little precarious and the hook definitely made for a sturdier fix.
Jawbone ERA: Controls
Traditionally, you answer or end a call over a Bluetooth headset via a main button. Thanks to the ERA onboard accelerometer, a firm double tap on the headset’s torso makes this less fiddly. It’s works brilliantly and a boon for in-car user – you won’t get distracted from the road while fumbling around trying to locate the button.
Better still, is the new MotionX tech. If the headset is lying idle and call comes in, a double shake will quickly answer it, before strapping it your ear. Again, the accelerometers proved very responsive and worked the first time of asking.
However, there is a mechanised button at the top of the headset that’s still central to operation. A quick press in standby mode will activate the voice-driven battery status (this is also displayed on the iPhone and, via a downloadable app, on the BlackBerry). A prolonged press will automatically dial your one favourite number while during a call the NoiseAssassin mode can be turned on and off with a click.
Jawbone Era: Ease of use
Pairing with your phone couldn’t be easier. Fire up the ERA out of the box using a discreet switch underneath and it automatically goes into pairing mode. After the first time, hooking up with another device - it can pair with two handsets at once – involves the receptive MotionX tech; shake the headset four times and the mating dance will begin.
Download the very intuitive MyTalk Beta software (this links to the Jawbone website) and you can download apps, software updates, tinker with settings and add CallerID numbers. Right now proprietary apps for the UK users are limited but the likes of MyFavourite and in particular, Voice Dial, are essential for handsfree operation. After initially misfiring, the Voice Dial app will start to recognise your voice but check your phone supports this feature before downloading.
Jawbone ERA: Performance
Now at 3.0, Aliph’s NoiseAssassin still remains the most effective and ruthless clamour-killing technology on any Bluetooth headset. No matter the noise levels, it almost completely blots out background commotion and it’s like you’re talking in your own private phone booth.
Call quality is bolstered by HD audio and conversation proved clear and voluminous throughout. The hi-def sound also kicks in when listening to music or video (Last.fm and YouTube apps can be downloaded and linked up) via an A2DP connection but we don’t recommend using this mono arrangement – stick to stereo headphones.
Jawbone ERA: Verdict
In terms of core headset functionality, the ERA is superb; it’s user-friendly and the call quality is second to none. Aliph’s newly introduced technology could easily have fallen into the trap of being gimmicky but generally it enhances the ERA’s performance. That said the MyTalk app ecosystem does need work and more compelling voice-centric apps added to become essential.
Jawbone Era launch date: Out now, link Jawbone
Jawbone Era price: £85-£100 online