As with little dogs, the fashion accessory aspect of Bluetooth headsets has nearly overshadowed the other, more valuable contributions they have to offer. Headsets give professionals their second hand back, are the ultimate multi-tasking assistant, in some situations can offer better performance than a cell phone alone and can keep you ticket-free in states such as New York, where driving and phone-holding is a no-go.
Bluetooth technology has evolved considerably since version 1.0, which made device anonymity impossible and wasn’t entirely interoperable. Version 1.1 added security benefits and solved many of 1.0’s errors. Version 1.2 is backward compatible with 1.1 and improved the technology’s resistance to radio interference and improved voice quality. And Bluetooth 2.1, also backward compatible, offers transmission speeds three times faster than its predecessors, as well as lower power consumption.
Other features to consider when choosing a headset are whether or not you prefer a boom-style mic, which reaches forward toward the mouth a bit more; how important battery life is; and the conditions you’ll mostly be using the headset in—if you’re more of a car-talker, a snug fit may not be a top priority; and if you often talk the talk while you walk the walk, you may want a headset with a noise-canceling microphone, which can block both whistling winds and the din of the city.
Below is a sampling of headsets that exemplify the variety of features, prices and styles currently available to cell phone users—as well as work in cooperation with PCs, PDAs and other Bluetooth-enabled devices.
Weight: 0.55 ounces
Battery: Eight hours of talk time, 150 hours of standby
Compatibility: Bluetooth 1.1 and 1.2
Features: This is a light, compact and attractive headset that it’s truly possible to forget you’re wearing. A removable earhook makes it easy to wear the headset on either ear, the omni-directional microphone helps to relay the user’s voice clearly and a single button controls three-way calling, call start, call end, hold and mute.
Weight: 0.74 ounces
Battery: Six hours of talk time, 160 hours of standby
Compatibility: Bluetooth 1.1Features: This long and slim model has double rubber prongs that make it easy to slip over either ear without any adjustment. It boasts the ability to pair with up to eight devices at one time. And adding convenience and lightening the load for traveling pros, a travel charger comes included, and the HS-11W is compatible with five Nokia phone chargers.
GN Netcom GN 6210
Weight: 0.8 ounces
Battery: Eight hours of talk time, 240 hours of standby
Compatibility: Bluetooth 1.1Features: The GN 6210 is the first Bluetooth headset to work seamlessly and simultaneously with both an office phone and cell phone. The office landline connects through a base station, which also acts as a charger (a small travel charger is also included). The headset is fairly large, but it’s comfortable, the buttons are easy to manage and the sound quality is excellent. An optional adapter even offers functionality to non-Bluetooth cell phones.
Etymotic Research ETY-COM
Weight: Approximately 0.3 ounces
Compatibility: Compatible with phones requiring a universal 3-conductor 2.5mm plug; other adapters are available from your phone’s provider or accessory stores.
Features: The boom-style ETY-COM headset is not Bluetooth equipped, but we thought it worth including for its unique emphasis on offering exceptional sound quality under very noisy conditions. The earphone is an earplug of sorts that uses noise-isolating technology to allow only the caller’s voice to enter the ear, and its noise-rejecting directional microphone isolates the user’s voice (blocking up to 25 decibels more noise than some other boom-style headsets). Now professionals in loud restaurants—or even driving with the windows down—can speak comfortably (and confidentially).
Sony Ericsson Akono HBH-662
Weight: 0.6 ounces
Battery: Five hours talk time, 150 hours standby Compatibility: Bluetooth 1.2Features: With the stylish HBH-662, you’re encouraged to leave your phone in your briefcase or purse—all you need is this headset on the included neck strap. The headset has Info Display for caller ID and a call timer (good for pros paid by the minute), as well as a battery life display. Calls can be answered or declined with a single button, and voice-controlled dialing additionally works without the phone present: Simply say the name you’d like to call and the headset dials automatically.
Plantronics Discovery 640
Weight: 0.3 ounces
Battery: 15 hours of talk time with mobile charger, 5 hours with plug-in charger
Compatibility: Bluetooth 1.2
Features: The 640 comes wrapped in a chrome pen-sized carrying case that not only protects the phone but includes a AAA battery that charges the headset between calls. Also included are an optional over-the-ear stabilizer for when you’re really on the move, three sizes of soft gel ear tips and four charging adapters (which work with Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and Siemens phones), so you don’t need an additional charging cable. Supports voice-activated dialing and allows call accept, call end and last number redial from a single button.