The Jawbone Era is a solid update to an innovative product. The Era brings incremental but welcome updates to its core technology (e.g. noise-cancellation technology has been upgraded to Noise Assassin 3), updates to its existing Jawbone features list (e.g. streaming audio is now in HD, motion based controls), and a flashier exterior (e.g. the multi-layered front panel). Although not groundbreaking in themselves, the updates are enough to keep Jawbone Era ahead of the pack and a my headset of choice.
The Era brings quite a few updates, but only two really stand out–better noise cancellation and the updated casing.
Noise Cancellation: For those unfamiliar with Jawbone, the company is famous for it’s unique approach to noise cancellation. By comparing the acoustic vibrations in the human jawbone with the sound coming into the microphone, the headset is able to isolate the speaker’s voice and fade out background noise. The Jawbone Era incorporates the third generation of that technology (called Noise Assassin). In testing, the update performed better on the streets of New York than prior models, drowning out jackhammers, cars and chatter. But most impressive was the Era’s performance on my bicycle, eliminating almost all wind interference and making this the first headset I could really use while cycling (now one less excuse not to call mom).
Casing: The Era has a multi-layered faceplate–a deep colored plastic layer (deep wine red in my case) topped by a black cutout plastic layer–that gives the headset a refined high-end look. The colors are deep and often shadowed by the top layer, making the use of color subtle–a deep sparkle that dances over the faceplate when exposed to light.
: Two old features that I am happy are sticking around relate to power management. One of the most frustrating things about using a Bluetooth headset is running out of power unexpectedly. The Era let’s you keep track of your remaining battery power in two ways–an on-screen power icon in your device’s status bar and an audio update when you hit the function button (e.g. “About 3 hours of talk-time remaining”). Note: While the on-screen power meter is automatic on an iPhone, getting it to work on your Blackberry is an annoying process that I honestly could not complete. But as a tip, start here.
New features I am less excited about:
- Bluetooth music streaming is updated to HD. However, in testing I really couldn’t tell the difference. Honestly, one can’t expect a “High Definition” experience when audio is sent over Bluetooth and delivered to only one ear.
- Motion based controls: The Era is the first headset I have heard of to use an accelerometer. Waiving the Era puts it into pairing mode. Tapping the Era answers and ends calls. The only real reason to get excited about the use of an accelerometer is the potential functionality that can be unlocked by future applications. I never really got into the Jawbone downloadable applications and I think most users will find it a hassle to periodically search and download new functions, but the prospect is, at the very least, interesting.
: The primary purpose of a bluetooth headset it to be heard, and the Era is simply the best at that. At $89.99 on Amazon
, I wouldn’t expect many to ditch their current headset and clamor for the Era’s upgrades. But for anyone in the market for a new Bluetooth headset, the Era is clearly a leader in a crowded field.
Disclaimer: A demo unit was sent for this review.