Ear Peace: How to Pick a Bluetooth Headset
It’s a more comfortable and convenient way to place and receive calls on your cell phone -- and it might be law depending on which state you’re driving in -- but a Bluetooth wireless headset has become an indispensable mobile business accessory in today’s day and age.
Another reason Bluetooth connectivity has caught on is because most cell phones now have built-in support for the wireless protocol, says Avi Greengart, research director for mobile devices at Current Analysis, a Sterling, Va.-based research firm. “This is an important trend, especially for safety reasons, as you don’t want to get a cord tangled up on something, like a gear shift or seatbelt,” explains Greengart.
But with hundreds of headsets to choose from -- ranging in price from $20 to $250 -- it can be difficult to pick one that’s ideal for you and your business. The following are a few variables to consider:
The most important consideration is comfort, says Greengart, “because if it’s not comfortable, you’re not going to wear it, and then the other features become meaningless.”
Solomon Daniels, editor for Mobile Electronics, a trade publication designed to educate and inform specialists in the mobile electronics industry, says he has the same priority as Greengart. “Comfort and weight comfort are extremely important because you have to wear this thing on or in your ear,” Daniels says. “Therefore you need to try it out for a bit to see what shape and style works for you.”
Sometimes you don’t think about things like how a Bluetooth headset can be fitted for someone who wears glasses, for example, but it can be an issue. Daniels says a few models now have a piece that clips onto the glasses for added comfort.
The second consideration would be the quality of the audio, believes Greengart. “Features like noise reduction are very important,” but can add to the overall cost to the device.
“But it’s well worth it,” adds Greengart, who says products like the popular Jawbone headset from Alliph do a great job in reducing the amount of background noise for the caller.
On a related note, Daniel says you might find there’s a tradeoff in quality for style: “Headsets with microphones that go across the cheek might not look great -- and let’s face it, everyone who wears one still looks like a robot -- but these tend to sound better than in-ear ones.”
When it comes to power, both Greengart and Daniels maintain today’s wireless Bluetooth headsets should last at least as long as the phone’s battery.
“Some headsets have screens and all kinds of buttons, but the more high-tech stuff you add to it, the more the battery is robbed of power,” says Daniels. “We’re talking a very small device with a very small battery.”
“I tend to take advertised ‘talk times’ with a grain of salt, but if you’re a road warrior, battery life is very important,” agrees Greengart. In addition, he says you should also consider the type of battery charger the device requires. “If it uses a standard connection like mini-USB then you can use an existing cable you might have in your laptop bag to charge it up, otherwise you’ll need to bring an additional charger with you on the road,” Greengart says.
Another feature that may be important to a Bluetooth headset shopper is if you can pair it with more than one phone. This is handy if you have multiple phones or if you pass the headset around to members of the family.
Mobile executives who like to keep entertained with music while on the go might want a stereo Bluetooth headset that can be used with compatible phones. “If your handset has A2DP, you might want to get wireless headphones that also function as a hands-free headset, too,” says Greengart.
“The bottom line is that you need to see what works for you,” says Daniels. “Check with the store’s [return] policy and take out a Bluetooth headset for a couple of days to see if you like it.”