Chat and Get Work Done with the Right Mobile Headset

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Before you head out to the mall or start scrolling through your favorite online catalogs this holiday season, take a minute and think about all the names on your holiday gift list. Are there any particularly gregarious personalities equally notorious for conducting business over dinner as they are for chatting on the phone while driving? If the answer is yes, and you’re shopping for a multitasking extrovert or unrestrained gossip, then you’ve come to the right place. This entire article is dedicated to some of the most popular mobile Bluetooth headsets from brands like Bose®, Motorola, Jabra, Sony, and Plantronics.

Plantronics

The first brand we’re going to cover is a titan of the headset industry. Plantronics offers a variety of different headset styles. Their mobile headsets cover a wide price range and offer a variety of features, so no matter whom you are shopping for, Plantronics has a mobile headset for them. The three Plantronics models, below, all feature Bluetooth connectivity, WindSmart technology, built-in rechargeable batteries, and multiple microphones for enhanced call clarity. But that is where the similarities end.

My personal favorite of the three Plantronics headsets is the budget-friendly Discovery 975 Bluetooth Headset. It’s compact, discreet, and features Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) wireless technology with support for headset (HSP) and hands-free (HFP) protocols. What all this means is that the Discovery 975 can be used as a hands-free headset for your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone, but it also has universal compatibility with most other Bluetooth devices like laptops, tablets, and MP3 players.

To ensure that you enjoy clear calling, Plantronics employs several innovative technologies in their mobile headsets. The Discovery 975 has a wireless range of about 33 feet and it supports multipoint, WindSmart, and AudioIQ2 technologies. Multipoint lets you quickly pair the headset and maintain simultaneous connections with two devices, which is great if you have a work phone and personal cell phone or want to connect to your phone and laptop or tablet. AudioiQ2 technology removes unwanted background noise and WindSmart technology provides three layers of wind-noise protection to ensure clear calls—even on a Chicago street.

The Discovery 975’s other highlights include a dual-microphone setup for enhanced call clarity, three sizes of patented gel ear tips to ensure comfort, and whisper voice alerts that quietly alarm you when a connection is lost or when the built-in rechargeable battery is nearing the end of its five-hour run time. This headset also includes a carrying case that features a built-in rechargeable battery, so when the headset battery is low, you can just put it back in the case and charge it up. The case battery effectively triples the headset’s five-hour battery life.

The next step up for Plantronics is the Voyager Pro HD Headset, which is the ideal headset for someone who listens to music as much as they talk on the phone. Not only does it support universal Bluetooth wireless connectivity for hands-free talking, but it also supports high-definition A2DP streaming for listening to music, podcasts, GPS directions, and other media. The Pro HD will automatically pause your music when you receive a call, and it provides voice alerts for talk time remaining, caller name, connection status, and more.

This model works with the free downloadable MyHeadset app for Android smartphones. And when it’s connected to an iPhone or an Android 3.0 or higher smartphone, it displays an easy-to-read headset battery meter on your phone’s touchscreen. The Pro HD has Smart Sensors as well, which can tell whether the call should be sent to your phone or to the headset. The Smart Sensors can also transfer calls to or from your headset, depending on whether you are putting it in your ear or removing it.

For a more business-savvy Voyager model, Plantronics offers the Voyager Legend UC B235 Wireless Headset. It provides many of the same features we’ve already discussed including WindSmart, Smart Sensors, a charging case, and support for A2DP audio streaming. What sets this model apart is its Bluetooth 3.0 + EDR wireless connectivity and precision-tuned triple-microphone design with enhanced digital signal processing (DSP) for superior noise cancellation. It affords PC Wideband audio support for heightened speech clarity when talking over a PC connection and you can even use your voice to answer calls or perform other commands. The headset also includes a desktop stand and a portable USB Bluetooth adapter that plugs into your non-Bluetooth laptop. This is a unique feature among all headsets in this article and it makes the B235 an ideal choice if you plan on using the headset with non-Bluetooth computers. All the B235’s little extras make it a great choice for corporate or home office use.

Jabra

Jabra is another industry leader making innovative headsets and speakerphone solutions. Whether you’re shopping for someone who spends most of their time in the office or out on the road, Jabra has a headset that will work for them. All three of the headsets in this section are single-ear models that feature dual microphones with DSP noise reduction, support for connecting two devices simultaneously, and extra pairs of ear gels or ear cushions for an optimized fit.

The Jabra Extreme2 Bluetooth Headset uses Bluetooth 3.0 wireless technology and an auto-pairing function to easily connect to compatible smartphones, tablets, or laptops. One of this model’s most useful features is its automatic volume adjustment, which will raise or lower the headset volume depending on the ambient noise level around you. In order to ensure a comfortable fit for each individual, the Extreme2 can be worn around the ear with the included ear hook or in the ear with the cushioned ear gels. It also has a built-in rechargeable battery that affords up to 5.5 hours of talk time or 10+ days of standby time per charge.

Another compact model that works well for someone who just wants an easy-to-use headset is the Supreme Bluetooth Headset. This model improves on the basic Jabra DSP noise reduction by also including active noise cancellation for increased call clarity—even if you’re at the train station or walking down a Manhattan block during rush hour. It provides a convenient flip boom arm as well, so you can fold it up and slip it into your pocket when you’re finished using it. For added convenience, folding up the headset also turns the device off. This headset supports A2DP audio streaming as well, so you can listen to music when you’re not on the phone.

Like the Extreme2, the Supreme uses Bluetooth 3.0 wireless technology and it can be paired with two devices simultaneously. Another highlight of this model is its voice-command support. You can use your voice to answer or ignore calls, redial, call back, and even pair a new device to the headset. The Supreme’s built-in rechargeable battery provides up to six hours of talk time and it features a battery-status indicator so you’ll always know how much battery life is remaining.

The last Jabra model we’ll look at is the intriguing Stone2 Bluetooth Headset and Portable Charging Stone. This headset gets its name from its conversation-starting, stone-like charging base. The unique base has a sliver-style cutout dock where the headset fits perfectly for charging. This model supports music streaming and answer/ignore call voice commands. It also features conveniently located touch-sensitive controls for easy volume adjustment. And, when it’s docked in the charging stone, it rapidly charges in about 20 minutes. Once it’s fully charged, the Stone2 headset provides two hours of talk time or up to 120 hours of standby time. Plus, if you carry the charging stone with you, you’ll have access to its built-in battery, which supports an additional eight hours of talk time for the headset.

Sony

Sony makes everything from 4K Ultra HD TVs, multi-channel home theater systems, and digital cameras to laptops, tablets, and smartphones, so it makes perfect sense that they design mobile headsets that are compatible with their Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices. Although Sony manufactures traditional in-ear or on-ear headsets, I chose two standout headsets that are truly one-of-a-kind among the other models in this article. The reason I really like both of these devices is because they look and function more like stylish little MP3 players.

The more budget-friendly of the pair is the SBH50 Stereo Bluetooth Headset, which is available in either black or white. The physical design is surprisingly youthful. It succeeds in breaking what I would call the “power-lunch stigma” associated with more traditional Bluetooth headsets. What I mean is that this model resembles an iPod shuffle more than it does a typical sci-fi headset that attaches to your ear. The design exudes a youthful exuberance that’s also modern and sophisticated. Plus, the headset supports all the latest technology, including Bluetooth 3.0 and NFC connect-and-go with multipoint for one-touch pairing to two devices simultaneously.

You can also use the A2DP-equipped SBH50 to stream music from a laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Although other models in this article support A2DP, it makes more sense on the Sony headsets because they include stereo earbuds, while all the other brands’ headsets are monaural. This model also has an integrated, easy-to-read OLED display, which is convenient because you can keep your phone in your pocket or purse and use the SBH50’s display and a few free app extensions from Google Play to access your phone’s call log, text notifications, email messages, and more.

The SHB50’s other features include built-in FM radio and a specially designed microphone that picks up the entire frequency range of human speech. It’s also designed to block out distracting ambient noise, so whoever you’re speaking with will be able to clearly hear what you’re saying. Plus, the included stereo earbuds provide superior full-range sound when listening to music.

The other Sony model I wanted to include is the ultra-flexible SBH52 Smart Bluetooth Handset, which will be available this November—just in time for the holiday season. This model combines the convenience of an in-ear stereo Bluetooth headset with a handset that has a built-in microphone and speaker. While the SBH50 can only be used for talking with the included stereo earbuds, the SBH52 can function exactly like a tiny smartphone, complete with an OLED display and Android app extensions. It’s a very clever design that’s ideal for talking on the phone and listening to music, which is why it includes stereo earbuds and also supports the A2DP high-definition music streaming Bluetooth protocol.

If you clip the SBH52 to your coat, bag, or shirt, you can put your smartphone away and conserve its battery life. When a call comes in, you just use the handset’s integrated OLED display to see who is calling. If you want to talk, simply press the answer button on the handset and use it like a miniature cell phone. You can also use it as a headset if you’re wearing the stereo earbuds. As long as your phone is paired with the SBH52, you can take calls with the handset, even if your phone is up to 33 feet away from you at the time of the call. The handset’s integrated OLED screen can also be used to see who is calling, check text messages, and view emails as long as it’s equipped with the proper Android app extensions, which are available for free from Google Play.

Like the SBH50, the SBH52 features Bluetooth 3.0 and one-touch NFC connect-and-go pairing technology. It has built-in FM radio and multipoint for simultaneous device connectivity as well. Another standout feature that makes the SBH52 a truly unique device is its splash-proof exterior. You can use it in the rain, at the beach, while you’re skiing, or when you’re sitting poolside without worrying about destroying the electronic components inside. The SBH52 has a powerful rechargeable battery as well. It supports up to 383 hours of standby time or 8.1 hours of headset talk time. If you’re using the handset and speaker to talk, it will only last for up to 4.8 hours. For added call clarity, the SBH52 is also HD Voice-ready, which means that it supports wideband audio.

Motorola

Motorola has been a major player in the cellular calling world for a long time. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in your circle of friends that hasn’t—at some point in time—owned a Motorola cell phone. With this level of saturation in the cellular market, it makes perfect sense that the company would extend their reach to include mobile Bluetooth headsets.

The most budget-friendly Motorola model in this article is their HX550 Bluetooth Headset. It features Bluetooth 3.0 and it supports A2DP audio streaming for listening to music. The flip-style headset makes it easy to answer or end calls and the built-in rechargeable battery lasts for up to nine hours when talking or 16 hours in standby mode. The feature that I really like about the HX550 is its flexible design. You can wear it three different ways, which means even the most particular customer should be able to use this model comfortably. It can be worn on your ear with a hook, in your ear with a hook, or in your ear without a hook.

The HX550 also works with the Android-specific Motorola MotoSpeak app, which is an excellent and very useful application. It allows you to send hands-free texts by speaking into the headset. Obviously, this is convenient, but I'd bet it has already saved lives too. If you are the parent of a teenage boy or girl, hands-free texting capabilities should be near or at the top of your wish list. For further hands-free support, the HX550 provides automatic volume adjustment as well. Plus, it features echo-cancellation technology and it has an extended range of up to 300+ feet. You can also keep it paired with two devices simultaneously and integrated CrystalTalk noise reduction technology eliminates background noise so that the person on the other end can hear you more clearly. Parents—I’m talking to you.

The other two Motorola options I wanted to include are the Elite Sliver and Elite Flip Bluetooth headsets. Both of these headsets support Bluetooth 3.0, A2DP audio streaming for music, and NFC one-touch pairing technology. They also feature a 300-foot-plus extended wireless connectivity range and they both work with the Android-based MotoSpeak app for hands-free texting. These models provide CrystalTalk noise reduction and echo cancellation as well.

The physical design is what sets these two models apart. The Elite Flip is similar to the HX550 in that it affords three unique ways to wear the headset. You can wear it on-ear with the hook, in-ear with the hook, or in-ear without the hook. The Elite Sliver features a comfortable over-the-ear design that hides the bulk of the headset behind your ear and leaves just a stylish sliver of metal visible. It provides a more discreet look and it also includes a portable carrying case with a built-in battery for charging while you’re on the go. The case’s rechargeable battery provides an additional 15 hours of talk time

Bose®

Since the company’s inception in the 1960s, Bose has become a beacon of innovation. If you have an affinity for their unique speaker designs and sound-enhancing technology, then you’ll definitely appreciate the stylish and highly-functional Bluetooth Headset Series 2, which is available for either your right or left ear. Like the other premium headsets in this article, the Series 2 supports the A2DP Bluetooth protocol for streaming music and other media when you’re not getting a call.

This premium headset features a dual-microphone system that supports ultra-clear voice transmission. The first microphone detects your voice and then uses noise-canceling technology to block out unwanted background noise. The second microphone detects the wind and then works to acoustically reduce any disturbing wind noise. For additional call clarity, the Series 2 also employs an advanced volume-control function that automatically adjusts the headset volume, depending on the level of ambient noise around you.

The Series 2 comes with three sizes of comfortable StayHear ear tips and a carrying case. It also features a built-in rechargeable battery that supports up to 4.5 hours of talk time or 100 hours of standby time. And for added convenience, you can charge the headset’s battery via the USB port on your computer or from a standard wall outlet.

Although this isn’t the most extensive list of mobile Bluetooth headsets, it does include some of the most popular and feature-packed models available. It also provides a good variety of options that should give a clear picture of the different types and styles of headsets out there, and should provide you with a good starting point for further investigation.

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I'm waiting for a design specifically made for people who have to wear a hearing aid, i.e. the output is sent via a tele-coil transmitter *instead* of a speaker.

I only have one usable ear, and need to wear a powerful H/A in it, so a normal headset which sends its output directly into the ear canal is useless for me.

Not to mention the problem of having an H/A, plus wearing glasses, plus finding room to wear a headset - all on the same ear!

Kiwi

Glad some one else is looking for the same technology as i . Let's hope that some one comes up with what we need.SOON

Dear readers,

Thank you for your helpful input. We recently shared your comments with some of the leading manufacturers of mobile headsets, and we hope that products that fit your needs are developed soon. We’ll keep you posted on any progress in this field.

Exactly the same predicament here (hear :). I work in I.T. and in constant communication. The very best I have found is Motorola's H730 Bluetooth.Could only find on Amazon or ebay so I bought two in case I lost one. It is over not in the ear. The coverage area makes a huge difference in focusing the sound. It has adjustable volume besides control by device, no feedback on max volume, everyone says it is great clear sound with no wind or environmental noise. Only wish now is I dream the day I can stream my music through it and switch to call when needed. It has worked with several phones ghrough the years. Effortlessly switched devices. Droid, samsung S3,4, windows phone. Even worked with Skype through my iPad. I can't believe Motorola hasn't made a newer version specifically this style, over the ear. Now that more states have made hands free mandatory...baby boomers? Come on, that's not a big market? Maybe there's something in the pipeline ? Just my two cents.

Bose is not a "beacon of innovation" anymore than Microsoft is. Bose is a beacon of hype, pushy advertising, and warped specs.

In speakers, no brand is more overrated than Bose, by Bose. Audiophiles never own Bose speakers, unless they acquired some 901s and have the equalizer and 300 watts per channel to make them work reasonably well. Don't support this company!

I've owned a Bose Pas System (L1 Model 2) for over 3 years and 400 gigs: it's been excellent, and musicians are constantly raving about it and asking what it costs. Even audience members remark on it. Producers? They rave.

I've owned a Bose Surround Sound system for 10 years: the same one, with the 4 tiny speakers and a subwoofer. It's incredible. Movies, rock, classical - it is superb.

Everyone has their preferences, and I respect yours. I'm no audiophile, but I do know treble from bass and what a wooden cello or Tom Petty's electric guitar should should like through a sound system. It should sound live.

And it does. To my ears.