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The Aliph Jawbone 2, also known as the 'New Jawbone' slightly improves on its predecessor's design and possibly performance.

It is lighter and slimmer, and with longer standby battery life (but shorter talk time).

 
 
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Aliph Jawbone 2 Bluetooth Headset review

Average sound quality,  average feature set, high price
 

The Jawbone 2 is slimmer and trimmer than Aliph's original Jawbone headset, and is available in black, gold and silver.

Part of our series on Bluetooth - more articles listed on the right.

 

 

This headset - variously known as the 'New Jawbone' or 'Jawbone 2' is generally an improvement on the original Jawbone headset, and keeps all the good features of the original while improving on some of its limitations.

The comfort issue remains its biggest weakness, but this is subjective and not all users report comfort problems, besides which, there's no real need to wear the headset in your ear when not actually on a phone call.

With a list price of $120, and a street price of about $56 - $75 on Amazon, this is a premium priced headset.  Its most distinctive feature is its noise cancelling.  If this is something you need, you'll probably pay the extra cost to get this headset, but if that is not an essential feature, you'll be happier with something like the fine performing and extraordinarily bargain priced Cardo S-800.

What you Get

Aliph's Jawbone 2 is attractively packaged in a clear plastic box, suspended in the middle, seemingly in mid-air, on a clear plastic post.

Inside the easy to open packet is the headset itself, a power charger brick and connecting cable (which doubles as a connection between a computer's USB port and the headset, a sheet with a lengthy set of safety information warnings in English and French, a Quickstart guide, also in both English and French, and a small box with three extra earloops and two extra earbuds (in addition to one of each already on the headset), giving you a variety of size options to make it possible to customize the fit of the headset to your ear.

There is no information on any warranty offered with the unit, but a visit to the manufacturer's website suggests the headset has a one year non-transferable warranty.

The unit can be found for prices ranging from $56 up to about $75 on Amazon (depending on it you want a retail or a bulk package and which color you choose) and doubtless elsewhere too.

Feature Chart

Use this information to quickly understand the capabilities of the unit and to compare with other units.
 

Feature                         Comment

Cost

List price ~ $120

Purchased from Amazon for $82, April 09
Available for sale on Amazon at prices from $56 - $75, May 09.


Ergonomics

Easy to put on and take off

More difficult than some, but better than the original Jawbone.

The Jawbone 2 needs to press lightly against the side of your face for the noise cancelling to work properly, and so there is a moderately tight fit between your ear and the ear loop, and not much space to fit your ear into the ear loop.

Easy to use the control buttons

Yet again, a headset that suffers from an unnecessarily difficult set of user controls and commands - made even more obtuse in this case because the two buttons are 'hidden' in the design of the headset - you don't even have any sort of visual clue as to where the buttons are or what they are for.

As such, perhaps this design deserves not just zero marks but actually minus marks.

Comfortable to wear

Not as comfortable as some, due to the need for a slight amount of tension/pressure that keeps the headset pressed against the side of your cheek.

It is probable that some experimentation with the different sizes of ear pieces and ear loops is needed to fully optimize the comfort.

Can you use with glasses

Yes, but the stitched leather ear loops are thicker than the wire ones and so make for a more crowded 'behind the ear' space when sharing that space with glasses.

Can use with either ear

Yes.

Securely mounted on ear

With the correct combination of ear piece and ear loop, yes.

How to carry

Another headset that has been designed with no thought as to how it can be carried when not on one's ear, and with a relatively fragile ear loop assembly.

Compatible with Nectar retractable and necklace style headset holders.

Weight

The unit weighs 0.3 ounces - this is a light weight and is less than half the weight of the original Jawbone.


Ease of Use

Commands intuitive and easy to remember

No.

The key thing to remember is how to turn the headset on and off - not as easy as it might sound with hidden buttons beneath the skin of the headset.

With a more restricted set of features than some other headsets, it is perhaps easy enough to remember only how to turn the headset on and off, and how to answer and end calls, doing everything else from the phone rather than from the headset.

Volume adjustable

Yes.  The unit will cycle through six different volume levels by repeated pushes of the button at the end of the unit.

How fast does it turn on

It takes about four seconds to turn on and about another second to synch with the phone.

Manual

Other than a Quick Start guide, there is no additional manual, either with the headset or available on Jawbone's website.

This is a surprising omission.

Support

There are some FAQs on Aliph's site, but this doesn't compensate for the lack of a more comprehensive manual.

Email support promises a 24 hr response time, and there is phone support - (877)254-7426 - available seven days a week, 15 hrs a day weekdays and 12 hrs a day weekends.

A test email support request got a response in 20 hrs, but it was a stupid and unhelpful response suggesting the person sending it either didn't read my problem or doesn't understand the product she supports.

Pairing password printed on device

No.

But like almost every other headset, it is 0000 so in an emergency you have a good chance of guessing what it is!


Features

Battery life

Over 4 hours of talk or 8 days (192 hours) of standby time claimed.

These timings are comparable to the earlier model Jawbone and are neither remarkably good nor bad compared to 'state of the art' in April 2009.

Talk time is a bit lower than some other units.

I always carry any Bluetooth headset switched off and only turn it on when I need to place or receive a call, so the long standby battery life is less relevant to me than the talk time battery life.

Low battery indicator/signal

The unit will flash red when the battery is getting low.

Battery type

Not specified, but some type of rechargeable lithium battery.

Replaceable battery?

No.

As with other headsets, the chances are by the time the battery has died, you'll probably have bought a new headset.

Battery charging method/time

Yet another headset with a nonstandard socket.  This headset has a very over-engineered connector that magnetically attaches to the charging cord.

The only mitigating point here is that at least the other end of the charge cable ends in a standard USB connector, so you do have the option of charging from a USB hub or computer.

A red light on the headset goes on while charging and changes to white when fully charged.

It takes about 35 minutes to charge the unit to an 80% charge, and 50 minutes for a full 100% charge.

Multi-voltage charger

Yes.

Charger weight/size

A small brick charger.

2.4 oz total for the charger and removable cable.

Other charging methods

None provided, but because the cable that has the charger-to-phone connection at one end terminates in a regular USB plug at the other end, you can connect the unit up to any regular 5V USB port or power supply.

How many pairings can be stored

Not stated, but apparently only one based on testing.

Headset and hands-free profiles?

Not stated but probably yes.

Audio profile for computers

No.

Bluetooth compatibility

Version 2.0, 1.1, 1.0

Power/range

33'/10m.

Effective range

The Jawbone2 had poorer range performance than other headsets.  It was good to 15', not so good to 20', and beyond 25' or with light obstructions failed.

The person at the other end of the conversation had better quality hearing me than I did hearing them in these tests.

The signal was also dependent on if the headset was on the side of my face pointing towards my phone or the other side.

All in all, not quite as good as other Bluetooth headsets, but okay if all you need is a 5' or so range between the phone on your desk and the headset in your ear.

Warranty

The warranty is a generous one year warranty, but offered to the original purchaser only.

Free return

Retailer policies will vary.

Noise cancelling/DSP

The Jawbone offers a sophisticated multi-layer approach to minimizing background noises and doing the best it can to ensure your voice is clearly heard at the other end, using both analog (multi-microphone) and digital signal processing techniques.

It also has another feature - it not only controls the sound signal that is sent to the person you're talking with, but it makes some modifications to the incoming side of the conversation to help that cut through any background noise too.

I can't provide a recording of how the incoming sound is changed, but here is a sample showing how the headset manages to send out a clear voice signal in a noisy environment.

As you listen to this sample, notice a couple of things.  Until the headset first heard my voice, it didn't know what to do with the background noise, so it was feeding through at a high level.  But when it heard my voice, it learned what to filter out and did so, and continued to do it any time I briefly paused.

Notice also how the tone of my voice changes.  This is because the Jawbone is modifying my voice as well as the background noise to get maximum clarity.

We had to do this test twice - the first time the Jawbone 2 didn't function well, perhaps due to not being firmly mounted on my cheek, and the soundclip above is the better of the two results.

Sound quality

Sound quality was disappointing, especially in view of it being such a large part of the Jawbone 2's claim to fame.  Sound level was low and muffled, and not as good as other units such as the Cardo S-800.

Here is a sample recording so you can hear the difference between talking through the Jawbone 2 and directly through an iPhone, in a quiet environment, and draw your own conclusions.


Capabilities

Turning on and off

This is not easy.

The instructions say to press the hidden main ('talk') control button for two seconds to turn the phone on or off, but several times I must have misjudged the duration of the 2 second press because the phone failed to turn on (or off - something that is harder to detect).

Auto connect

Yes.

Voice tag support

Supported (if also supported on the phone, of course).

You press the Noise Assassin button (the one hidden on the end of the phone) for two seconds to initiate this mode.

Last number redial

Yes.

Press the Noise Assassin button three times.

Transfer call to/from phone

Not known.

Call waiting/Three way calling

You can answer a waiting call while on a call by briefly pressing the Talk button.

Call reject

Yes.

Press the 'other' button (the 'Noise Assassin' one on the end of the headset).

Call answer/end

Yes.

If the unit is already on, a short press of the main button will answer an incoming call.

To end a call, a short press of the control button is again needed.

The unit signals incoming calls with a quiet tune which you'd only hear if the unit was in your ear, so you probably need to rely on hearing the phone handset's ring.

Mute

No.

Other Features

You can turn the Jawbone's noise cancelling feature on and off by pressing the Noise Assassin button for two seconds while in a call, but you'll probably never want to do this.

No other special features.


Subjective

Attractive design

Yes, at least to my taste.  Subdued and discreet, not too flashy.  Available in three colors (black, silver and gold).

Flashing indicators on standby

Yes, a white light flashes once every six or seven or so seconds while the unit is on standby.

This can be switched off.

There is no flashing indicator however for when you are on a call.

Size

The unit measures about 2.3" x 0.5" and is 0.5" thick, with the earpiece protruding out another 0.5".

The earloop increases its size to about 2.9" x 1.6", with the same thickness.

The fragile earloop makes it difficult to carry in a pocket, although you can rotate the earloop in to sit against the body of the headset when not in use, which reduces its size and protects it somewhat.


Summary

This is a good headset, but not as excellent as we'd hoped it to be.

Visually and physically it is an improvement on the original Jawbone, but in terms of sound quality and noise filtering, it doesn't seem to perform any better at all.

With a list price of $120 and currently available on Amazon for a price ranging from between about $56 - 75, it is more expensive than other headsets tested to date, and so unless you have a special need for its noise cancelling, you might want to consider a lower priced headset.

 

Using the Aliph Jawbone 2 Headset

Like its predecessor, the original Jawbone, this headset requires to be firmly mounted on your ear and pressing against your cheek for it to correctly sense when you are speaking and to learn how to separate your voice from other background noises.  But if you try and help the process by pressing on the headset, this actually makes things worse not better.

It is therefore important to choose the right combination of earpiece and ear loop so as to get a firm natural fit for best functionality, while hopefully not making the headset too uncomfortable to wear.

This makes it a little less 'idiot proof' in operation than other headsets, but when properly warn, it does a very good job of noise reduction.  On the other hand, a regular iPhone does almost as good a job of noise reduction.

I regularly found myself failing to turn the headset on or off, and 'got lost' a couple of times, having no idea what I'd done or what the headset was doing in response to my accidental button pushes.  It is not a user friendly headset at all.

It is considerably smaller than the earlier original Jawbone model, and discreetly stylish without being too gaudy or flashy.

Connecting with phones

Everything worked fine with no problems encountered.

Summary

The Jawbone 2 updates the design of the original Jawbone.  But what a shame that instead of updating the outward design of the phone, the manufacturer did not also reconsider their very hard to follow user interface, and make it easier for us to use the headset.

In terms of actual sound quality and noise cancelling, there's very little difference between the Jawbone and the Jawbone 2.

The Jawbone has a current (May 08) street price of about $56 - $75 through Amazon.  This puts it in the higher price bracket and is appreciably more expensive than other units that perform almost as well.

So - bottom line - the Jawbone 2 is twice the price of the other current best recommended high end headset (the Cardo S-800) and comparable to the BlueAnt Q1 (our current favorite).  Should you spend $60 for a Jawbone, choose the similarly priced BlueAnt Q1, or settle for the S-800 for $40 less?

To find out the answer to that question, we've provided a comparison page highlighting the differences between the Jawbone, Jawbone 2, the BlueAnt Q1 and the Cardo S-800.

Chances are you'll be happy with either choice, and if your work or life-style requires you to be able to carry out phone conversations in unusually noisy environments, you would probably find the extra cost of the Jawbone to be money well spent.

Recommended as a high end unit, but not as a good value unit.

 

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Originally published 8 May 2009, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 

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