The Jawbone series of bluetooth devices have been Aliph’s staple for over 3 years. Since this time Jawbones have been the industry standard for top-of-the-line noise cancellation bluetooth headsets, and Aliph isn’t showing any sign of stopping. The company’s latest offering is called the Jawbone Icon, and it certainly fits the name.
Jawbone headsets always launch to wondrous critical reviews, though I didn’t like any of the early models because they were uncomfortable and ugly, used a proprietary charger, and always had issues initiating Noise Assassin if the headset didn’t directly touch my cheek. So before I began using the Jawbone Icon I already had a negative outlook on what was to come.
Fortunately, Aliph listened to consumers that had the same feelings I did and used that feedback to come out with the Icon, a much improved bluetooth headset at an even lower price.
Design and Look of the Jawbone Icon
Where earlier Jawbone models were thin and long, the Icon went the opposite route by having a shorter and fatter look. The Icon isn’t too fat though — rather, it feels just right on my cheek and still fits firmly there.
Another significant change is that the front of the Icon is without buttons. With earlier versions the front buttons were used to adjust volume, power the headset on/off, and put the Jawbone in pairing mode. Instead, those buttons were transitioned to the top and back of the headset. The power on/off changed into a toggle switch on the back, and the Icon is automatically turned into pairing mode the very first time it’s turned on, allowing for easy connection to your mobile device. The only other button is found on the top of the Icon, which is responsible for answering and hanging up calls. As a bonus, pushing this button when not in a call will result in the headset telling you how much battery life is left.
Different styles are available for the Icon to fit different preferences. The unit I received is called the Ace, which is more of a youthful bling-bling style; The Thinker is a good style for anyone who prefers the leather look of all previous Jawbone headsets; in all, there are 6 different styles to choose from.
The Jawbone Icon also comes with an optional hook for additional support, as well as several earbuds of different sizes. This makes the Icon much more likely to be comfortable, no matter what size your ear is. If you’re like me and don’t like hooks, there are enough earbuds to try out so you use the Icon without need of a hook.
Another huge difference in overall design of the Icon is the charging port. My Jawbone experience in times past has been frustrated by the proprietary cradle that the Jawbone had to fit in, because they were difficult to find and even more difficult to allow Jawbones to charge correctly. Any time I tried to use one, I seemed to have some sort of problem charging them. The Icon, in contrast, uses a standard Micro USB charging port, much like most other new bluetooth headsets coming to market. Micro USB is quickly becoming the new standard and thus it is now very easy to find a replacement charger for it.
Features of the Jawbone Icon
The Jawbone Icon takes Noise Assassin and ups it to 2.5, which claims to offer even more exceptional filtering of background noise than its predecessor’s version 2.0. I found it easy to communicate with everyone I spoke with, and never had a complaint on the other end of not being able to hear me due to being in a loud room. I did, however, have a colleague who had the unfortunate experience of going into a restroom during a conference call, forgot to put his phone on mute and the Icon still picked up the “background” noise.
In addition to the newer version of Noise Assassin, the Icon also introduced voice recognition services. When a call comes in, you hear the phone number that is calling you; sadly it does not tell you the name of the person if in your address book. Still, this is a lot more than most bluetooth earpieces offer currently, so it is a step in the right direction. The Icon can also do voice dialing as long as your phone is capable of the service as well, but this is a feature that must be downloaded and added into the earpiece via the new MyTalk service that Aliph provides to Icon users.
MyTalk is akin to Google Market or the iPhone App Store; it offers a variety of different optional services that can be downloaded for free through the Jawbone Downloader software provided on the website. For instance, you can choose to use a Jott assistant, free directory assist, voice-to-text services, as well as a variety of different voices that can speak to you when that call comes in. Some of these optional services do require subscriptions (Jott, for one) so be careful and do your research before setting these services up on your Icon. MyTalk also offers 3 different languages as of this writing: Spanish, French and German. Since MyTalk is still technically in beta status, other services and languages can easily be added as time goes by. Not to mention future Jawbones will likely be able to utilize MyTalk and have perhaps even more features available.
One other neat feature involves the Icon’s interaction with the iPhone specifically. When paired and connected with an iPhone the Icon’s battery life appears on the top right part of the screen, as a battery meter that lies directly to the left of the iPhone’s own battery meter. I have never seen anybody else be able to do something like this on an Apple-sanctioned (read: not jailbroken) iPhone. I asked an Aliph representative about this and was told this is primarily due to Aliph’s good partnership with Apple, and that the two companies worked together to make this possible. No matter how it happened, I’m glad it did. Now I can easily see exactly when my Icon needs to be charged again.
Performance of the Icon
Which brings me to a very important point, that of the Icon’s battery life. When freshly charged my Icon has 4.5 hours talk time, and much more stand-by time. In my tests I was able to keep the Icon on stand-by for 6 days, even taking a short call or two each day. The Icon is rated for a full 10 days at stand-by. Once it does need to be charged, it’s easy enough to accomplish this with the Icon’s included USB-to-Micro USB adapter. I can plug it into my computer directly, or just into the included wall module.
As mentioned earlier, I rarely experienced any audio or noise issues when using the Icon. The only problem I had was when I first received the Icon; for the first day of use I experienced nothing but choppy calls in which the caller’s voice kept coming in and out rapidly. It was a rapid enough rate of choppiness that I could still understand most of what everyone was saying, but it was incredibly irritating nonetheless. But this seemed to go away after the first full charge, and I have not experienced this since. I assume it had some weird kinks that needed to be worked out with some additional use.
I enjoyed the size of the Icon. It wasn’t too long like the other models, and it wasn’t too short or small. I still felt like I had something attached to my ear. The multiple earbud size options allowed me to find a size that fit my ear rather comfortably, and I know this will be the same for anyone else trying out the Icon, regardless of ear size.
I loved the fact that the Icon tells me which phone number a call is coming in from, but got annoyed at the headset’s inability to tell me the caller’s name if it was somebody in my address book. This is simply due to me not having memorized every single phone number in my address book. How am I supposed to know exactly who is calling? This is something I sincerely hope Aliph improves in a firmware update or as an available download in MyTalk.
It’s also wonderful that the Icon is less expensive at $99 than each of its predecessors, even with the added features and functionality. This was a great move on Aliph’s part in order to make the Jawbone more affordable and get it into more ears.
I’m still using the Jawbone Icon. It may not be perfect and it has its few flaws, but it performs wonderfully and is my favorite of the Jawbone series thus far. It’s definitely worth checking out.
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