A Pebble In Your Pocket: The Jabra STONE Bluetooth Headset Reviewed
Product Category: Bluetooth Headeset
Where to Buy: Expansys [Affiliate]
System Requirements: Bluetooth Headset Profile 1.1, Handsfree Profile 1.5, Right Ear
Specifications: 10 meter operational range; Pairing with up to 8 devices, 2 simultaneously; 2 hours talk time, 8 with charger; headset weighs 7 grams, charger weighs 26 grams; Charges through MicroUSB.
- Small & Stylish;
- Charges while in STONE portable charging unit;
- Charges through MicroUSB.
- Those missing a right ear need not apply;
- Slightly tinny & lackluster sound when streaming audio;
- Price is on the high side.
Summary: I've been a Jabra user for many years, and with my older headset beginning to show its age, I wondered if the small STONE could suffice for this large man. What I found was much more than I was expecting, with only a few "gotchas". Read on to hear more!
It's All In Presentation
So, previously all of the Jabra products I've used have shipped in very nondescript packaging that was ripped open, discarded, and never thought of again. The STONE, however, was a clear exception. The following pictures speak to the unboxing experience, and as a picture is worth 1000 words, I'll give you the equivalent of 7000 words on this page!
Figure 1: The Jabra STONE arrives in a hard plastic cylinder, prominently displayed.
Figure 2: The top of the cylinder, headset and STONE charger.
Figure 3: Helpful opening instructions which really did work without any force, the paper is designed to rip and open into two halves easily. All of the plastic snaps together and can be disassembled with only a bit of effort (once one sees where to twist). The packaging is nice enough that once the Jabra is done with its "primary" life, it'll look very nice on the shelf as the "spare" headset.
Figure 4: The headset. The hook fits nicely around the back of the ear, and the ear piece fits within the ear, creating a very small profile when worn.
Figure 5: The back of the headset, and speaker grille.
Figure 6: The STONE charger that the headset charges in while both connected to MicroUSB and while standing alone in a pocket or bag. MicroUSB! No proprietary charging cable needed!!!
Once I freed the headset from its plastic prison, and took a few shots of it above, I compared it to the Jabra BT8010, my previous headset for the past 3 years. As you can see, the STONE is quite a bit smaller than the BT8010.
Figure 7: The Jabra STONE on the left, the Jabra BT8010 on the right.
So it's no surprise to say that it looks nice and small, and even in its STONE charger is not even remotely bulky to carry. But how does it work?
The Jabra STONE has a number of interesting features. Below I've listed them and what I noticed or thought of them:
- "Talk time up to 8 hours (2 hours in headset and 6 additional hours in the portable charging unit)" Been using it all week and haven't had to charge it again. The portable charging unit really shines as a great example of innovation. It could eliminate the need to take a charger on short trips entirely. However, since Jabra has finally gone with a standard charger (MicroUSB) rather than proprietary, that's a moot point too!
- "Dual Microphone solution for Noise BlackoutTM Extreme" I've used phones with dual microphones to blackout background noise before and had good results. However, in my tests the people at the other end of my calls didn't seem to notice any difference between this headset and others I've used. Granted, I suppose I might not have found the noisiest background for testing.
- "Noise dependent volume control* (Volume is adjusted automatically when you enter a noisy environment)" and "Automatic volume adjustment on received audio (Volume is adjusted automatically if incoming voice is too low)" I had no problem hearing others, only having to adjust the volume manually a few times (and then mostly when switching from audio to phone). The volume slider, by the way, is a nice feature - simply slide your finger up and down the body to raise or lower the volume.
- "Audio shock protection" I literally have no idea what this means.
As a Phone Headset
The STONE does away with some of the more familiar aspects of Bluetooth headsets (such as visible buttons and the need to turn it on or off), however it performs about the same as any other Bluetooth headset I've used. The sound quality in a phone call, both on my end and on theirs, was adequate, however despite its advertised superior sound quality, I've yet to be in an environment that it really comes through in. I don't doubt it's functional, I just rarely find myself using the phone in an extremely noisy environment where the filtering would be essential.
The best improvement over my old Jabra was simply the size - the STONE fits nicely and fairly discretely in the ear and can easily be stowed without fear of the hook falling off (a frequent problem with the BT8010s). The STONE charger includes a clip that can easily and securely clip it onto a bag strap or belt, allowing you to take it off your ear and place it in the charger in one motion, from ear to waist. The portability of the STONE charger, and its ability to keep the headset in a "deep sleep" mode such that the headset is charging yet ready for the next phone call, is definitely the headset's most enduring and innovative feature. The clip on the back, which you can remove if you like, is also deep enough that it felt secure on a bag strap (I normally wear my gear bag slung across my chest). As I moved throughout NYC I didn't feel as though I was one step away from it falling off!
Oh, and remember how I said you don't have to worry about the hook falling off like it did on earlier Jabras? Well that's because this headset is Right Ear Only. If you're missing a right ear, or simply one of the 15% of the population that is left handed, you may want to consider that before purchasing. I applaud Jabra for realizing that ambi-ear designs can be prone to challenges (hooks falling off, ear pieces that need readjustment) and choosing to create a sleek unibody style that favors the right ear - however others may not agree or feel comfortable with it.
As a Streaming Audio Headset
My previous headset, the BT8010, was rather innovative in that it supported A2DP and had 2 earpieces, the headset that was powered and used whenever taking a phone call, and an optional second speaker that attached via a wire that ran around the back of the neck. This allowed stereo sound through two powered speakers, which provided a truly great audio experience. On the STONE, the experience is less than stellar. The STONE does support A2DP, so you can stream audio to it (an experience that was very easy to set up on my Nexus One). However, the speaker's positioning and smaller size really make the music experience sub-par. If you're going to be using the headset 90% of the time for phone calls, 10% or less for music, then you won't mind it. However if you're on the flip side of that (which I am on certain days), it can be irritating.
The Jabra STONE is a well designed and innovative headset from a maker with a long history of design excellence. However like its older siblings there are a few "gotchas" to be had. The A2DP support provides a lackluster experience, and some may not like its design which places the speaker nearly in the ear and not over it. Its small size, portable charger, and MicroUSB support distinguish it from others in its pack. For someone who uses it exclusively for phone calls in noisy environments, and is somewhat style conscious, it is a must have!
Jon Westfall is the News Editor of Windows Phone Thoughts, a member of the Thoughts Media network. He works in New York City as the Associate Director for Research & Technology at the Center for Decision Sciences, a part of Columbia Business School. He has been recognized as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Since 2008.
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Dr. Jon Westfall, MCSE, MS-MVP
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