Aliph, maker of the popular Jawbone bluetooth headsets, has added a new product to its already impressive lineup: the Jawbone ICON. Aliph says the new headset is the "smartest, most comfortable, and smallest Jawbone ever created." After spending some time testing out the ICON, I'm inclined to think that the company is right.
The ICON's smarts come from the new software platform, called MyTalk, which lets you customize your headset. While the software platform is a definite bonus, it would be useless if the ICON headset didn't perform well. But the ICON performs better than just well: it offers very good audio quality and its noise cancellation feature is the best of any headset I've tested.
Attractive Design, Comfortable Fit
Jawbone headsets are known as much for their looks as they are for their performance, and the ICON is no exception. The ICON is a bit shorter but stubbier than past Jawbone headsets, but it's just as attractive. It's available in six "jewelry-like" designs with names like The Bombshell, The Hero, and The Thinker. The model I tested, The Catch, features two small, pearly-white squares on its face.
The ICON can be worn with or without an earhook; the package includes one earhook with two different sized earbuds that attach to it, as well as three different sized earbuds that can be used without the earhook. This wide selection really helps you arrive at a comfortable fit. I used the smallest earbud (no earhook) and found that the ICON fit very well. It stayed in place securely, and fit so comfortably I often forgot it was there.
While past Jawbones featured a button on the main face of the headset, the ICON goes another route: its main button is a small sliver on the top of the device. At first I was thought the button would be hard to locate, but once the headset was in my ear, I found that my finger seemed to gravitate to the button whenever I needed it.
That button serves multiple functions. It can be used to answer or end a call, redial a number, check battery life, to launch a DialApp, one of the applications that are part of the MyTalk software platform. (More about these apps in a bit.)
The ICON is lacking any volume buttons; Aliph says the headset's volume is adjusted automatically, and does not need to be reset on every call. I found myself wishing for more volume on many of my calls, though, and wished for a simple button to press to fix this.
The lack of volume was my only complaint about the ICON's audio quality; in every other aspect it was very good. I could hear callers clearly and vice versa. I noticed some occasional static on the line, which got worse when I wandered too far away from my phone. I experienced no dropped calls, though.
The ICON features an updated version of Aliph's NoiseAssassin background noise elimination technology, and the results are impressive. I stood directly next to a sink and turned the water up as high as it could go, and none of the noise came through on the other end of the line. My voice did occasionally crackle when background noise was being blocked, but callers were able to understand me the entire time.
The ICON gets even more interesting when you consider Aliph's MyTalk platform. It allows you to install an AudioApp and a DialApp on your headset. The AudioApps let you change the voice that speaks to you from your ICON headset, which tells you the caller ID and battery life. The six available voices have the same names as the different ICON designs (The Ace, The Bombshell, The Rogue, etc.) but any voice can be used on any ICON headset.
DialApps, meanwhile, let you use different voice features from your headset. The available DialApps are: Voice Dialing (if your phone supports it); Jott Assistant (which lets you compose Facebook and Twitter status updates, texts, and notes by voice); Directory Assistance (local 411 service); 1-800-FREE-411; and HandsFree Assistant, which lets you use your voice to text and e-mail.
You can view all available apps at mytalk.jawbone.com. You connect the ICON to your computer using the included USB cord, and highlight the apps you'd like to sync. Within a few minutes, your selected apps are loaded on to your ICON. You can only install one AudioApp and one DialApp at a time, but you can switch between the available apps as much as you'd like on your computer.
The software innovations don't stop there: the ICON also can display a battery meter on the screen of your iPhone. It sits right next to your iPhone battery meter, and offers an easy way to check your ICON's battery life at a glance.
The Jawbone ICON packs in more features than any other Bluetooth headset available today. It offers an innovative software platform, an attractive design, and excellent audio quality. And it does so for less than its predecessors: where previous Jawbone headsets cost as much as $130, the ICON lists for just $99.99.