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Bluetooth Headsets: A Buying Guide

Everything you need to know about buying a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone.

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Bluetooth is a wireless technology that allows two devices to talk to each other. It can be used to pair any number of gadgets, such as a keyboard and a computer, or a camera and a photo printer. One of the most common uses for Bluetooth, though, is to connect a wireless headset to your cell phone. These headsets are called "Bluetooth headsets" and allow you to use your phone hands-free, which can be safer and more convenient.

But not all Bluetooth headsets are created equal. Here's what you need to know before you buy one.

Get Your Bluetooth Gear

First, you'll need a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone or smartphone. Most of today's smartphones have Bluetooth capabilities, as do many cell phones, but you can check your phone's documentation if you're sure. You'll need to turn the phone's Bluetooth connection on in order to use it with a headset. This allows your phone to find and automatically connect to available headsets. Note, though, that using Bluetooth will drain your phone's battery much more quickly than when you have it turned off, so plan accordingly.

Then, you'll need a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone to pair with your phone. Bluetooth headsets come in two different types: mono (or monaural) and stereo. Mono Bluetooth headsets have one earpiece and a microphone, and typically work for calls only. A stereo Bluetooth headset (or headphones) has two earpieces, and will play music as well as broadcast calls. Some headsets will even broadcast the turn-by-turn directions announced from your smartphone's GPS app, if you have one.

Note: Not all cell phones that support Bluetooth include support for stereo Bluetooth, which is also called A2DP. If you're interested in listening to your tunes wirelessly, make sure your phone has this feature.

Find a Perfect Fit

When considering what Bluetooth headset to buy, keep in mind that not all headsets fit the same way. Mono Bluetooth headsets typically have an earbud that fits in your ear, and some also offer a loop or an earhook that slides over the back of your ear for a more secure fit. You may not like the feel--or the size--of the earhook, though, so consider trying headsets on before making a purchase. You also should look for a headset that offers a variety of earbuds and earhooks; this allows you to mix and match so you can find a comfortable fit.

Stereo Bluetooth headsets can be either in-ear earbuds that are connected with a wire or some sort of loop, or they can be more like typical headphone, with larger pads that sit over your ears. Again, you should look for a headset that fits comfortably, as not all styles work for all users.

If you're interested in a Bluetooth speakerphone, you don't have to worry about finding a comfortably fit. But you do have to worry about finding one that fits your environment. You can find speakerphones designed to work on a desk, which are a great fit for people who commonly use their cell phone at home or in an office. You also can find Bluetooth speakerphones for your car. These typically fit on your visor or dashboard and allow you to make hands-free calls while driving.

Whatever Bluetooth headset or speakerphone you pick, remember that these wireless devices run on batteries. So consider the vendor's stated battery life when making a purchase.

Get Connected

Once you've found your Bluetooth headset or speakerphone, the device should automatically pair with your cell phone or smartphone. But if you're looking for tips on how to connect, these tutorials can help you get started:

- How to Connect a Bluetooth Headset to an iPhone

- How to Connect a Bluetooth Headset to a Palm Pre

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