Today I will be reviewing the Aliph Jawbone Icon, courtesy of WirelessGround.com. Aliph, a California-based company, has been in the Bluetooth headset business since 2007, where it debuted the Jawbone I in an exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Quickly winning sweeping accolades at CES 2007, Jawbone became an instant hit in the cell phone world. Jawbone Icon, the newest headset from Aliph, maintains some of the same features as its predecessors that made the device so great, including their staple design form that wraps closely around the jaw-bone. In addition, the Icon, which is Jawbone’s fourth generation headset, includes a few innovations, including a shorter frame, NoiseAssassin technology, indicator LED moved to the device’s interior, A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) mono, various design choices, and a plethora of customizable options through their web-based service, MyTalk. With a retail price tag of $129.99-$159.99, let’s see if the Icon is worth a c-note plus.
Immediately, the box strikes you as a piece of artwork. Literally, the Jawbone Icon is displayed in a clear plastic case at the top of the packaging, propped up as if it was taken straight out of a museum exhibition. The boxing is made of a rough recycled paper, which is a nice change from that glossy paper used for most boxing. The box boasts a 10 hour standby battery life for the Icon, and up to 4.5 hours of talk time. We will just have to wait and see if this holds true. Upon opening the box, you will find 3 sets of rubber earbuds, of varying sizes, in addition to the one included on the Icon. You will also find a plastic earloop (you are able to wear the Jawbone Icon with or without the Earloop; it all depends on your preference). There are also a few informational booklets and quickstart guides to help setup your Icon with your favorite cell-phone. In addition, you will notice tags plugging their website (mytalk.jawbone.com) attached to some of the accessories. Keep note of it; it will come in handy later. Finally, included are a microUSB cable and an AC wall adapter.
The Jawbone Icon comes in a variety of colors (black, silver, and gold) and designs (Rogue, Thinker, Bombshell, etc). The Icon that I received, dubbed “the Thinker”, is jet-black with a stylish raised outer covering that resembles crocodile skin (note, there is no actual leather on this device; it is composed of 100% plastic). Because of its plastic composition, the Icon is incredibly lightweight (only 8.2 grams). At times, I would forget that I even had it attached to my ear. On the device’s underside, you will find the earpiece (speaker), an on/off switch, and a microphone enclosed by the Voice-Activated Sensor, which looks like a cone of rubber. Surrounding the microphone, you will find the status indicator, which blinks white when pairing and connecting, and red while charging. Attached to the earpiece is a rubberized earbud with a small loop that fits inside the ear. Atop the device, there is a microUSB port and the Talk button. The Talk button has multiple uses, including the initiation of hands-free Voice Dialing (not available for Android handsets at this time), status checks (XX Hours of Talktime Remaining), and volume control (initiated by holding the button while in-call or during A2DP). Overall, the design is impressive. The Icon is shorter and lighter than its predecessors, which makes for a comfortable experience wearing it throughout a full day. It is also rather sturdy, considering it is composed of plastic. When pressure is applied, however, there is a slight clicking noise arising from the gap between the two fused pieces of plastic. This doesn’t detract much from overall design, but I would take extra care in handling. Check out the other available designs in the picture at top.
MyTalk. The Heck is that?
As discussed earlier, the Jawbone Icon has Profile Support (v1.1). What does this mean to you? More customizability. There are three subcategories that can be customized: Audio App, Dial App, and Icon Software. You can only have one App of each subcategory installed at a time. The Audio app simply allows you to “personalize the voice” in your Icon. This voice will welcome you at startup, read the CallerID to you, and give you status/battery updates. There are six different English voices that can be chosen, from a sexy “bombshell” voice to an intellectual “thinker” voice. There are also German, French and Spanish voices available.
For Dial Apps, you also have multiple choices. The default Dial App is Voice Dialing, which will not work at all with any Android device, but will work with most other phones (including the iPhone). Other Dial Apps include the Hands Free Assistant and Jott Assistant, which in theory allow you to convey text messages and emails over Bluetooth. These Dial Apps require subscriptions with their services; they seem a bit gimmicky, and I would never use them. There are also “free” directory assistance (411) apps, if you’re interested in that; again, too gimmicky for my taste.
Finally, we have Icon Software, which will enable streaming music/radio via A2DP mono. By default, the Icon does not include A2DP software, because the capability was only recently released out of Beta. Therefore, it is important to enable A2DP via MyTalk before attempting to use the feature. Note, MyTalk is a web-based service that works in tandem with the installation package “Jawbone Updater,” which can be found on Jawbone’s website (MyTalk did not work on Firefox for me. I ended up using Internet Explorer, and it worked fine).
If that’s not enough, there are also advanced settings available, where you can toggle on/off A2DP, CallerID, and voice announcements. You can also manage recently connected phones, and change the behavior of holding down the In-Call Talk Button (volume or NoiseAssassin adjustment).
Call Quality, A2DP, and Battery Life:
Pairing and connecting the Icon to the Motorola Droid was a breeze. Just don’t forget to switch on the Jawbone Icon first! Reconnecting also worked well, for the most part. However, I ran into issues while trying to simultaneously pair a Motorola Droid and a Droid Incredible to the Icon. The Icon supports pairing up to eight devices, so I am unsure why there would be a problem here. This is not a big deal to me, but for those of you looking to utilize this feature, please note that it isn’t perfect.
Now to Voice Dialing, don’t expect the Icon to perform any miracles here. Voice Dialing simply is incompatible with all Android devices at this time, which is really disappointing. Specifically, holding down the Talk button initiates Voice Dialing on the Icon, but neither the Motorola Droid nor the Droid Incredible will recognize any voice inputs. Google, wake up, and fix BT Voice Dialing for us!
Aside from these complaints, the Icon excelled at everything one could expect from a top-of-the-line Bluetooth headset. CallerID, accepting calls, and having conversations were all a pleasure with the Jawbone Icon. Call quality was superb, and I experienced zero dropped calls. Volume adjustments worked perfectly, and the highest volume setting was more than loud enough for a busy office setting. The NoiseAssassin technology, combined with the VAS (Voice-Activated Sensor), seems to make a huge difference in noisy environments, where the call quality was as clear as in an empty room.
Now to test A2DP. Does the phone automatically enable this feature? Let’s see… Phone Audio and Media Audio Connected! Now we’re rolling...
I was able to stream Internet Radio for 4 hours 9 minutes non-stop before the battery ended up dying, which is fantastic for such a lightweight device. And to top it all off, there were ZERO audio drops. Audio streaming worked flawlessly for the duration of the Icon’s battery life. In addition, switching between streaming radio and calls (inbound and outgoing) was seamless. Side note: a full recharge took about 75 minutes.
The spec sheet states that the Jawbone Icon’s range is 30 feet, which is probably more dependent on the transmitting device (Motorola Droid, for example) than the Icon itself. In any event, the Icon had no issues receiving signals at upwards of 20 feet or more. As I approached a distance of 30 feet, the signal slowly got weaker and weaker, until the device disconnected permanently. To my dismay, the Motorola Droid continued streaming through the phone’s speakers, which caused for an embarrassing moment in the office. So a word of caution: make sure not to go out of range of your device if you want to prevent Lady Gaga from blasting at full volume for all to hear. Perhaps this is a limitation of Android itself, and there may be an app to prevent this from occurring. Let me know!
Side Note: The Jawbone Icon has an additional feature, only available for the IPhone, where it shows the battery status in the IPhone’s notification bar at top. This is not available for any other phones at this time.
Overall, the Jawbone Icon is an outstanding Bluetooth headset, with a beautiful form factor and superior audio quality. However, it will not perform miracles for you. If you’re looking for a simple Bluetooth headset, and are disinterested in frills like a sleek design, A2DP, and profile customizations, then I’d recommend something else. However, if you’re looking to stream music throughout the day, and in addition be able to seamlessly take calls, the Icon is for you. If you’re looking to add some hop to your step, but are very picky with your accessories, then the Jawbone is also for you. If you’re looking for hands-free Bluetooth Voice Dialing, then the Jawbone Icon may be for you, but Android certainly isn’t. Aliph, you hit it out of the park with this one!
I want to thank WirelessGround.com for providing me with the Jawbone Icon to review today. They are currently selling the Icon for $99.95 with free shipping anywhere in the US! WirelessGround is your one-stop shop for cell phone accessories. Everything from cases and chargers to batteries and Bluetooth headsets, you can find it all on Wirelessground.com. As a top seller on Yahoo, their prices are competitive, they ship quickly, and their customer service is top-notch.
Link to WirelessGround's Jawbone Icon "The Thinker" here