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Review: Apple iPhone Bluetooth Headset

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Apple's first accessory for the iPhone is its minimalist Bluetooth headset. It's light, simple, and attractively designed, but also lacks features of comparably priced devices and fails to deliver the full potential of the iPhone.

In The Box

The headset costs $129, which is near the high end of comparable headsets. It also includes an iPhone dual dock that charges both the headset and the iPhone, and a separate USB docking cable that can be used to charge both from a single USB when traveling. It does not include another wall AC adapter. Apple charges $50 for an iPhone dock and $30 for an extra headset charging USB cable, so having both included in the headset's box and price makes the price seem fair as a package.

The box is identical to the iPhone's; it even presents the tiny black adapter in a similar clear plastic tray, as if it were sleeping beauty in a glass coffin waiting for its prince charming to activate it. Apple's presentation skills are getting so sophisticated that it's difficult to ever throw the packaging away.



Also inside the box are two iPod style ear piece covers and a thin user guide. The device itself is so simple that the manual is almost unnecessary. Simply plugging it into the dock with the iPhone pairs the two together and charges it up; everything else is managed by its one button on the headset itself:

Push the button to accept or end a call or
Push and hold the button until it beeps to decline a call.

Call Management

With a second call on hold, or when receiving a second call:



Push the button to hold the existing call and take the second call or
Push and hold the button until it beeps to drop the existing call and take the second call.

Power Management

To turn the device on, push and hold the button until three rising tones play and the LED blinks green.
To turn the device off, push and hold the button until three falling tones play and the LED blinks amber.
While on, pushing the button will play a tone and the LED will blink green to indicate that it's on.



When placed in the dock, the amber LED on the headset flashes while charging, then turns solid green when fully charged. The headset only fits into the dock one way, and snaps into place using a magnetic connection similar to the Mac Book's MagSafe plug.

The headset promises 5.5 hours of talk time or 72 hours of standby before needing a charge. The provided dock and cable indicate that it needs to be charged about as often as the iPhone. Some headsets offer considerably more battery life, but that also tends to make them larger and heavier. This headset is just 2" long and as thin as a carpenter's pencil.

The iPhone's Match

The headset's effortlessly simple charging and Bluetooth pairing makes the device well matched for the iPhone. In fact, while Apple includes instructions on how to manually pair it with other phones, it's obvious that it was designed expressly for iPhone users. Its large desktop dual dock is rather worthless without an iPhone, and its USB cable also cries out for attachment to the phone it was designated to pair with.

Apple doesn't have to worry about too many consumers wanting its Bluetooth adapter, as there are plenty of cheaper or more broadly featured devices that are widely available. Using it with another phone is a bit like using Apple's Mighty Mouse with a PC; sure you can, but nobody really has any good reason to do so.

It can be paired with a computer that supports standard Bluetooth headsets using the Hands Free Profile 1.5. The most obvious use outside the iPhone would be as a desktop iChat headset.



Apple's headset appears to be the black version of the iPod's white headphones: a subtle indication and perhaps fashion statement that you're using an Apple product. Unlike the iPod's inexpensive white earbuds, the Bluetooth headset costs too much to be bundled with every iPhone, making it an extra slightly bit more elitist. Unlike many other headsets, Apple's looks less like a Star Trek Borg disguise and more like a sophisticated and elegant business tool.

Sound Check

It's not just looks either. The solid form of the device works in either ear and acts as a directional mic to pick up sound very well; callers remarked that they could hear me as well or better then when talking directly into the iPhone. The earpiece was less ideal, with occasional interference and lower volume than I would prefer, particularly when in a noisy environment. Volume is adjusted from the iPhone; turning up the volume to the max only provided enough sound for a quiet room, and seemed to increase the amount of noise more than the actual signal.

Wireless range depends on a lot of factors, including interference from other radio sources such as a microwave oven, cordless phones, and 2.4 GHz WiFi networking. Apple says the headset has an operating range of "up to 33 feet," but the headset and the iPhone seemed to do poorly when separated by an obstruction of any kind, even when very close together. Simply putting the iPhone in my back pocket noticeably degraded the signal to the point where it was noisy, and I don't even have any bionic parts between my ear and my pelvis.



At less than a quarter of an ounce, the nearly weightless headset is at least as comfortable to wear as other earbud headphones, without the tugging wires. It seemed to prefer to occasionally rotate downward so that the mouth piece was pointed at my shoulder rather than my mouth, but it was virtually impossible to get it to fall out of my ear without physically bumping it.

Missing Features

Despite its minimal and sophisticated flat black appearance, Apple's headset doesn't do everything other headsets can. Many offer some sort of call redial feature, and some include fancy noise filtering features and a longer battery life. Apart from switching between calls, it doesn't offer any way to merge calls; any special call handling requires keeping the iPhone out and available. The adapter also doesn't add any new features to the iPhone, so there's no way to perform voice dialing, for example.

The most troubling problem for the Bluetooth adapter is that, while it's certainly serviceable as a phone headset, it ignores both the iPod and the 'breakthrough Internet device' that lurk within the iPhone. There's no way to listen to music or to live podcasts in Safari over the headset, meaning headset users have to restrict their use of the iPhone to simply being a phone, unless they play the iPhone's music through its built in speaker or through their vehicle's audio system. Otherwise, listening to music requires putting in earbuds and taking the headset out.



That makes the biggest consideration for potential buyers whether they feel wireless headset operation trumps listening to music. Ideally, Apple will release A2DP Bluetooth support for the iPhone and offer a stereo Bluetooth headset to match, delivering the best of both worlds. Until then, users will have to decide whether the iPhone's included earbuds -- with integrated mic and call accept button -- really need to be replaced with a Bluetooth headset.

The Wrap Up

Apple's Bluetooth Adapter is a well designed product that performs suitably as intended, but doesn't trade off any simplicity for some of the features in other Bluetooth headsets. Sound quality is very good for the remote caller but only fair to good for the user. Users attracted to Apple's attractive, minimalist, and easy to use designs shouldn't be disappointed, but it offers no real surprises in terms of features.

Rating: 3 of 5


Pros: Elegantly slim and very lightweight design.Comfortable to wear.Includes a dock and extra travel cable.Easy to set up and use.
Cons: Limited range and battery life.No fancy phone control features or redial.No iPhone audio support apart from phone calls.No voice dialing support.

For those interested, AppleInsider previously published an in-depth review of the Apple iPhone itself. AppleInsider also published a comparison review of the iPhone from the eyes of a former Blackberry 8700 user.
post #2 of 25
I so wanted to like this - but the flaws keep adding up.

The nail in the coffin is this
Quote:
Apple's headset appears to be the black version of the iPod's white headphones

It will be interesting to see if they can make some volume corrections with a firmware update. However, this still smacks of that 100$ iPod leather case introduced in early 2006, where its main selling point was that it was inscribed with 'iPod'. Noting special about it - other then it being "nice" as Steve Jobs put it.
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post #3 of 25
How do you know that it won't support Voice Dialing since the iPhone doesn't have a voice dialing feature?

If Apple adds voice dialing to the iPhone through a software update, how do you know that this feature won't be supported by the headset?
post #4 of 25
Poor inbound sound quality, and volume only suitable for a quiet room? For a bluetooth headset, one of the main uses is in places that will NOT be quiet (outdoors while walking, or in the car driving). I think that a "Good" rating doesn't really agree with your review. Take off a dot and you'll be a bit more on. It sounds like Apple did a pretty poor job on this one.
post #5 of 25
Mostly I'm dissapointed that it doesn't work seamlessly with a Zune.
post #6 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by pubguy View Post

How do you know that it won't support Voice Dialing since the iPhone doesn't have a voice dialing feature?

If Apple adds voice dialing to the iPhone through a software update, how do you know that this feature won't be supported by the headset?

How can the reviewer review a feature that hasn't even been announced?
post #7 of 25
I think it is a good idea that the headset only works with the phone. In many jurisdictions, such as Maryland, it is illegal to use a cell phone without a hands-free device while you are driving. However, it is also illegal to wear headphones while driving. That means that if you are driving, you can only use a headset with a single earbud. Since it can only have one earbud, it isn't good for listening to stereo music, so why add a feature that will just make users unhappy when they use it?
post #8 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Panu View Post

I think it is a good idea that the headset only works with the phone. In many jurisdictions, such as Maryland, it is illegal to use a cell phone without a hands-free device while you are driving. However, it is also illegal to wear headphones while driving. That means that if you are driving, you can only use a headset with a single earbud. Since it can only have one earbud, it isn't good for listening to stereo music, so why add a feature that will just make users unhappy when they use it?

Panu: Well, for one thing, I don't drive 23 hours each day... so having a stereo headset wouldn't be bad for those 23 hours ;-)
post #9 of 25
My Apple BT headset arrived Friday morning, so I had a weekend with it.

1) It certainly is stylish, sleek and great looking.

2) It sounds great... if you can get it to stay in your ear.

3) 30 foot range? How about 3 feet and your iPhone needs to be on the same side of your body. It works best if you hold your iPhone about 6 inches to a foot from the headset.

4) One size fits some.

4.1) It doesn't fall OUT of my ear, but it keeps shifting to a different position causing the volume and bass to drop considerably. If I rotate it (roll) 30 degrees, I can wedge it into my ear canal. Then it stays put, sounds great, and hurts a little. The foam cover helps, but not much.

5) Maybe this is just my ear, but when I get it in to stay, there's not enough clearance between the button and my ear to get my finger in to push the button... without dislodging the plug again.

6) I do like the way Apple has chosen the interface to work. Much superior to Treo. When you get an incoming call, if you press the headset button, it answers in the headset. If you slide the iPhone slider, it answers with the iphone speakers. The Treo ALWAYS goes to the headset (unless it doesn't)... which means if you left the headset in your car in the garage, if you click ANSWER on the Treo, the headset in the car picks up. Apple did good on this.

6) It sure does look good.

I think this is, unfortunately, another example of Apple's "form over function".

I've ordered some gel covers intended for apple ipod earbuds... I'll see if it helps with the fit.

JIm
post #10 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

At less than a quarter of an ounce, the nearly weightless headset is at least as comfortable to wear as other earbud headphones, without the tugging wires. It seemed to prefer to occasionally rotate downward so that the mouth piece was pointed at my shoulder rather than my mouth, but it was virtually impossible to get it to fall out of my ear without physically bumping it.

Most of the other similiar sized bluetooth headsets I've seen have a little strap which fits over the ear to prevent the device falling out. Despite what the review says I would be a little nervous that this thing would fall out without my noticing.
post #11 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Panu View Post

Since it can only have one earbud, it isn't good for listening to stereo music, so why add a feature that will just make users unhappy when they use it?

There are many things worth listening to other than stereo music . . . podcasts, internet radio, tv programs, etc. Right now you have to yank your earbuds whenever you get a call (or you can let one earbud hang loose), it would be nice if there were an automatic pause whenever you receive a call where the headset switches over to voice. I think this will definitely be remedied in the future, having to pull earbuds and put your headset in every time you get a call works against Apple's ease-of-use mantra, it makes the iPhone look awkward to use to a third-party observer.
post #12 of 25
It's difficult to justify this one. I too so much wanted it, but it has to do with the ear piece for me. There truly are different sizes of "ears" and Apple does not offer options for that. The Jawbone ( a very popular headset and one that often sells out at Apple stores), works great and there are various inserts to choose from. And it's actually cheaper and has great noise cancellation. Maybe Apple will pick up on that.
post #13 of 25
Too much eye candy, and not enough substance. Apple doesn't always hit their mark.
post #14 of 25
Just got the Apple Blue tooth earbud. Fedexed directly from China! - thats gotta cost a bundle. Amazing how Apple can do so many things so well and others so poorly. Poor range, low listening volume, basically uncomfortable and certainly not usable with any kind of physical activity. A disappointment. Look at Samsung or Nokia for better in ear devices.
post #15 of 25
Heh, I am just happy to read a serious Dilger review. Is he at his best with simpler products? Well done.
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post #16 of 25
Well after reading about it I decided to cancel my order.
post #17 of 25
Great headset...except it only works when it's in my shirt pocket. Today I had the phone in it's dock on my desk about two feet im front of me. Called a recorded weather report. Call was clear in the BT. Turned 90 degrees and got a lot of static. Turned my back to the desk and couldn't hear at all. Call again clear when I turned to face phone.

When I moved about 5 feet back, got 2 beeps and lost the bluetooth connection.

Unpaired the headset and connected with a Jawbone. Made the same call, went downstairs thru the dining room into the kitchen and returned with no loss of call quality.

Tried Apple BT again with wifi off--same result. Made a genius appt. The store had no headsets to exchange, so I returned it.

I'll try the Apple headset again, but the one I had was not ready for prime time.
post #18 of 25
I have been using my headset for a little over a week. I am not having all the issues that are being reported on here. The range for me has been over 8 feet (The phone rang in the car while I was filling up the car with gas). The sound quality was pretty good for as far away as I was.

The battery life has been ok. I have been using it a good bit, and have to charge it every day, but I did the same with my other bluetooth, so it is not that big of a deal. I do wish it had voice dialing. Hopefully in future software releases, I may get my wish.

As for listening to music, I can go either way. While driving, I would not want this option. I like using the bud while listening to music.

It's a good device. Not perfect, but is there any device out there that is flawless? I would give it a 4 out of 5 stars.
post #19 of 25
Just got mine in from China, too. Unfortunately it just dangles in my ear, before falling out if I move my head at all. .... and no way to adjust it - disappointing
post #20 of 25
I bought this headset and I must say, I really love it. Have had no problems whatsoever. It used to dangle in my ear, but someone on one of these boards suggested the Jabra Eargels work well and fix that. So, I ran to my local Radio Shack and bought them for $4.99. Put one on the headset and it's better than ever. If you're worried about the fit, try them. They worked for me and others.
post #21 of 25
I had the shirt pocket issue with my iPhone BT headset... had to take it back. It looks beautiful and the dual dock was great but the sheer fact I could barely hold a conversation while my phone was on my belt clip was ludicrous. I'd like to try a later revision tho. Hopefully they fix the range issue.
post #22 of 25
I think I made a blunder. I am not used to using headsets to begin with, but with driving restrictions getting tighter, I thought it might be good to get one, so I buy the Apple Bluetooth Headset for the iPHONE.

After digging it out of the box that is equally as large as the actual iPhone box, I managed to get everything set up. Everything was very slick. I loved the way it paired with the iPHONE. The charging display is great... I'm a sucker for UI.

Anyway, my first opportunity to use it came to me while driving. I had the earbud in my ear, it fit very comfortably and I really couldn't tell if it was in.

I proceed to call my fiancee to see if she wants to go out for dinner. She says yes... not noticing any difference in the voice quality or anything, but my window was up. My car doesn't have air conditioning (probably shoulda fixed that before getting the iPhone, but Seattle doesn't usually get that hot), so I roll my window down. NOW she says my voice is muffled. She can't understand what I'm saying.

The iPhone is sitting in the passenger seat next to me, so I figured it was a reception issue related to the distance away from my iPHONE, so I put the phone in my front pocket and she says the voice is better, but she can hear the wind from driving. I roll up the window and continue talking in my 90 degree car (not typical weather, so I'm not that upset). She says that's much better.

The next test is while I'm driving again, but a friend of mine calls me. This time, I can't hear him that well. It sounds like he is on a cheap cordless phone. There is just tons of static on the line. I pull the phone out of my front shirt pocket and switch the audio to the iPHONE and the sound is crystal clear.

Today I was trying to use it again and it was a similar situation.

Anybody else having rough times with the iPhone Bluetooth Headset?

I'm really not pleased, but maybe I'm doing something wrong. It seems like it should be able to work in close viscinity.

When I put the phone in my pocket, the headset is completely worthless.

Is it possible I got a GIMPY headset? Thinking about returning it and buying the clunky looking Jawbone.
post #23 of 25
I had mine for week before returning it. It would get static with my phone on my belt!!! Loved the design and the dock but it was horrible for quality. I have a WEP200 from Samsung that is really good but I want something different. Any suggestions?
post #24 of 25
Dear "iPod headphone company", or whatever it is that you are:

If you're going to spam forums with ad copy, you might take a minute to write something that isn't so transparently....... ad copy.

Like, "I got these and they're great, they really sound good, good reception, can't recommend them enough."

You know, normal English as human beings speak it. Just sayin'.

Also: get a new translator. "Next step I wanna to bought such a cool headphone though" isn't going to win too many people over.
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post #25 of 25
WiFi uses the same radio frequencies. What's the hold-up?

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