Jabra Stone Bluetooth earpiece comes with charging buddy; it needs it

At first glance, the Jabra Stone doesn't appear to be anything other than an everyday Bluetooth earpiece, albeit a mildly sleeker-than-usual one. The sleek part hits you when your see that the curve of the earpiece is integrated into the pebble-like charging dock — when they're together, it's like a single unit. Getting the damn thing out of the pebble is kind of a challenge, but the effect is pretty cool.

That pebble is more than a charging dock, though. It's also a battery, capable of holding another four three complete charges for the earpiece. Now when your earpiece runs out of juice, you can just slap it back into the pebble, not bothering to search for the power cable. I've been using a Stone that Jabra dropped off for us last Thursday, and so far I've only needed to actually plug it into a wall outlet once. Nice, but it's got some issues, too.

For one, those charges don't last super-long. I don't have an exact minute count, but after a couple of long conversations and a little music streaming (the Stone is A2DP-capable), the earpiece would crap out, not even giving me the customary power-loss beep. I've used a lot of Bluetooth earpieces and headphones, and I feel confident saying the battery life — on the earpiece anyway — isn't very good. It's rated at eight hours, but it's not clear if that's counting the four extra charges in the pebble. Regardless, being able to easily carry around the pebble mitigates the problem somewhat.

The design, while sleek, isn't perfect either. The Stone lacks any kind of "boom" extending toward the mouth; instead it opts for a pair of in-line microphones and some noise-reduction algorithms. That makes it tiny (and easy to hide if you have long hair), but it loses one of the benefits of boom mikes — keeping the earpiece stable against your face. Maybe I have big ears (OK, I totally have big ears), but I found that I had to often hang on to the Stone to keep it flying off my face. That the earhook isn't malleable at all doesn't help either. Finally, the shape is fixed, so you can wear it on your right ear only.

The lower part of the earpiece holds the only button, for taking and making calls. You adjust volume by touching the surface and sliding your finger up or down. It all sounds easy… in theory. In practice, the volume controls are a little sluggish, and I couldn't get the button to work the way I wanted. I probably just need more time to get used to the controls, but having real buttons would help, too. I'm just saying.

Call quality was nothing more than typical Bluetooth. My conversation partners always said I sounded further away when talking through the Stone. Using just the phone's mike, my voice was noticeably clearer. It was about the same from my end.

By far the best thing about the Jabra Stone, however, is that it pairs to other Bluetooth devices very easily, as long as they adhere to the Bluetooth 2.1 spec. No codes, no secret moves with the button pushing — just a couple of clicks on your phone and you're done. That's a welcome change from the norm.

Is the convenience enough to make me want to use it? Not so much. Even when you take into account the extra battery life bestowed by the pebble charger, it doesn't really perform better than other earpieces, and the design, while sleek, can be annoying (seriously, getting the thing out of the pebble charger is like an '80s brain teaser). Oh yeah, and it's a whopping $130 — quite a bit more than a lot of cellphones.

The hunt for the best Bluetooth earpiece is still on.