I've been hunting for the best Bluetooth earpiece for some time. Most have some kind of deal-breaking flaw, or are just generally unremarkable. After using Aliph's Jawbone Icon for the past few weeks, however, I'm prepared to declare it the best wireless earpiece I've ever used.
A lot has been made of the Icon's new chip-based technology, and that it's the first earpiece capable of running apps, or at least something like them. Just head on over to Jawbone's MyTalk site, and soon you'll be trying stuff like voice dialing, dictation apps, checking Facebook (what the hell...?) and a host of other things you probably never imagined using your earpiece to do.
To all that, I say "meh." I don't get an earpiece to play Tetris. Everything about it should enhance it's solitary function: Letting me make hands-free phone calls. To that end, the Icon has lots of great features going for it. Here are the three that matter:
1. The Earhook
I freely admit, the biggest factor that has held me back from finding an ideal earpiece is the weird shape of my ears. When Jawbone came out with the Prime last year, I thought the bendy "tail" that jutted out from the rubber ear pad would finally solved the problem, keeping the earpiece firmly in my ear. And it did… for a few minutes, until I moved my head in way that would cause the tail to act like a spring and launch the earpiece away from my ear at high speed. Adding an earhook counteracts this inclination of the earpiece to jump off, aborting all launches.
But the Icon's isn't just any earhook. By attaching the hook to a ball joint that clamps on the earpiece, it has tons of flexibility. Not only will it fit almost anyone's ear, but it'll do so comfortably — the ball joint ensures it's never pressing too hard. It also means you can flip from left to right ear without detaching it.
2. The iPhone Battery Indicator
One cool thing the Icon's fancy chip makes possible is adding a battery indicator to your iPhone screen, continually reminding you of how much juice you've got left. Even cooler, it adds the indicator automatically. Nothing to launch, nothing to install — just pair and it shows up. Nice.
3. Verbal Feedback
If you've ever been unsure if your earpiece is paired or not, the Icon literally talks you through it. Hit the earpiece button (and thankfully there's only one), and it'll let you know if it's trying to connect to your phone. If it's already connected it'll tell you how much talk time is remaining on your current charge. No apps to install at all. You'll still need to check the manual for actual pairing, but that's easier than usual, thanks to Bluetooth 2.1 — no silly codes to punch in. In all, nice progress.