When many of our readers hear of the Jawbone brand they probably think of its small Jambox speaker or the Up and new UP 24 (expect a review of this one soon) fitness trackers. But Jawbone has ventured into the world of Bluetooth, hands-free headsets before and actually started out its life with a mission to shake up the voice-activated world of audio gadgets.
Today Jawbone takes one step further as it launches the new Era headset globally (it was available in the US earlier this year), which could well redefine the way we use and view headsets.
So what's the Era all about?
Shiny Shiny were invited along to an exclusive preview of the Era before its launch today to find out more about the tiny device and whether it can actually make wearing a hands-free gadget cool, as well as details about what Jawbone has up its sleeve over the next year or so.
We were shown the Era in its four different colours, bronze, silver, black and red, and you can get an indication of how tiny this thing is in the snaps where I hold it in my hand - yep, it's about half the size of my thumb and 42% smaller than its predecessor.
The Era has been designed to sync up with your mobile phone, allowing you to make and take calls, listen to any kind of audio and use voice command services like Siri and Google Now, which all means more time doing things and less time faffing around with your phone.
The device is packing small MEMS microphones (micro-electro-mechanical systems) that haven't been used in a Jawbone headset before, as well as custom DSP algorithms (digital signal processing), which adjust the loudness and work to deliver the best audio possible based on your surroundings.
When it comes to its audio capabilities, Jawbone has also rebuilt its Noise Assassin technology with the addition of wide-band audio. This tech employs algorithms for detecting all different kinds of speech, enabling the Era to distinguish it from background noise, providing you (and not to mention those you're talking to) with a much better experience.
It's designed to make life easier, so it's able to keep going for four hours and comes with an equally tiny charging device that houses a further six hours of talk time. You can also plug it into your computer to charge it up too.
Up until now these kinds of hands-free devices have had a bad rep and for many are synonymous with salesmen or pretentious banking guys. But with its tiny stature and attractive colours the Era actually looks very subtle, and dare I say it, pretty attractive for a headset.
But will any of us actually use it?
When we were shown the Era we were also shown a lot of different promo photos of how the Era could be used and there wasn't a dodgy-looking salesman in sight. So the question is, could regular people like me and you really start to us the Era on a daily basis?
Well, I've been trialling it for a week and I have to say I've put it to a lot of good use so far. I find it particularly handy when I'm marching to the office and want to listen to some music at the same time as staying tuned into the environment around me or catch up with friends and family by calling them and not having to worry about whether some London mugger is about to cycle past at high-speed and steal my phone.
It's also totally invaluable if you're cooking. I know, I know, how stereotypically female of me to bring up how useful it is in the kitchen. But I personally find cooking a little tedious on the best of days, so being able to mess around in the kitchen at the same time as make calls back home to my family is a godsend.
I'm not claiming I'm a hands-free headset convert, of course the novelty might wear off soon, but for now I definitely see the value in a small device that makes me less reliant on my phone, which gives me more freedom to do other things and makes me feel a little bit safer when I'm out and about.
- It makes me feel safer.
- It gives me an opportunity to get other things done - productivity win!
- It looks good (and for those who don't think it looks good, it at least looks tiny and very subtle).
- The audio quality is pretty exceptional for something so small.
- It can be charged with the on-the-go dock.
- It might just be a gimmick that I'll have forgotten about tomorrow.
- Some people might think it looks absolutely ridiculous (I'm still none the wiser after a week though).
- It's a little pricey at £109.
The Era is available from today for £109 in black, silver, bronze and red at Jawbone.com, Apple, Amazon and at Selfridges stores. You can get your hands on an Era for for £79, but that comes without the very handy charging case.