Jawbone, the maker of the Jawbone headset, is launching a ground-breaking new Bluetooth headset today. It’s called Era, and it has built-in motion-sensing, high-definition audio quality, and multiple processors. The company (formerly Aliph) is also turning the Jawbone headset into a connected app platform whose features can be updated over time. It also provides caller identification by verbally telling you the name of who is calling you.
It’s one more smart device in an era that will see a deluge of them. The San Francisco company is betting that a high-end, luxury experience is something that headset customers will pay for. The new line is available today on Jawbone.com for $129, and at Apple Stores, AT&T and Best Buy stores on Jan. 23. That’s a pretty high price, considering that lots of headsets are priced as low as $13.
But Jawbone has always considered its headsets to be platforms for cool technology, said Travis Bogard, the company’s vice president of product management, in an interview. The tiny headset isn’t just a dumb gadget; it now has a somewhat-smart computer with two processors in it.
“It’s a recognition that mobile has become the center of our lives,” Bogard said.
So far, Jawbone’s high-end strategy has worked. It has launched multiple versions of its high-end headsets, (including the Jawbone Icon in early 2010), all of which feature an advanced processing system that detects the vibrations of your jawbone (hence the name) to figure out what you are saying and to provide more audible sound quality for you and the person you are calling.
I’ve used the Jawbone headsets and the quality of the calls is distinctly better than other headsets or no headset at all. The new Jawbone Era (pictured) is the first headset that also has MotionX motion-sensing technology. It has accelerometers, or tiny chip sensors, which can detect when you tap it or shake it. If you want to answer a call, you just tap the headset twice or push the button in the back. If you want to pair your headset so that it connects to your phone, you shake it four times. These actions are easier than remembering which button to push or hold.
“We’re taking wearable devices to an entirely new level,” said Jawbone chief executive and founder Hosain Rahman.
The MotionX technology comes from Fullpower, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based start-up created by entrepreneur Philippe Kahn, founder of Borland. Over time, more motion-sensing options will be added, Bogard said. The motion-sensing is designed to take the friction out of the experience of using a headset.
The Era has better sound quality as well, with a 25 percent larger wideband speaker. It’s so good you can listen to music, play games, or watch movies with it too, the company says. It builds on the company’s noise-cancellation technology, the military-grade NoiseAssassin 3.0, which deletes background noise from your calls and adjusts the volume to suit your surroundings.
Jawbone’s device has a multiprocessor design (provided by CSR) and serial flash memory as well. That paves the way for applications to run on the headset; it comes with the ability to communicate with the MyTalk platform, which you can configure on the web. One of the new apps is Caller ID, which can identify callers by name in a friendly, non-robotic voice. The cool thing is that it doesn’t just say the number; it actually says the name of the person by verbalizing the name you have associated with the phone number in your phone’s address book.
Jawbone Era also comes with the free voice communication service, Jawbone Thoughts, which lets you send voice messages to friends without typing or calling. It has the speed of text messaging, the group collaboration of email, and the rich intonation of voice, says Bogard. The Jawbone Era gets 5.5 hours of talk time. The Era is available in several designs: Shadowbox, Smokescreen, Midnight and Silver Lining. The older Jawbone Icon will sell for $99.