Saturday Nov 24, 2007

On Bluetooth Headsets

    I have really come to appreciate a bluetooth headset as an accessary for a cell phone. I detest not having both hands free to drive with, but find talking on a cell phone no more distracting than arguing with talk radio. Perhaps I should get rid of radio as well, but I'm not one to abdicate all responsibility just because something might happen. So I've always used a headset for my various cell phones when driving, but found the wired kind were too awkward for use when not driving, and often awkward when driving. They also would wear out every couple of months due to broken wires, so even replacing them with the cheapest I could find was costing money and a regular effort. I thought that maybe a wireless headset might resolve that problem. I started with a Motorola HS850 I bought from eBay, used with my old Nokia 6130i, and found it not quite what I was hoping. It seemed to lack oomph, and was a bit flaky. After it ended up on the wrong end of a bit of road rage, I tried a Motorla H700. I liked the folding boom concept, and I read that older models weren't great, but the newer B revs were. I ended up with a B rev, and found it much better. It was lighter, and I found it so comfortable that I would wear it all day and forget I had it on.

    I enjoyed it for close to a year, and then a month or so ago, it started acting up. It would drop it's connection to the phone at random times, and sometimes reconnect right away. It started to refuse to connect, which got really annoying just before a long con call. Googling the web for how to reset turned up repeated suggestions that plugging it into it's charger for less than 5 seconds was supposed to reset it. Sounds like an odd way to reset particularly when it seems like a not unlikely thing to happen by accident. Anyway, it did not seem to help my situation any. I tried deleting the pairing from the phone, but got exceedingly frustrated trying to get the headset in pairing mode. Even when I did manage to get them paired again, it still acted flaky. I thought a power removal reset was my last hope, but since it has a built in rechargeable battery, that was not going to be easy. I decided to try leaving it on until it ran out, and then, as if to taunt me, it worked without any problems for 4 days before it finally ran out o juice. Made for some interesting explanations, as I started a day or 2 before I went camping at a state park with some friends, and ended up with it on most of the trip.

    A full recharge later, and it still wasn't better, so that's when I started researching for a new headset. I also decided to try taking it apart, which didn't seem easy, but here is the result. After carefully putting it together again, being careful in replacing the little rubber piece which acts as the switch for the boom, it seemed to be it's old self again and worked flawlessly for a week. Then, I took it off to go play basketball at lunch, and when I came back it didn't want to connect with my phone anymore. Meanwhile, my research had me leaning towards a Jabra headset. I didn't want to pay as much as a Jawbone would cost, despite it's high praise, and I wanted to get it at a local store like Best Buy, so I could try it for comfort before completely committing to it. While the Jabra BT250 got good reviews, I was concerned about the form factor. I was convinced that fit and comfort where likely to be the most important aspects of a new bluetooth headset, as I expected the quality level to be closer than the previous models I had used. I scoped out the Best buy website, as I didn't want to spend a lot on a new headset either, being the cheapy I am, and spotted the Jabra BT5010, which also seemed to get good ratings and looked cooler and hopefully more comfortable than the BT250. Since I am seriously 'addicted' to the ease of use of my bluetooth headset, I didn't waste much time toodling off to my near by Best Buy.

    Although it looked like a good size store to me, the selection did not include the Jabra BT5010, which the sales clerk said was because they were a smaller store. I didn't want to leave without a replacement headset, so I reluctantly decided to try the Jabra BT250. I got it home, carefully opened the package, since I wanted to return it if it was uncomfortable, and set it to charging. I did try it for a few days, and while it worked well, with particularly strong sound if you got an ear tip that fit snugly in your ear, it was just too darn uncomfortable. I always knew it was there, and it started to get annoyingly painful after an hour or so. A couple of days later I found myself in the Framingham area, so I stopped in to the Best Buy in Shopper's World. Sure enough, they had the Jabra BT5010, so I bought one and brought it home to try. Charged it over night, again being careful of the packaging, and gave it a try. OK, it was more comfortable than the BT250, but still not quite as comfortable as the H700. I could go most of the day before it started to be annoying.

    Perhaps I was too used to the H700, but I found the BT5010 took a bit of getting used to. It has a sliding boom microphone, which is one of the features I liked when I saw it, as I thought that would help me sound better when speaking. Unfortunately, if the boom mic slides back up even a little bit, it disconnects the call. I lost count of how many times I had to apologize for dropping a call due to that, from sneezes, moving my head while my hand was near, scratching, coat collar, etc. Also, since it has a moldable ear hook, I was often trying to get it snug, and being unused to the button at the top for disconnecting calls, would again end up dropping a call when trying to push the headset on tighter. The sliding boom picks up and drops calls, but does not power it off like the folding boom on the H700. To turn it off and on, there is a tiny button on the back, which is hard to push when you put the headset on your ear and then remember it isn't on. Heck, it's not that easy to push even when it's off your ear. It functioned OK, but it still wasn't as easy to use or comfortable as the H700. It was more comfortable than the BT250, the the BT250 went back to Best Buy. Back to eBay.

    On eBay, I found H700s going for as low as $20-30 in auctions, although there where warnings in some about making sure you get an original. Not paying much heed, I successfully won an auction for an H700 for around $20 including shipping. I had the BT5010, so I wasn't in a rush, and when it came set about charging it fully. Even a cursory glance, having owned one for a while, I could see it didn't look quite right. I was sure it was a fake, but as long as it worked and was comfortable, I didn't really care. It did work fine, and although the ear hook was stiffer, I swapped it with the one from my original and was fine. Problem was, it only worked fully for a few days. Then I went looking and found the person I bought it from was de-listed from eBay. Bad sign. I tried emailing him. Bounce. Another bad sign. I was ready to give up when he actually replied to my email, and explained he was de-listed while they verified his business, and that he would be back on eBay shortly. He was willing to take it back, but I had been burned before on a low cost item where the shipping was more than the item, so I was hesitant that I would end up with pretty much nothing.

    I decide to try a more safe means of purchasing an H700, and found that Amazon, through a partner, was selling real ones for $40. The Amazon page had a guide from Motorola showing how to tell a fake from and original, further confirming the status of the one I got from eBay. I purchased one from Amazon, which turned out to be an original, and which I am happily using to this day. During my research, I saw hints that Motorola was stopping making the H700, so I will try to verify and get an extra or 2. When I get comfortable with something, I get cranky when it breaks or gets lost and I can't get a new one. :-) Besides, I may convince my wife to get one. She has already tried the BT5010, and wants to try the H700. She isn't as big a fan of headsets, but does see the benefit for con calls, which she is doing more of these days. BTW, it looks like what killed my first H700, and partially killed my second, was a suspect wallwart. Don't know if it is a fake or not, as it looks real, but I made the connection after the fake H700 started having problems, and I remembered that sometimes my RAZR showed fully charged but seemed to wear down quicker than usual. Further testing confirmed that one of my Motorola USB chargers was not providing proper charge. Interestingly enough, the one that came with the fake didn't even work at all. Should I get a spare from eBay? \^_\^
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A place where Perley Mears sounds off on topics relevant to his work at Oracle.

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