The dirty little secret to buying the perfect Bluetooth headset is that there is no “perfect” headset. Like most electronics, it’s a case of different strokes for different folks, but the salesperson probably won’t tell you that.
The trick to picking up the right Bluetooth headset for your needs is to first understand your needs. It’s more difficult than it sounds because your first reaction is probably, “I’m an average user with average needs.” A simple spreadsheet is actually all you need to figure this out. Before you buy the Bluetooth headset, analyse your daily phone call pattern for a week.
At the end of every day, go through your call log and write down when you took or placed the calls, the amount of time you spent talking on your phone, where you were, and what you were doing. By the end of the week, you will see a pattern emerge, such as finding out that you spend most of your time talking on the phone at your desk in the office or pacing around.
It should end up looking something like this:
With this data in hand, ask yourself these four simple questions to find out the right Bluetooth headset you should purchase.
Where Will I Be Using It?
In your chart, the ‘Place’ column lets you figure out the environment you are most likely to use your headset. Given the routine of our lives, chances are, you’re in a few places more often than others. So examine that column to see where your calls take place most often. Then, add up the total amount of time spent talking in your top three places.
If most of your conversational time is spent outdoors (commute, jogging, etc.), then you are likely to be in a noisy environment. In that case, you should look for a Bluetooth headset with a strong microphone with active noise cancellation. Headsets with two or three microphones are the way to go, because they dedicate one microphone to your voice and another to eliminate background noise using smart algorithms.
You can also look at headsets with bone conduction technology, which claim to eliminate background noise by eliminating microphones altogether. Instead, they pick up your voice from the vibrations in your skull as you talk.
What Will I Usually Do With It?
Bluetooth headsets come in all shapes and sizes. The ‘Activity’ column will indicate what you are most likely to be doing when talking on the phone. And that can help you figure out which the right fit for you.
If you are often moving around, then look for an in-ear headset with an ear hook, or something with silicone rubber tips. These manage to stay on your ear more securely than others. In fact, you can even wear some of them while jogging.
If you are mostly immobile while talking, then you can afford to look at models with just an ear hook or those that place a premium on style alone.
If you usually won’t be wearing it and need to quickly slip it on and off, then a simple pop-in in-ear headset will probably work best.
How Long Will I Talk On It?
As a general rule, battery life and size are directly proportional in Bluetooh headsets: the bigger the device, the longer it will last. Of course, the bulkier models don’t look as good. However, people will often overestimate how much they actually talk on the phone in a day and end up buying larger headsets than they need.
This is where the ‘Duration’ column of your chart comes into play. For each day, just add up amount of time spent talking. Once you have that figure, buying a Bluetooth headset is a whole lot easier.
Will I Listen To Music?
Most Bluetooth headsets are worn on one ear. But if you care about listening to music with it, you need a headset that fits over both ears and has “A2DP” (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) to transmit audio in stereo sound. Also, make sure your phone supports this too — most modern smartphones do.
Associating this with the earlier rules holds true. The bigger the device and weight, the longer the battery life. And in-ear, hook-style stereo headsets will stay on firmer than headband or behind-the-neck headsets with a supra-aural or circumaural design.
Also, make sure your headset has music playback keys.
A Few Things To Keep In Mind
- Most Bluetooth headsets have approximately the same range, so make that the last factor in your decision.
- If possible, look for a headset with a standard micro USB port. This will allow you to use your phone or tablet’s charger for the headset so you won’t have to carry an extra cable around with you. Even if your phone doesn’t use a micro USB cable (like the iPhone), chances are that you will easily find one around.
- Figure out whether the Bluetooth headset will need to connect with one or multiple devices. If it’s the latter, then choose a headset with multipoint connectivity to hook up the headphones to two devices simultaneously.
- Some Bluetooth headsets offer voice control, letting you place calls or answer them by issuing a voice command. It’s a nice gimmick to have and gives you a truly hands-free experience. If you are someone whose hands are always busy or messy, such as a chef or an artist, then these can make a lot of sense.
Models To Consider
All-rounder: Jawbone Era ($66.41)
This headset offers NoiseAssassin 3.0 noise and wind cancelling technology, along with HD audio, making it a fantastic headset to talk on. It also features innovative motion controls (shake to pair, double-tap to answer) and Jawbone’s MyTalk platform, which can read out emails, texts or battery life. And all of this at a price that doesn’t burn a hole through your wallet.
Great Microphone: Plantronics Voyager Legend ($78.75)
The Voyager Legend has three built-in microphones cancelling noise, wind and picking up your voice with a smart algorithm. It’s got a combination of smart sensors (hook the device into your ear to answer a call) and voice commands (say, “Answer” or “Ignore”). It talks too, reading out who’s calling or letting you know the battery status. And it comes with a nano-caoting to protect against moisture damage from rain, sweat or spills.
Great Audio Quality: Jabra MOTION ($121.93)
Like the Jawbone Era and Plantronics Voyager Legend, the Jabra MOTION too has noise and wind cancellation — but it does a better job of it, especially with its smart sensors that adjust sound based on ambient noise in your surroundings. Its motion sensors will detect when you pick it up, and go into power-saving mode when you place it on a table. But boy, that price tag is a bit high.
Stereo, On-The-Ear: MEElectronics Air-Fi Runaway AF32 ($61.88)
The Air-Fi Runaway is a stylish, geek-chic pair of headband-style headphones with a foldable design. The sound quality is fantastic and despite its size, it’s comfortable to wear for long durations. If there’s one complaint, it’s that the buttons are a bit unintuitive. Still, it works well for talking on the phone and delivers over 12 hours of continuous music playback.
Stereo, In-Ear: Plantronics BackBeat GO 2 ($99.99)
In-ear stereo earphones never deliver on battery; even the BackBeat Go 2 has only 4.5 hours of playback. But it does come with a recharging carry case, which extends the life up to 14.5 hours. The battery meter is displayed on iPhones and iPads, while you can get a widget for Android phones. And the tangle-free earphones are also nanocoated to be sweat-, rain- and spill-proof.
Great Battery: Plantronics M55 ($40.37)
The Energizer bunny of Bluetooth headsets, the Plantronics M55 claims up to 11 hours of talk-time, 16 days of standby time, and a new standby mode of 5 five months! These tall claims are the result of the built-in ‘DeepSleep’ technology, which smartly puts the phone in sleep mode when you aren’t using it. And apart from that, it’s a decent headset in terms of audio and voice quality.
Great Exercise/Sports: Denon AH-W150 Exercise Freak ($40.37)
The AH-W150 is meant to stay firmly in your ear when you are running, walking, lifting weights or doing yoga, and so features an in-ear design with an additional ear hook, supported by a flexible neckband. The earphones are sweat-proof, and the neckband has a reflector for safety on your evening runs. They’ll give you about 7 hours of usage on a single charge.
What’s your choice?
There is no dearth of great Bluetooth headsets available in the market and the above list is only a representation of some of your choices.
Did this guide help you in deciding which headset to buy? Are there any other tips and tricks you use when buying a Bluetooth headset? Which one did you finally pick?