Every type of gizmo needs a luxury version -- something packed with over-the-top features that make cheaper products look paltry by comparison. Such is the Aliph Jawbone Icon, a Bluetooth headset the likes of which we've never seen before. Available in seven different designs, offering downloadable voices and noise-cancellation capability, the Icon is the kind of Bluetooth headset that Gordon Gekko would use. But luxury doesn't come cheap. At around £80, is the Icon really worth it?
The Icon is fairly guaranteed to turn heads -- if anyone can see it. At about 45mm long, and sporting a sultry, glossy black coating, it's likely that nobody would notice our review sample protruding from an ear.
If you use an iPhone in conjunction with the Icon, the latter's battery status will be displayed on your handset's screen. That's a welcome feature. As far as the Icon's battery life goes, expect to get around 4 to 5 hours of talk time from a full charge, and about a week's worth of standby time.
The Icon will spout pre-recorded phrases whenever you perform key actions such as rejecting a call or redialling. One of the Icon's oddest features is its ability to play new voices downloaded from the Jawbone Web site. From the alluring tones of the 'Bombshell' ('I'm on and ready to go') to the horrible French accent of the 'Rogue' ('I am ready for my assignment'), it's an unintentionally hilarious feature that's both completely pointless and plenty of fun.
Changing the voice involves plugging the Icon into your computer using the included USB adaptor, and downloading a small piece of software from the Jawbone site. It's all very simple and, while switching voices doesn't add much to the Icon's overall functionality, it's a great feature nevertheless.
Push the button
Atop the Icon, you'll find one big button, used for responding to calls, hanging up, or checking how much talk time you have left. Apart from a power switch on the Icon's body, this master button is the only interface you'll get.
As a result of this one-button system, using the Icon is simple, and there'll be no embarrassing fumbling as you blindly hunt for the call-answer button. On the other hand, the absence of volume keys is a definite downside. Aliph has included a volume-regulation feature whereby the Icon keeps sounds at a constant level, but, even so, we'd have liked a dedicated volume control, as calls made from the Icon sometimes sounded rather quiet to the recipient.
We were impressed with the Icon's noise-elimination capability, however. Aliph describes the Icon's NoiseAssassin technology as 'most lethal', which seems rather extreme, but it certainly does the job. We made a call from a particularly noisy building site, and found the recipient of the call had no problem hearing what we were saying, although we struggled to hear them. Bear in mind that you'll have to be careful to point the Icon towards your mouth if you want the best-possible signal.
The Icon comes with a range of earbuds -- three 'fit' earbuds that will hold the Icon in place in your ear, and four earbuds for use with the included ear loop. Annoyingly, the ear loop is quite flimsy, and won't stand up to knocks very well, which might rule out using the Icon while jogging, for example.
If you're looking for an affordable, basic Bluetooth headset, the Aliph Jawbone Icon probably isn't for you -- try the Jabra BT3010 on for size instead. If, however, you're willing to spend slightly more, and you get a kick out of owning luxury products, then the Icon's appearance, noise-cancellation capability and downloadable extras will deliver that thrill.
Edited by Charles Kloet