Jawbone Era - Shadowbox design
Ah my trusty Bluetooth headset. This is actually my third Aliph Jawbone headset. I had the Icon, then Era - Midnight (which was lost), and now Era - Shadowbox. The big thing I love about Aliph's headsets is the design and capabilities they give. The Era is longer than its predecessor, the Icon, and the design language is more art inspired than your traditional simple Bluetooth headset.
The Era comes with an earhook, multiple ear gels, and a charger. Beyond that, the strength of the headset lies in what it can do. The Era is the first Bluetooth headset with an accelerometer so you can use gestures to do things such as answer or reject calls. It also adds wideband audio (or HD audio). However, the really neat thing is the ability to sync the headset with Jawbone's website. Once you do that you'll have the option to change the announcer's voice, enter caller id information, and activate specific features like NoiseAssassin (a military grade noise reduction feature). The voices demand special attention since they're not just plain voices but highly unique sounding "characters". You can choose between gravely sounding buff dudes, flirty party girls, or even a mafioso crime boss and more. The site is also where you will update your firmware as well.
The Era gets about 5 hours talk time which is less than some of its contemporaries, but I don't hold it against it too much considering Bluetooth headsets have a somewhat limited practical usage. The headset also has an app for Android that allows you to put battery information into your notification bar and alter a couple more things with the headset. The only negative to this is the program's voice overrides your "character" voice. Bit of a bummer to say the least. The headset is also expensive when compared to other ones coming in at $120. However, there are often sales where you can find the headset as low as $40. Overall, it's an amazing piece of technology for someone who wants something a little different than the regular headsets out there.
Pros: Superb design, unique features like motion controls and HD audio, programmable voices, additional auxiliary program.
Cons: Expensive, battery life could be better, Jawbone app overrides programmed voice.
Final Grade: A-
Philips Fidelio AS140
My Nexus S finally gave up (somewhat). After screwing up the radio and damaging the IMEI number, my Nexus S decided it would no longer grab a cellular signal. However, everything else still worked. So what was I to do with it? Well, as luck would have it, I found this fun speaker dock/alarm clock at Target for $33.
Seen here, with the Nexus S coincidentally, the Fidelio dock isn't the most elegant thing I've ever seen, but it's not bad either. The dock comes with the option to connect to Bluetooth, 3.5 mm headset jack, FM radio, or just plain good old alarm clock. After turning the dock on, I quickly acclimated myself to the controls and synced my phone up with the dock.
I tested it playing a few songs which played flawlessly. The sound was more pushed towards the mid range with some moderate bass and somewhat subdued treble. The volume gets fairly loud, but not nearly as much as one might think based on the appearance of this dock. Overall, it's decent, but nothing to write home about which is a shame because I've had really good headphones and CD players from Philips in the past.
The big problems I have with this dock isn't the hardware itself, but the Fidelio app that you download from the Play Store. I frequently suffer issues with syncing, settings going bad, and other nonsensical things. I think a large part of this is the fact that the software hasn't been updated for Jelly Bean. This is a big problem with accessories like this. Often the companies release them and may provide a few updates before essentially dropping any support for them.
Overall, for the cost I paid, it's worth it. However, paying much more than that would not be. I chalk this up to the limited support and buggy program for it.
Pros: Many functions for the unit, decent sound.
Cons: Buggy program diminishes the usefulness of the unit.
Final Grade: B- (for the dock), D (for the program)
Seidio Charging Vault
Seidio has been a big part of my mobile life for at least three years now. I started buying them with my Nexus S, trying to find a solid, well-designed case. After several bad buys, I came across Seidio and have bought a Seidio case for every single Android phone thus far. So, naturally when I found out about this product, I was intrigued.
For a long time I carried several different portable batteries around with me in case I didn't have access to an electrical outlet. They tended to vary from 500 mAh to 4000 mAh. The reason I chose the Seidio Charging Vault was the fact that the charger functioned as an AC adapter as well as a portable battery. All of my other portable batteries required them to be charged separately (usually through my computer ports). With this charger, I get the best of both worlds, an AC adapter when I'm at work and a portable battery if I'm stuck in a situation that requires it. The battery is only 2200 mAh but it's large enough to supply a full charge to my cell phone. It also has two USB outlets to charge two things at once.
I'll be replacing it soon since the outlet is only 1 Amp and I need a charger with a 2 Amp output for my tablet. There's one from a company called NewTrent for $45 that's double the size of my current battery. The Seidio Charging Vault runs $50 for the version without cords. It's a little pricey, but for someone with just a cell phone, I think it's invaluable.
Pros: Functions as both an AC adapter and portable battery, compact size, two USB ports.
Cons: Lacks 2 Amp output, pretty expensive.
Final Grade: A-