The Bluetooth headset has become a staple in the toolboxes of many road warriors working on the go. When buying one of these wireless headsets, there are several basic specifications to consider, including comfort, operating range, features, sound quality, and compatibility.
Bluetooth is a wireless, short-range communications technology that replaces the cables connecting portable or stationary devices. Devices can connect whenever they are within range. They don’t have to be in line of sight with each other because they use a radio communications system. Aside from the convenience factor, Bluetooth is known for using low power and being fairly secure.
Bluetooth technology has been around for more than a decade, but the name Bluetooth originated long before its electronic counterpart. Danish King Harald Bluetooth ruled during the 10th century and was known for unifying the countries of Scandinavia for a brief amount of time. No doubt King Harald would have been baffled if presented with one of the devices carrying his namesake, but he may have understood the underlying concept. Bluetooth technology was created with the goal of uniting the computer and cellular industries, just as the Danish king united Scandinavia’s people (if only temporarily).
When choosing the best Bluetooth device for you, consider these basics:
- Comfort: Try on a couple headsets and decide which model is most comfortable. A lot of models rest against the ear, using ear loops; others mount inside the ear, and some even wrap around the neck.
- Talk time: Think about how you’ll be using the headset. For those who talk a lot without recharging, talk time is important. Most headsets provide at least four hours of talk time and some can be used for nine hours or more without being charged.
- Range: In general, Bluetooth headsets have a maximum operating range of 33 feet, which is ideal if you plan on taking it for a ride around the office and syncing with multiple devices. However, not all models can pair with more than one device. If you’ve got two cell phones or want to connect to your computer or stream music, find a model that can pair with at least two.
- Features: Common headset features include voice dialing, last number redial, call waiting, call reject, and volume control; and you should be able to find them in a low-priced model. Using a Bluetooth hub, some headsets can connect to your office phone as well as your cell phone, which makes keeping up with all your contacts simple. Voice control is another convenient feature, which is a lot more intuitive than traditional voice dialing. You control the headset via a set list of commands, and some even work on cell phones that don’t support voice dialing because some headsets have their own software.
- Sound: One of the biggest Bluetooth headset complaints is sound quality; unfortunately, many headsets have this problem. But it can be avoided as long as you set your sights higher than a $15 model. The key feature is noise cancellation technology, which differentiates between your voice and other sounds. Dual microphones are best for cutting out background noise, although high winds are still apt to make calls difficult. Even with more than one microphone, some headsets still fall short on audio quality, so it’s a good idea to look at customer reviews when shopping.
- Compatibility: Something to keep in mind as you decide which features you’ve got to have is that not all Bluetooth devices are compatible. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group has introduced various specification levels over the years, including Bluetooth 1.0 (a problematic first version), 1.1, 1.2, 2.0, 2.1, and most recently 3.0. Newer versions are backward-compatible, however, so most devices should sync up properly. Bluetooth 3.0, which was introduced in the first quarter of 2009, uses 802.11 as a high-speed transport. The technology will likely affect cameras, cell phones, and computers the most, but it’s anybody’s guess as to how it could be incorporated into Bluetooth headsets.
As for the future of Bluetooth headsets, you can expect even greater functionality. Keep an eye out for improved connection range (some are already reaching 100 meters) and sound quality.