The Jawbone Era is out now for £79, or £109 with charging cradle
- Lightweight (6g)
- 10 hour battery
- NoiseAssassin 4.0 tech
- One-button operation
The Jawbone Era pitches itself as a new type of Bluetooth headset. One that you can use to talk to people with clarity, use your phone's voice assistant, listen to music in a pinch, and keep in your ear all day.
And also one that - let's face it, unlike every other Bluetooth headset ever made - doesn't make you look like a dork.
The Era definitely achieves one of those pretty well. At its most basic, this is a comfortable, easy-to-use Bluetooth headset which is light, secure and unobtrusive. The silicone-style ear fittings are well made and natural, and the unit itself is small and neat.
The Era connects easily to any modern smartphone, but works particularly well with top-end Android and iOS headsets where it can be used to access Siri and Google Now, as well as basic hands-free calling. That dramatically opens up what it can do, from answering questions on the web to reading out your appointments and text messages. It means that there really is a case for wearing it all day, and taking the time to customise how it works in all situations.
It's also presented nicely, and comes with a handy charging cradle which doubles up as a battery pack - meaning you really can rely on it for almost an entire day, if you're frugal with the battery. Plus the 'NoiseAssassin' tech inside helps keep the sound from calls nice and clear for those on the other line. We tested it riding a road bike on London's busy Embankment, and it was easy to use for quick calls at stop lights, despite the heavy traffic. The single button operation is easy to use, most of the time, and it has some other useful features like device location and auto dial-in to meetings.
All of which means that in all of the fundamental areas, it's hard to fault the Era - except perhaps on price, which at over £100 with the cradle seems high.
The downsides, though, are twofold. One is that both Siri and Google Now are not yet perfectly optimised for use with a Bluetooth headset, and the latter in particular struggles to make clear when exactly you should speak, what you can say, and what you can expect to get back. Unless you've studied the limitations and quirks of each system, you might find yourself just getting your phone out in frustration for everything but voice calls.
The other - most obvious - problem is that… this still looks like a Bluetooth headset. Yes, it's very small. (It's actually 42% smaller than the original Era released three years ago.) It looks good enough that in a perfect sci-fi version of the present no one would even notice you wearing it. But the reality is they do. We did get funny looks and office ridicule. You're still the guy wearing the Bluetooth thing and everyone knows it, and you know it, and that's reality.
Still, if you're okay with being that guy, this is probably the best Bluetooth headset on the market, as long as stereo sound isn't a requirement. If you're not, you might want to give society another year or so to come round to the idea that it's not just bankers and idiots who could benefit from having something this genuinely useful in their life.