Today we will be reviewing the latest in a series of products from the house of Jabra: the exquisitely designed STONE. The name is intriguing but very well chosen for it's what the product looks like when cradled.
It's a Bluetooth headset without a protruding microphone boom. It looks fantastic but can it deliver where it counts: a good voice quality when there is no microphone picking up the sound where it should pick it up from namely the side of your mouth? There's only one way to find out: let's get STONED!
You've got to hand it to the PR companies -- in this case Primary Communication -- who sent out a big box to ship the diminutive Jabra STONE. When I was handed the box it was way too heavy for a simple Bluetooth headset! It made a bit of a rattling sound as if someone had filled it with rocks.... I wasn't too far from the mark: Primary Communication went all out on the STONE theme. Yes, those were stones in the box, a couple of dozen of smooth black-and-white stones! Also an issue of the latest Rolling Stones magazine, not my favourite read, but then again I'm of a somewhat older vintage, speaking of which they also included a nice bottle of Rufus Stone wine. Now we are talking!
Don't you love it when they are trying to bribe you? As if we here at DigitalReviews weren't already thoroughly biased in favour of Jabra products and we have reviewed quite a few of them in the past few years. Nonetheless, the gesture is appreciated and the way the STONE theme was played upon is a testimony of a well thought out marketing campaign to give flavour to an otherwise rather dull and common product name.
The Jabra STONE comes in a 20 cm high hard plastic display package of which the bottom half displays the benefits of the Jabra STONE features and the top segment clearly displays the product in a semi-un-cradled position. It is immediately evident how small the product really is and almost unobtrusive when you are wearing it. You certainly will look less like a tele-marketer without that boom microphone!
We have mentioned it before: the designers of the Jabra products are absolutely top-notch in their field. And I would like to include the packaging people as well.
A small twist of the cylinder separates the two halves and a further twist unlocks the bottom compartment which houses the charger and all the other bits and pieces that accompany it. It's like opening up a jewellery box. In fact, I waited till my wife came home to really unpack it totally. You know of course that once a guy starts unpacking he'll never be able to get it back in its original packaging....
With everything in the package being so diminutive I could not believe the size of the wall charger! That thing is the widest I have seen in a long time! Why not include an option to charge from USB? In other words redesign the wall charger so that it will take a single USB charge cable. That way we have two options to charge.
Another thing: If you lose the STONE charger you'll be in the market for another Bluetooth headset... It would probably be nice to have another way of charging up the device. There's a belt loop for putting the charger in, but chances are even higher that you'd lose the earpiece itself as well.
Let's talk a bit more about the shape and the design of the product. The reason why the Jabra STONE can be so tiny is that the battery only holds a two-hour charge. That's enough for most calls, certainly for a guy. It might even see you through the day but if it doesn't the cradle holds an additional six hours of charge time, so every time you cradle it, it charges up again. Ingenious! Of course you have to walk around with a stone in your pocket but you can probably leave your phone in your briefcase.
Now here is the tricky bit: how do you operate this thing? There are no obvious buttons but our experience with the HALO made me realise that there would be a invisible touch controlled volume pad on the outside of the headset so you can slide your finger up and down to control the volume when you are on call. Our experiences with the HALO in that regard were less than stellar. It didn't always work and can be quite frustrating. Me, I like an old-fashioned rocker switch for the volume, but I was keen to see whether this implementation would be better. More on that later.
Here's a quick run down some of the features
* It's got cutting edge Noise Blackout technology of which we wrote earlier in the HALO review. This effectively cuts out any ambient sound and background noise and uses TWO microphones to pick up your voice.
* Its easy Bluetooth pairing makes it a cinch to connect two Bluetooth enabled devices at the same time.
* A couple of LEDs on the inside of the unit give you a display of battery level and Bluetooth connectivity.
* Up to 8 hours talk time and 12 days standby time with the Jabra STONE Charger.
* Touch control, voice dialling -- depending on phone -- and music streaming (mono only)
* Extremely lightweight and small.
Fitting the Jabra STONE
If you're deaf in your right ear, tough luck. This unit only fits a right ear. The part that curves around the top of your ear is very flexible. That makes fitting it relatively easy. I have always had trouble with these types of fittings. Maybe my oversized ears are only good to catch the breeze but I have no trouble fitting the Jabra STONE. I tried it on my wife's ear which is much smaller and she reported a perfect fit. You can hardly notice it she says. It is so lightweight. Not every ear is the same so there are a couple of different rubber grommets (ear gel) included to get a better fit. Wasn't needed in my case: I could easily bend down without the STONE becoming dislodged. Only when you shake your head vigorously does it come off. I did find the bigger rubber ring fitted my ear slightly better. It does not interfere either with your glasses if you wear them.
I still feel a bit conscious about wearing one of these things in public and muttering away in myself, because obviously, I'm not talking into a microphone. At least not one that you can see. So I always feel like holding up my mobile phone for all to see that I am talking to another person....
There are a couple of things you have to watch out for. Since the Call/End call button is right on the Jabra logo you may inadvertently start a call when you push the unit in for a better fit. If that happens just make sure that you always say nice things about other people....
We hooked up the Jabra STONE with our HTC HD2 and found we could pair automatically. First call was to our webmeister who had us on his speakerphone while driving. He reported a clear reception both on and off speakerphone. Certainly from my side reception was crystal clear.
We made a number of calls both in a quiet office environment and with a noisy background. We chose our daughters' cafe restaurant for this as it is always buzzing with people. The other thing we checked out was driving in the car and instead of using the Jabra 200 speakerphone we used the Jabra STONE. When everything is quiet the Jabra STONE performs magnificently. With a noisier background the other people can still hear us okay but I'm struggling in hearing what they have to say. That's not any worse than having the phone right up against your ear though.
On the Touch Controls: these were working better than on the HALO. Yet, it did not have enough range in the volume: I would have wanted it louder. Okay, okay, I know I'm half deaf – at least that's what my kids always tell me. I just call it selective hearing. It seems to work for them too...
I hate to say this but I cannot escape the inevitable conclusion. The Jabra STONE qualifies for our Editor's Choice Award. Yes, that's another Jabra product that deserves this accolade and normally we are rather scarce with these awards. And no, it's not the wine that influenced my decision! So let's justify that: design 11, practicality 9, value for money 7, clarity 8, battery life 7, coolness factor 9. And that's enough brownie points to underpin my subjective recommendation.
So, in Australia, you can find these gemstones at JB HiFi for less than 150 bucks. (Yes, that means 149 is the RRP...)