As you can see from the large range of Bluetooth headsets that are available on the market, it can be difficult to decide which one to buy. This short guide is intended to help you through this decision process so that you get the headset that is best for you.
A Bluetooth headset is an important item which has many benefits. Used when driving a car it makes using your phone legal; used in the street it does not reveal your phone which can make you a target; it places a distance between your phone and your head so eliminating the health concerns of mobile phone usage; and it can make a fashion statement.
The early Bluetooth headsets looked very geeky and strange. Nowadays thankfully they are much more discreet and fashionable; some are even attractive. Their performance has also improved considerably as has their battery life. The earlier versions used the Bluetooth 1.2 protocol which had significant limitations. The more modern ones use Bluetooth 2.0 and later which is much faster at making connections, provides much improved audio quality and provides extended battery life.
In this guide we will look at some of the important things to consider before making your purchase. These are headset design, comfort, battery life, audio quality, mono versus stereo, charging and usability.
Which Bluetooth Headset Design?
As has already been stated, modern Bluetooth headsets don’t have to look geeky and some are positively fashionable. Some are tiny so that they fit in the ear in such a manner that makes them almost invisible. Others have ear clips that provide a more secure mounting but make them more visible. Some come in a range of fashionable colours with exchangeable skins, some have the appearance of (and really are) high technology. Certainly you should choose a design that you would feel comfortable to wear and that will look good on you.
Early Bluetooth headsets were relatively heavy and bulky compared to modern ones and often weighted over 22 grams which could become quite uncomfortable if worn for long periods. Nowadays it is possible to buy Bluetooth headsets which weigh only 8 to 10 grams. These are much easier to wear and you can easily forget you are wearing one. Much of the weight is due to the battery, but modern battery technology along with power saving designs has allowed much smaller an lighter batteries to be used.
What is the Battery Life?
As described in the previous paragraph, the batteries in modern Bluetooth headsets are much smaller that they were only a few years ago. Despite this, battery life has also been extended. This is due to a number of factors: modern headsets are much cleverer at conserving energy when in the ‘sniff’ or standby mode; new Bluetooth protocols are much more efficient than earlier ones; modern batteries do not suffer from hysteresis or memory which was caused earlier batteries to deteriorate quickly. A good Bluetooth headset can be expected to offer talk times of over eight hours and standby times of over 140 hours.
How good does it sound?
Modern Bluetooth headsets can offer excellent audio quality. Even the lower priced ones generally have some sort of noise cancellation system, and many of the admittedly somewhat expensive ones use state of the art noise cancellation technologies that are superb. Remember that you need also to consider how you sound to the people on the other end of your phone call, not just how they sound to you. Price is not always an indicator of quality in this respect, but it is a fact of life that those on the top end of the price scales tend to perform much better that those in the bargain basement.
What about Stereo Bluetooth Headsets?
Stereo Bluetooth Headsets make use of the A2DP Bluetooth profile for streaming stereo sound from a mobile phone, MP3 player, computer or other A2DP Bluetooth transmitter. When connected to a phone, calls are handled by the standard Bluetooth protocol, and when a call is received the stereo sound is paused while you take the call, then when you hang up it resumes automatically.
In terms of audio quality, this ranges from very good to excellent and can be as good as wired headphones. If you wish to stream stereo music from your phone you should ensure that is has the A2DP Bluetooth profile; a number of phones do not have this.
What are the battery charging options?
There are generally a number of ways to recharge your Bluetooth headset. They can be charged using a mains adapter, they can be charged from your computer or laptop by using a USB cable, or they can be charged from the lower (lighter) socket in your car. Power chargers are becoming more standardised and often the same one will charge your phone and headset.
How many phones can I connect to?
Many modern Bluetooth headsets have Multipoint connectivity. This means that they can be paired to more than one phone at the same time. The headset responds to which ever phone receives a call first. This can be particularly useful if you carry a number of phones, for instance a personal one and a work related one. If this is important to you then you should ensure that your headset is Multipoint.
Do I need Voice Dialling?
Many Bluetooth headsets offer a voice dialling facility. This offers considerably convenience and safety when driving. After previously setting up your phone with sound tags, you simply press a button on the headset to activate voice dialling, say the name of the person you wish to call, and the phone will dial the appropriate number.
What is the purpose of Call Alert?
Some Bluetooth headsets offer call alert. This is particularly useful if you are not wearing your headset and you are carrying it in your pocket. You might well miss a call if your phone is in silent mode or it is in a bag or a case, but when a call is received your headset will vibrate to alert you that a call has been received. Then, by pressing a button on the headset you can take the call.
Will the Bluetooth Headset be compatible with my phone?
Whilst in the early days of Bluetooth headsets it is true that there were many compatibility issues with different manufacturers’ headsets and different manufacturers’ phones. Some simply would not work together or only some features could be used and not others.
Nowadays with the new Bluetooth protocols these compatibility issues have been resolved and every modern headset will work with every suitably Bluetooth equipped mobile phone.
How far away can I be from my phone?
Bluetooth is a radio technology that has different protocols and different classes. Class 1 Bluetooth headsets have a range of 100 meters and class 2 Bluetooth Headsets have a range of 10 meters. The longer ranged Class 1 headsets are useful for receiving music streamed from a Class 1 Bluetooth source such as a Class 1 Bluetooth dongle equipped with EDR, but this does not mean that you can be 100 meters away from your phone.
The reason for this is that your phone will have only Bluetooth Class 2 which will limit the range to 10 meters, so you can be a maximum of 10 meters from your phone.
Closing the right Bluetooth headset for you is an important decision and you will need to balance the design style, comfort, sound quality and other features with price. The old adage that you get what you pay for is very applicable to Bluetooth headsets and prices range from quite inexpensive, just a few pounds or dollars to, quite expensive, possibly a hundred pounds or so.
We hope that this guide will help you make your decision. A Bluetooth headset is certainly an excellent investment that can considerably benefit both your health and your safety.