A Word In Your Ear

This iPhone headset is so light you can barely feel it

PHOTO: Steven Cherry

Like most things Apple designs these days, the iPhone Bluetooth Headset (US $129) is elegant and simple. Most of all, it’s tiny—the smallest Bluetooth headset I’ve seen. It’s so small, in fact, that Apple designed a special travel cable for it. Instead of the usual 30â''pin USB cable—good for iPods and the iPhone—the 30â''pin end has, at the back, a slot for the headset’s 2.3- by 5.0â''millimeter slanted tip.

The advantages when traveling are enormous. Now, not only can you charge the iPhone directly from your computer with just this one cable, you can also charge your headset without bringing along a power cord for it.

Even though there’s no separate cord for the headset, there are other charging options. The headset comes with a dock. Also, at the USB end of the 30-pin cable there is the power adapter that came with your iPhone. I was able to charge the headset from zero to full in 90 minutes, just as the diminutive manual had claimed.

So how does it rate as a headset? It’s incredibly light, clinging to your ear by only its speaker, an arrangement I found secure enough when walking down the street but rather less so when engaging in more strenuous activity. Salespeople at the Apple store said that the precarious fit explains why a lot of people prefer designs that hook around the ear, such as the Jabra JX10.

Logistically, the headset worked fine. It pairs easily with the phone when the two are attached at the same time to the cable or dock. As with other Apple designs—the one-button mouse and the one-button iPhone—the headset has a single button, at its tip. It also has an LED that goes from red to yellow to green during charging, or when you turn the headset on and off.

By itself, the one-button design left me uncertain as to whether the headset was paired with the phone or whether it was on. However, the headset also generates rising or falling tones to indicate whether it’s on or off, and these tones provided better guidance than the LED. The phone itself can help. Once the devices are paired, the iPhone lets you select, at any time during a call, from its three possible sources of sound: the headset, the regular phone speaker you hold up to your ear, or its built-in speakerphone.

The manual’s instructions showed me how to pair the headset with my laptop, so that I could use the headset for a voice-over-IP phone call with Skype.

I would recommend the Apple headset for an iPhone owner who wants to cut down on cables when traveling. However, make sure that it fits you well and won’t fall out.

Photo: youSP B.V.

For one and all

The iPhone Bluetooth Headset [previous page] and the iCube II ­complement one another.

What’s the opposite of a Bluetooth headset? External speakers, of course. The Dutch design firm Boynq (http://boynq.com) makes a variety of highly portable speakers that marry attractive form and quality sound. The sleek black-and-­silver model of the iCube II ($69) shown here is indeed a cube, 10 centi­meters on a side, that also serves as a recharging station for your iPod, iPhone, or iTouch.

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