Just when you thought the guys at Jawbone would get a little bit tired and take a break from inventing new stuff, they've gone and unveiled another new flagship Bluetooth headset. The Jawbone Era boasts better sound, and an intriguing bit of gestural control that does away with the pain of fiddling with the headset's tiny button.
That last feature is the biggest draw, and relies on a tiny built-in accelerometer. Now, a simple shake of the device performs the most common commands: Four shakes puts the headset in pairing mode; if your headset is on your desk, you shake it twice before putting it in to answer. When the headset is in ear, you no longer need to look for the button -- tapping anywhere answers a call.
"We're really expanding the interaction space you have with this tiny device," Hosain Rahman, Jawbone's CEO, tells Co.Design. "You can't do much with just one button." Rahman says that a new breed of apps utilizing the motion-sensing capability will be out soon.
The Era also has better sound, thanks to a subtle improvement in the in-ear speaker: It's 25% larger, even though the earpiece hasn't grown. Jawbone accomplished this by expanding the speaker ever so slightly to the side of the earpiece.
And finally, the Era has a full-blown dual core processor, allowing it some advances in capabilities. For one, the noise cancellation technology can now adjust not only the volume in response to environmental noise, but the EQ as well, so that voices sound clearer rather than just louder. And second, the headset boasts natural language caller ID. Instead of just reading out a number when someone calls, it actually says their name in a naturalistic voice. This is done by hard work rather than speech reading technology: Jawbone is building a database of a single voice actor reading thousands of names, which are then synced to your headset every time you connect the headset to Jawbone's online app store.
Of course, Jawbone is still about the looks. And the two changes there are a double layer of intricately molded plastic, that looks almost like a Moorish tiling, and a faceted rather than smooth backside. "There's so much technology inside this thing at this point," says Rahman. "We really wanted to suggest that with this faceted, complexity metaphor."
The Era goes on sale today, for $129, at Jawbone.com.