Short tech takes
One of the problems in using a Bluetooth headset -- especially for those of us who aren't on the phone 18 hours a day -- is what to do with it when you're not using it. Stick it in your pocket? Find a space for it in your bag? In both cases, the odds for losing the tiny device are fairly high.
There have been a variety of solutions proposed by different vendors. Some headsets, such as the Era by Jawbone, offer a charging case that also holds the device safely in place. Plantronics' Explorer 500 clips onto a charging strap that has a magnet on one end, enabling you to loop it around a backpack or purse strap (or simply attach it to a handy metal object).
Now, a company called Clip & Talk has offered its own solution: It sells a Bluetooth headset that comes attached to a small clip that you can use to attach the device to your pocket, your shirtsleeve, your bag strap, or anywhere else you want to.
The company is producing several versions of its headset; I tried out the Clip & Talk Aluminum. (This was a pre-production unit, so there may be some differences in the final product.)
The Clip & Talk Aluminum is an ingenious piece of technology -- I've seen it described elsewhere as the Swiss Army Knife of headsets, and that isn't far off. The clip segment of the device is located between the headset itself and the earpiece -- you basically push on the earpiece to open the clip. And it doesn't only work as a clip -- the end of the clip is actually a USB plug. The entire clip piece swivels to the side so that it is at right angles to the headset, at which point it can be plugged into a USB port to charge up the device.
But wait -- there's more! The clip also has a port for an SD Card (just below the ear piece), so that you can use the headset as a USB drive as well.
Using the Clip & Talk
As a result of all these additional features, the Clip & Talk feels a little heavier than your standard consumer headset. It actually isn't -- according to the vendor, it weighs 0.3 oz., barely more than competing devices such as the Plantronics Explorer 500, which weighs 0.26 oz. But, maybe because of the way it balances, when I wore the headset, it gave the impression of more weight.
Perhaps in recognition of this, the company includes eight different ear tips with the device, along with a loop to anchor it more firmly to your ear, should you need it. I tried out three of the ear tips, and was able to find one that kept the headset reasonably secure without my having to use the loop.
The sound from the review unit was good, but not outstanding. During calls, voices were understandable but slightly muddy, both from my end and as reported by the people I was talking to. Volume, though, was excellent, and I was able to conduct my call in a somewhat noisy environment without issue. And I had no problem listening to streaming audio such as news reports and audio books. (According to a company rep, the mics in the final edition will be improved and noise cancellation added.)
The Clip & Talk folks have an interesting approach to the use of their product. There are some headsets and earphones out there now that include the ability to stop and start as you take them off and put them on. Clip & Talk didn't include that feature with its headset, but the instructions suggest that you keep the headset off while it's clipped to your pocket or pocketbook; when you get a call, turn it on and use it.
I'm not sure how many consumers can go through those actions when somebody phones -- my immediate reaction when a call comes in is to simply reach for the phone and get it to my ear before it goes to voicemail. But it's an interesting suggestion, especially for people who may want to use a hands-off product but don't want to wear it constantly. (And yes, I tried it out and didn't miss my call -- the headset paired and let me answer the call by the third ring.)
The Clip & Talk Aluminum ($69) is an interesting idea for a headset, allowing consumers to safely clip it to an easy-to-access place until a call comes in, and providing a bit of data storage (and easy recharging) as well. The sound could use some improvement, but because this was a pre-production unit, the shipping product could be better.
Other models include the Alupro ($79), which also includes the SD card slot, and the Fashion Matrix ($59), which has a second ear bud for stereo sound. According to the company, most of its devices should ship within a week or so; two models that offer health alerts and monitoring are due sometime in September.
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