Jawbone ERA Review (2014): A Tiny but Mighty Bluetooth Headset

Jawbone’s Up fitness trackers might have been their stand out product for 2013, but their fashion-forward Bluetooth headsets are what made the company into a brand-name. Now, three years after creating their Jawbone ERA headset, they have revamped it and introduced its next generation model, which is tinier than ever.

As if the original wasn’t small enough, For 2014, the ERA has shrunk down in size. To that effect, it’s 42% smaller than its predecessor. The new ERA’s design is also a bit less flashy. But while the ERA’s new design is still premium and fashion-forward, it’s also more about blending in with your hair color. To that effect, the headset is available in a choice of four colors – black, silver, brown, and red. So between its color and small size, you just might be mistaken for talking to yourself.

In the box you get 4 different size ear tips to wear with the ERA. With my smallish ears, I found the smallest size ear tip to offer a secure and comfortable fit. The tip is secure enough for me to use the ERA in most activities, including power walking and some light running. I also find the ERA to be quite comfortable to wear thanks to its silicon ear tip and lightweight body. However, after using it for a long while, it can get a bit uncomfortable, that said, it’s definitely one of the most comfortable Bluetooth headsets out there.

When it comes to its audio experience, this is where the ERA really shines. I could hear callers loudly and clearly, and they said the same of me – even when having phone conversations in the nosiest of environments – like a bustling New York City street. I didn’t have to shout for the caller on the other end to hear me. It’s in crowded areas like a New York street where the ERA’s HD audio and NoiseAssassin technology really show off their chops.

You can quickly launch Siri or Google Now with the dedicated button located on the ERA.  The ERA has actually been designed to improve the user’s experience with Siri and other smartphone voice command systems like Google Now. But does it? Yes. If you have ever been frustrated with Siri not understanding you, it could be because Siri doesn’t hear you well. Fortunately, the ERA’s audio technology does manage to help get a clearer voice signal to Siri, allowing her to understand you more effectively. As a result, I now find myself using Siri more so than I ever did before.

Jawbone’s mobile app has also been updated to unlock some extra fun futures on the ERA. For starters, it will let you customize the ERA’s speaking voice for its basic voice prompts, and there certainly are a couple of fun voices to choose from. The app also has a neat locate feature, so should you misplace the ERA, and because it’s so tiny – chances are you will misplace it at some point or another, in which case it will make the headset beep so that you can find it. So if you lose the ERA between the couch cushions, don’t fret.

Our biggest gripe with the ERA is that the battery life is just about 4 hours for talk time. Fortunately, you can opt to buy the headset with its adorable little matching charging case, which adds up to 6 hours of battery life to the headset on the go. However, we still wish that the headset offered a longer battery life right off of the bat. That said, we guess a short battery life is the price you pay for having such a tiny little headset. In any case, you really don’t need to buy Jawbone’s charging case since you can easily charge the ERA via most battery packs which support a standard microUSB cable. But Jawbone has done a nice job designing the charging case to be quite cute and petite, and it can easily be carried on a keychain. The charging case also matches the ERA to a T, and as a bonus, it and can be used to carry and protect the ERA.

Jawbone says that they spent time talking to their customers about how they use their Bluetooth headsets, and believe it or not, many of them use their Bluetooth headset to listen to music. As a result, they have set out to make the music listening experience on the Jawbone extra exceptional. We listened to music through the ERA, and while it’s in no way a serious replacement for a dedicated pair of headphones, the mono experience isn’t bad at all. To that effect, if you want to listen to music in between calls, or just be more aware of your surroundings while listening to music, the ERA does a pretty good job of it.

Verdict

The Jawbone ERA is a fine improvement over its predecessor which focuses on improving the essentials – size, comfort, and most importantly – audio quality. We’re a bit let down by its short battery life, but in any case, the Jawbone ERA is still a top notch Bluetooth headset. Overall, if you’re looking for a fashion-forward Bluetooth headset that offers an excellent, first in-its-class audio and noise reduction experience, the Jawbone ERA is it.

The new Jawbone ERA retails for $99 without the charging case, and it’s available for $129 with the charging case.

The Good: Beautiful design and nice color choices, so small you won’t notice its there, easy pairing process, comfortable with a secure fit, excellent audio quality and noise reduction, improves user’s experience with Siri and Google Now, and Jawbone app unlocks some extra useful and fun features such as helping you locate the headset if it gets lost.

The Bad: Short battery life, Pricey, and dedicated button on headset is a bit finicky to use.