How to Choose a Bluetooth
and stylish works
of art, but sometimes ugly and awkward, Bluetooth headsets have no wires to connect them to
2 of a series on Bluetooth - click for
The headset industry had to
learn new techniques to
design Bluetooth headsets. Some first generation headsets
were disasters from both a design and functionality point of
view. New headsets are generally much improved.
Bluetooth headsets vary enormously in
price. Some can be found for $30 or less, while others
cost $300 and more. Careful shopping, using the
information in this article, can save you from an expensive
Design Challenges in Creating
Creating a good Bluetooth
headset is surprisingly difficult. Regular wired headsets
are very easy to design - with styles ranging from an absolutely minimal earbud speaker and shirtclip/microphone, up to a major dual
earcup, over the head, set of headphones and angle-boom
microphone. Light weight versions are so light that having
them securely mounted to/on your ear is no problem, and heavy duty
headsets include secure mounting as part of their structure.
A Bluetooth headset can
never be as small or light as small wired headsets,
because it needs to include a battery and extra electronics.
This extra size and weight impacts on how the headset can be
mounted on/around your ear.
Bluetooth headsets to date have concentrated on offering as
small as possible single piece designs. The idea of having a headband
has never been implemented, and neither has the idea of having a
separate microphone joined by wire to the headset (but note the
recent introduction of new 'necklace' style designs).
It seems that Bluetooth
headsets all want to highlight their wirelessness by being small
single piece units. Perhaps Bluetooth headset
manufacturers are concerned that if you see something that looks
like a regular headset, or with a wire connecting two parts
together, you might instead choose to spend $5-25 on a regular
headset, rather than $30-300 on a Bluetooth product.
There seem to be two main
styles of Bluetooth headsets. Some are held in place by a
loop around the ear - there are generally more comfortable, but
may be less secure. Others are held in place by being
physically jammed into your ear. These are generally less
comfortable (!) but may sometimes be more secure.
Common Problems with Bluetooth
Ideally, a Bluetooth headset
should be something you could wear all the time while expecting
to receive or make calls, or something you can quickly and conveniently affix on/around your
ear when phone calls come in.
Due to being battery powered
by their own separate battery (typically offering 2-10 hours talk time
or 25-250 hours standby), ideally a Bluetooth headset would be something you'd only
turn on when you need to use it. You wouldn't leave it on
between calls. For this reason, the headset should be easy to turn on and
off, and should power up and connect to the cell phone
as quickly as possible.
Volume controls and other
features and functions should be easy to use and understand.
headsets adequately meet these design criteria.
Perhaps the biggest common problem is how to securely - but
comfortably and conveniently - attach the headset to your ear.
Why Use a Bluetooth headset
Bluetooth headsets are
considerably more expensive than regular corded
headsets (or no headset at all!). They are also somewhat
more complicated to set up, and you then have the added
complication of having to keep their battery charged.
Firstly, whether Bluetooth
or not, you should try and always
use some type of headset with your cell phone. This will
vastly reduce the amount of radiation that you're pumping out of
the phone and into your brain - some scientists believe this
radiation could be harmful, although studies to date have been
In some states and
countries, you are not allowed to hold a cell phone while
driving, and the use of some type of headset is mandatory.
Even if it is still legal to hold a cell phone and drive, it is
safer to avoid this whenever possible.
A simple wired headset is a
satisfactory solution for many people, but it literally ties you
to your cell phone. With a Bluetooth headset you can have
your cell phone in your briefcase on your car's back seat, and
still place and receive calls.
Note that this can be a
deceptively dangerous freedom. If you don't physically
keep your phone on your person, then you run the danger of
leaving the phone - for example, in your briefcase in the car,
while going somewhere else (eg into a store to buy something)
and finding yourself with a useless headset that is way out of
range of the forgotten phone!
A Bluetooth headset can also
be used to connect with other devices such as your computer.
For example, if you're using your computer for teleconferencing,
you can use your headset for this purpose, too. This can
be very convenient, because it then enables you to use one
headset simultaneously for cell phone calls and computer calls
too - you don't have to be shuffling between one headset and the
other, depending on the call that is coming in.
If you have several
different Bluetooth equipped phones, your Bluetooth headset
should work with them all equally conveniently, and/or if you
replace your phone handset, your headset will work with your new
phone just as it formerly did with your old phone. This is
much better than the profusion of different type of headset
plugs on mobile phones at present, making it very unlikely that
your headset designed for one phone will ever work with a
different phone from a different manufacturer - and sometimes
even it will be incompatible with different phones from the same
This is much less an issue
now than it was a year and more ago. You should check
that any headset you buy has these two compatibility features :
(a) It complies with
the Bluetooth 1.1 (or greater - 1.2 is now becoming widespread
and 2.0 is on the way) specification
(b) It offers both
headset and hands-free profiles
As long as the headset
observes these two requirements, and assuming your phone also
has Bluetooth 1.1 or greater, and either of the two profile
sets, then you should have no compatibility problems.
The good news is that with
Bluetooth you don't have to worry about matching headsets to
phones. With regular wired headsets, you need to be
certain that they have the correct type of plug for the phone
you use, with many different types of plugs being used by the
different phone manufacturers.
Realworld Use Implications
A key factor to decide is
whether you want to wear your headset any time you think that
you might be about to receive a call, or if you'll choose to
only put your headset on when actually placing or receiving a
Very few of us will want to
wear a headset all day, no matter how comfortable it is.
This means that you'll want a headset that you can keep
conveniently close to you and quickly and easily put onto/into
your ear when receiving a call.
This creates some key
usability issues : Will you keep your headset in a pocket
or purse or perhaps on a cord around your neck? Is the
headset suitable for keeping casually in a pocket? Does it
have a loop to affix a neck strap? Is it easy to place on
your ear, and is it quick to turn on?
Almost no Bluetooth headset
has a sensible carry solution as part of its design.
Fortunately, there is now (April 2009) an excellent and low cost
after-market accessory that makes carrying a Bluetooth headset
easy and convenient - the
Nectar Blueclip range of rectractable and necklace style headset
In theory, all Bluetooth
Class 2 devices are designed to have a range of 10 meters -
about 33 ft. However, this range can vary.
If there is a direct
unobstructed view between your headset and your phone, then
you'll probably get this range, and perhaps even more.
But if your phone is on the
opposite side of your head to your headset, and if it is in
another room with a wall between you and it, you'll find the
range drops considerably.
You should 'calibrate' the
range of your phone and headset so that you know how far away
from the phone you can go and still have a reliable connection.
You'd do this calibration simply by testing the phone/headset
combination in various common places - for example, leaving the
phone on your desk at work and seeing how far away you can go
while still keeping the connection open, and perhaps repeating
this exercise at home, with the phone wherever you normally keep
it and you walking around the rest of your house.
Factors to Consider in
Is it easy to quickly and
conveniently put the headset on your ear, and to take it off
Is it easy to use the control
buttons on the headset
Is it comfortable to wear for
a long phone call
Can you use it with a pair of
Can it be worn on either ear
How would you carry it when
not wearing it
How heavy is it
Might it fall off
Ease of Use
Are commands/controls easy to
remember (eg transferring calls between headset and phone,
last number redial, voice tag dialing, etc)
Can you adjust the volume
How quickly does the unit
Does it have a well written
easy to understand manual
Is there a support number you
can call for extra help if needed
Does it have its pairing
password printed on it, so if you have to re-pair the
device, you don't have to hunt for its manual to find its
What is the headset's claimed
battery life for talk time and standby time
How do you know when the
battery is nearly dead
Does it have a lithium type
battery (best) or some other type
Is the battery replaceable
How is the battery charged
and how long does it take to charge
How do you know when the
battery is fully charged
Is the charging transformer
multi-voltage for international travel and what is its
Can the headset also be
charged via a USB cable or car adapter or some other way not
requiring yet another transformer to add to your collection
How many devices can the unit
be paired with
Does it have both headset and
Is it compatible with Bluetooth 1.1 or later standards
What is its warranty period
Does it have a free return
period as well
Does it have any noise
cancelling or digital signal processing in its microphone
and sound circuits
What is the sound quality it
offers for sending and receiving audio
What range does it typically
Capabilities - can it support
these commands hands-free
Which cell phones include
At the time of writing
(March 04) Bluetooth is finally starting to become popular and more
commonly included in new phone models. A year ago, very
few phones included Bluetooth, and hopefully in another year,
all but the very cheapest basic phones will have Bluetooth.
Here's a partial list of
phones with Bluetooth included. This list will
grow as new models come out, so if you are considering a new
model phone that isn't on this list, don't assume it does not
have Bluetooth. Maybe it does - and if you confirm it does
include Bluetooth, please
let us know so we can add the phone to
HP iPAQ Pocket PC h5550
HP iPAQ Pocket PC hp6315
Motorola V3 Razr
Motorola A835 (3G phone)
Nokia 6310 6310i
Nokia 6650 (3G phone)
Nokia 6650 (J-Phone) Japan
Nokia 8910 8910i
Philips Fisio 820
Philips Fisio 825
Philips Fisio 826
Samsung - currently no Samsung phones support Bluetooth
Sony Ericsson K700i
Sony Ericsson P800
Sony Ericsson P900
Sony Ericsson S700
Sony Ericsson S710a
Sony Ericsson T68i
Sony Ericsson T610 T616
Sony Ericsson T630 T637
Sony Ericsson Z600
SPV2 E200 (Qtek 7070)
SPV M1000 (smartphone)
For more information about
specific phones, contact the manufacturer's website.
Using Bluetooth headsets with
It is possible to get a
Bluetooth adapter that plugs into your regular non-Bluetooth phone.
The adapter links with your headset as if it were a Bluetooth phone,
and then links with your phone as if it were a regular headset.
Some Bluetooth headsets
include these adapters. A better and simpler choice, if at
all possible, is to simply replace your present phone with a new
Bluetooth equipped phone.
Bluetooth headsets can offer a
great deal of convenience and flexibility, albeit with at a sometimes
A good Bluetooth headset is
easy to understand, setup, and use. It makes your life
simpler and easier. A bad Bluetooth headset is the
opposite and is something to be avoided.
Use the information above,
and that contained in our Bluetooth headset reviews, to better
understand how to evaluate and choose a Bluetooth headset.
Read more in the Bluetooth
About Bluetooth we discuss what
Bluetooth is and how it is different to other wireless
Also (see list at the top
right of this article) reviews of selected Bluetooth headsets.
Which should you choose? The answer might surprise you!
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2 April 2004, last update
08 Jul 2017
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.