Even with the rising popularity of smartphones that boast impressive stereo audio and complex data-intensive functions, sometimes you just want to make a simple call. For those who chat on the go often, not having to clutch a handset while talking is even more of a boon. Paying through the nose for a decent Bluetooth earpiece, though, isn't a good option for anyone. Enter the $49 Plantronics M55. This stylish device brings hands-free dialing capabilities to the table for not much cash. Though not as fancy as higher-priced headsets, it's ultracompact, lightweight, and certainly worth a look.
Bluetooth headsets are certainly convenient gadgets, but they can often be large, bulky, or just plain unsightly. Plantronics designed the M55 so as not to commit the same fashion faux pas. Weighing just 8 grams (0.28 ounce) and crafted to fit inside the ear, the M55 is about as inconspicuous as hands-free headsets get. It's lighter than other minute Bluetooth competitors such as the 0.32-ounce and the 0.29-ounce Jawbone Icon. Still, Plantronics' own featherweight Marque M155 is even more microscopic and tips the scales at a mere 5.7 grams, or 0.2 ounce.
The M55 sports a similarly thin and svelte rectangular design to the Marque. With a glossy black surface trimmed by metallic silver edges, this headset too has an elegant and premium look. Unlike the Marque M155's iPhone-like key, however, the new M55 uses a nondescript call button that's etched in gray and blends into its front face. On top is a wide volume key that you tap to cycle through the M55's loudness levels. Underneath, placed along the bottom edge, is the headset's sturdy power switch. I particularly like the M55's standard Micro-USB port, located on the edge closest to your ear, which is more convenient than a proprietary power connection.
Made to sit inside the ear, the M55 has an earbud covered by a clear silicone sheath. While the sheath has a looped stabilizer that helps the earpiece fit more securely, it doesn't come with alternate sizes of earbuds. If the earbud is too large or too small for your specific ear, there's not much you can do to remedy the situation. That said, once I pushed the device in place it remained firmly lodged. The M55 is also light enough that I'd forget I was wearing it after a few minutes.
Despite its small footprint, the Plantronic M55 is quite a capable little headset. It handles the typical Bluetooth hands-free functions such as answering and making calls over a wireless Bluetooth connection. In addition, the M55 provides helpful alerts in a friendly female voice stating remaining talk time when it's switched on or when a call is incoming. It's able to carry out some native vocal commands too. For example, you can say "Ignore" or "Answer" to expedite calls without lifting a finger.
Like other Plantronics headsets, the M55 comes with a year of the company's basic Vocalyst service. It allows users to send e-mails, listen to news, sports, and weather information, and post social media updates (Facebook and Twitter) just by speaking. Be advised though that Vocalyst requires a payment of $2.49 monthly or $24.99 annually. Vocalyst Pro (which also lets you to send text messages via voice) costs $5.99 a month or $59.99 a year.
Of course, you can also use the M55's call button to control the headset's operation. You can tap once to answer calls, and hitting the key will also tell the device to reconnect to paired phones if you lose Bluetooth connection. Holding down the button for 2 seconds kicks the M55 into voice-dialing mode, while pressing it for 1 second will dismiss calls as they occur.