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The 411: Comfy headsets, please

Every two weeks, CNET editor Nicole Lee answers your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories in The 411.

Welcome to the 411, my new Q&A column answering all your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories. I receive plenty of questions about these subjects via e-mail, so I figured many of you might have the same questions, too. At times, I might solicit answers from readers if I'm stumped. Send your questions and comments to me at If you prefer to remain anonymous, let me know in the e-mail.

PS: I received a lot of feedback asking me to name this column the 411, so that's the new column title. Thank you!

A lot of you had questions about Bluetooth headsets, especially after our reviews of the Plantronics Voyager Pro and the Aliph Jawbone Prime. Here are just a few:

Q: Thank-you for your review (of the Aliph Jawbone Prime). I haven't owned a JB. Do you believe the new gels with ear-loops will hold it against my face when chewing gum or eating food? I could position it straight out from my ear and that would place it on a face bone that doesn't move (all bones resonate?). If you could test the chewing scenario that would be great. Prime offers NC when not touching, but if the sensor is constantly lifting, the SoundID 200 would perform as well or better and save me $50. Thanks for your help. -- William

Does the Plantronics Voyager Pro have good incoming call quality? Plantronics

Yes, the new Jawbone Prime will hold the Voice Activity Sensor (that tiny little white nub on the back of the headset) much more securely to your face than previous versions thanks to the new ear gels. The important thing is to find the right size ear gel; a bigger or smaller one could result in an imperfect fit, which might result in the sensor slipping off. I did test the Prime a little while chewing and it doesn't slip off that easily (Though you shouldn't be eating while talking anyway! :-)) The sound quality without the sensor touching is on par with any other noise-canceling headsets, as you said, but if the sensor works as it should, you should experience better sound quality than most headsets. If ear comfort is more important to you, however, the Sound ID 200 or Sound ID 300 might be slightly better.

Q: Hi, I am thinking about either getting the Voyager Pro or Jawbone Prime and I understand they both have good enough noise isolation. I was wondering about the speaker in my ear and which one is the best. I have some friends with really old crappy phones and it can be hard to hear them and I also would like to listen to music via Bluetooth. So do either of these headsets set itself apart in the in ear speaker department. I don't unreasonably expect too much out of them I was just wondering which one you thought was the best, thank. -- Tyler

I would say that as far as incoming sound quality goes, the Voyager Pro wins out by a hair. The voice sounded a bit fuller, rounder, and more natural. The Jawbone Prime didn't do too bad either, but it was a tad more robotic sounding. As far as music, neither supports A2DP stereo Bluetooth, so you won't be able to stream music to both headsets. However, since both headsets support the Bluetooth 2.1 specification, either company could conceivably enable that via a firmware upgrade, but I doubt it'll happen anytime soon.

Q: Is there such a thing as a Bluetooth headset that sits on your ear instead of having a bud that has to go in your ear? THEY HURT!! :) -- Eric

Yes! I've heard this complaint many times, and there are several headsets that don't go digging too deep in the ear. The new Plantronics Voyager Pro and the recent Sound ID headsets sit just gently at the entrance to the ear canal, and don't hurt at all. If you prefer a headset that sits outside completely, a few LG headsets do just that, like this older LG HBM-550 model for example. However, you might not get the best sound quality from some of these cheaper headsets.

And finally, a couple of nonheadset related questions:

Q: I was wondering...I get a new phone in about four months. Since my parents are cheap, I'm looking for a good, noncostly phone. Thanks to my dad, I can get the Verizon Wireless sSMT5800. Although I'm only 14, is this a good phone for teenagers. If not, what would be a good phone for me? It has to be under $100. Thank-you -- Anthony

It all depends what you want out of a phone, not whether you're a teenager. The SMT5800 is a Windows Mobile smartphone, so you can do more on that phone than you could on an ordinary cell, like write and edit Microsoft Office documents. You can surf the Web on it, and the full QWERTY keyboard makes it easier to send e-mail and text messages. Still, if you want a more affordable smartphone from Verizon, the Palm Centro is going for only $49.99.

If you don't care about the Office documents, you might want to consider a simpler phone that still meets your needs. The LG enV2 is a great messaging phone for about $49.99, and it has access to V Cast services that the other two smartphones don't. If you don't care about high-speed Internet and you like texting, the Blitz is currently only $19.99. If you prefer not to have a QWERTY keyboard altogether, the LG VX8360 is a great handset that has EV-DO, a music player, and is only $49.99.

Q: We are currently with T-Mobile. We would like to have MP3, navigation, Wi-Fi, were not necessarily looking to use their 3G network. We really like the LG Dare phone, is their a phone like the Dare for T-Mobile? We have looked at the Nokia N79 and Nokia N95 and wondered what you thought of them. -- Chris and Irma

The T-Mobile G1 is the only Wi-Fi and GPS enabled touch-screen phone for T-Mobile. Corinne Schulze/CNET

If you're looking for something that looks like the LG Dare, I presume you want a touch-screen phone. As far as I know, the only T-Mobile phone with an MP3 player, GPS, Wi-Fi, and a touch-screen interface is the T-Mobile G1. The Samsung Memoir is a great touch-screen handset with a really nice 8-megapixel camera, but it doesn't have Wi-Fi. The Samsung Behold is also another decent touch-screen phone with a 5-megapixel camera, but that one doesn't have Wi-Fi either. Still, the T-Mobile G1 is a good smartphone, and I would give it a closer look to see if it's what you want.

However, if you're looking at the N79 and the N95, you might not care about the touch screen anyway. I actually quite like those two phones--they have all the features you want, and they have 5-megapixel cameras. The only things I would caution are that the Symbian OS might take a little getting used to if you're new to it, and the price of an unlocked N-series phone can be quite cost-prohibitive (about $400 to $600). Therefore, make sure you really want them before you buy them!