Aliph Jawbone Icon review: Aliph Jawbone Icon

Note the Jawbone Icon's battery meter on the upper right, next to the iPhone's battery icon

Perhaps the most exciting feature of the Jawbone Icon is its new "mini computer on a chip" that lets Aliph build custom applications and features for the headset. One benefit of having an operating system on the headset is that when you pair the Icon to an Apple iPhone, you can actually see the headset's battery meter located right next to the iPhone's battery icon. This way, iPhone owners can easily tell when their headset needs charging. Even though it seems like a small thing, we think this is a very cool feature that makes the Jawbone Icon almost a must-have headset for iPhone owners.

A screenshot of Jawbone's MyTalk Web site that lets you customize your Jawbone Icon headset with Audio and Dial "apps."

Another big benefit of having this advanced chipset is that you can customize the Icon with Audio or Dial "apps." You can do this via Jawbone's own MyTalk Web site. Simply log in to the site, attach the headset to your computer via a USB cable, and the MyTalk Web site will automatically recognize your headset. You can then select which Audio or Dial application you wish to associate with your headset. The Audio applications are basically just custom audio profiles with different voices, and they are named after the six shield designs we named above. They range from a deep baritone male voice (the Hero), to that of a sultry female (the Bombshell). You can also choose a language; right now Aliph offers English, French, German, and Spanish.

As for the Dial applications, you can essentially map a speed-dial number to a particular service, which you can then access simply by holding down the Talk button. Currently supported services include Voice Dial, Directory Assistance, Jott Assistant (a service that lets you dictate notes, reminders, text, e-mail, and even Twitter messages), 1-800-FREE-411 (free directory assistance), and Dial2Do, which is a service similar to Jott. Both Jott and Dial2Do do require you to have an existing account with them. Though it's a bit of a stretch to call these things "apps," we do appreciate this level of customization that almost no other headset can match.

Another benefit of being able to sync and customize the headset in this way is that Aliph can easily send out firmware updates to the Icon. If Aliph decides to add A2DP functionality in the future, for example, it says it can do so via this method. We're really very impressed with the MyTalk service overall.

We paired the Aliph Jawbone Icon with the Apple iPhone 3G. Its call quality was excellent. We tested the calls in a variety of situations: in a quiet home environment, a moving vehicle with the radio at full blast, a busy city sidewalk during rush hour, a crowded cafe, and in front of an indoor fan. We were very impressed with the call quality in almost all situations. The Jawbone Icon does a good job at minimizing background noise and emphasizing the voice, which was a great help in a noisy environment. In the busy sidewalk for example, our callers could still hear the rushing traffic a bit, but it wasn't a distraction, thanks to how clear and natural our voice sounded. We did detect some crackling and static at times, but that could be contributed to the iPhone and AT&T instead of the headset.

Surprisingly, the Icon also performs quite well in windy conditions. When we reviewed the Plantronics Voyager Pro (and the Discovery 975), we mentioned our callers could hear us perfectly even though we were talking in front of a fan. They could still hear the wind, but it sounded more like heavy rain. With the Jawbone Icon, callers could hardly hear anything aside from us. They did hear some swooshes of wind in the background, but it was not a big deal. Our voice sounded loud, clear, and natural. It seems that Jawbone has done a very good job with its NoiseAssassin noise-reduction technology.

On our end, callers sounded great, with good volume, natural voices, and clear audio. We did complain about the lack of a volume rocker, but it does seem as if we didn't need it. According to Aliph, this volume normalization is especially helpful in conference call situations, where all callers will have the same volume levels.

The Aliph Jawbone Icon has a rated battery life of up to 4.5 hours of talk time, and up to 10 days of standby time.