When a device has a singular purpose, as Bluetooth hands-free units do, the design is such an important part of the equation. Bluetooth headset design from the last few years has remained fairly consistent, with units designed like tiny black coffins that fit snugly in your ear canal. This isn't that surprising when you think about what a hands-free headset has to do; put a speaker in your ear and a microphone as close to your mouth as possible, while looking chic and discreet at the same time.
The Jabra Stone ticks all of these boxes with one of the most uniquely designed headsets that we've ever seen. Curved in a tight arc, the Stone's headpiece looks much more like the logo from Star Trek than the little black coffins we described earlier. While it looks incredibly alluring, this design also forgoes the need for a detachable ear hook, the curved plastic sits over your ear and is held in place by this loop, and by the ear bud to a lesser extent. The result is a secure-feeling fit on a headset that is about as discreet as we've encountered.
The Stone's name is actually taken from the headset's portable charging dock which, when the headset is inserted, looks like a little plastic pebble. This charging dock holds twice the charge of the headset, blowing out the headset's two-hour talk-time to a total of six hours with the dock's charge time included. The Stone also ships with a microUSB charger and a travel adapter, though the USB connector type means you can use basically any charger shipped with a phone this year.
Features and controls
Connecting the Stone to a mobile phone for the first time is dead easy, though this is the case with all Bluetooth headsets these days. After charging the headset in the dock it goes immediately into pairing mode when you pull it out. We tested it using an iPhone 3GS and BlackBerry Bold 9700, and the headset paired after we found the connection in the phones, but Jabra does say you might need to enter a passcode (OOOO) if your phone asks for one.
The Stone features multipoint connections, meaning it can connect with two phones at the same time and can store eight paired devices in its memory. Volume is controlled by a touch-sensitive slider on the side of the headset, and the base of the unit (nearest to your ear) serves as a multi-purpose button. The only problem with this set-up is the lack of feedback from the headset; short of a couple of coloured LEDs it has no way of communicating with you. Other high-end headsets offer voice-guided feedback, letting the headset tell you when its battery is low or when it's in pairing mode, and we think the Stone could benefit from something similar.
The audio quality on offer from the Jabra Stone met our expectations without exceeding them. The sound we heard was clear and loud enough, but not remarkable in either regard. We had our suspicions about the capability of a microphone so far away from our mouth, but the people we spoke to during our tests didn't have any major complaints. Our tests outdoors made the grade, and the Stone even made for a decent headphone for music playback, if a little on the quiet side, and we did notice the ear bud heating up to an almost-uncomfortable level after about 10 minutes of music.
The Jabra Stone definitely places style before performance, but its performance isn't totally sacrificed in making the headset as attractive as it is. The looped design makes for a comfortable fit with discreet positioning on the ear, and the controls work well, even if they are limited. We've definitely used better sounding Bluetooth headsets before, but the Stone makes up for its just-average performance with great looks and its convenient charging dock. If you're planning to spend over AU$100 on a headset, the Stone is worth a look.