Though the Aliph Jawbone is so named for the voice activity sensor that touches the side of the face, it is not actually a bone-conduction headset. The sensor on the Jawbone is just there to detect your voice and help separate it from the surrounding noise. Few headsets can truly claim bone conduction, a technology that promises to translate the vibration of the jaw into speech. In fact, we've never really seen one before until CES 2008, where we took a look at Nextlink's Invisio Q7. Invisio claims to have tested its bone-conduction headset with the military, and indeed, we were so impressed with it that we nominated it for the Best of CES that year. Unfortunately, we haven't heard a thing about Invisio since then, which led us to believe it was vaporware.
Enter Motorola. There were rumors last year that the handset manufacturer was partnering up with Nextlink to develop with a Motorola-branded version of the Invisio Q7. It now appears that the rumors are true, because Motorola have recently announced the Motorola Endeavor HX1, which claims to be the first genuine bone-conduction headset in the U.S. market. Motorola calls this bone-conduction technology "stealth mode," and combines it with Motorola's own CrystalTalk noise-canceling technology to produce really top-quality noise reduction. The idea is that you would use regular CrystalTalk for normal everyday use, and then for extremely noisy or windy situations, you can engage "stealth mode" to take advantage of the bone conduction.
We're incredibly impressed with the bone-conduction technology on the Endeavor HX1. It definitely delivers when it comes to completely blocking outside noise and still being able to transmit our voice. It's not perfect, but combined with CrystalTalk, voice prompts, and multipoint support, the Endeavor HX1 definitely earns a top spot in our list of headsets. Final pricing is yet to be announced, and the HX1 is slated to come out in late 2009.
The Motorola Endeavor HX1 has a very business-like design, with black and silver tones all around. Measuring 1.85 inches long by 0.71 inch wide by 0.47 inch thick, the HX1 is rectangular and a bit blocky, and looks very much like a traditional Bluetooth headset.
The front surface is divided into three black areas separated by two silver lines. The topmost section with the phone icon is the multifunction call button. It's easy to press, even when the headset is worn on the ear. Underneath that is a slim silver grille, which is the external microphone. This is used to pick up ambient noise so that CrystalTalk can separate the user's voice from the background. The second silver line is the "stealth mode" button that activates or deactivates the bone conduction.
On the right side of the headset are a volume rocker and a sliding power switch. The rocker is raised above the surface and has bumps indicating the volume increase and decrease directions, which makes it that much easier to use. We also like the sliding power switch that makes it easier to turn the headset on and off--most headsets require you to hold down the call button for a few seconds instead.
Flip the headset around and you'll find a rather large protruding earpiece that is designed to fit snugly in the ear. Covering it is a rubber ear bud with an attached loop, which is made to nestle inside the openings of the ear and ensure the correct placement of the headset. The HX1 comes with two different ear loop fittings plus two additional ear fittings that have a unique "soft spring" curve instead of a loop. We found the ear fittings with the "soft spring" curve much more comfortable and secure than the ones with the loop. Also, we were a bit uncomfortable with how deep the HX1 felt in our ear at first, but we soon got used to it.
We felt the earpiece fit quite securely when placed in the ear, but if you want additional security, you can also use the optional ear hook. The hook is thin, flexible, and can rotate to fit either the left or right ear.
Underneath the earpiece, at the very tip, you'll find a small rubber nub. This is essentially the part that helps the HX1 with bone conduction. When placed in the ear, this "stealth mode" sensor will sense the vibration of your jaw as you talk, and then translate that into speech for the other person on the line. Near the bottom of the headset is another microphone, which is used to amplify your voice, and right next to it is a LED indicator light.
Features of the Motorola Endeavor HX1 include the typical answering, ending, and rejecting calls, call waiting support, call mute, last number redial, the capability to transfer calls from the headset to the phone and vice versa, plus multipoint support. The latter means that the HX1 is able to connect to two devices at the same time. This works especially if you want to use one headset with two phones. The first phone to pair and connect to the HX1 will be designated Phone 1, the second one will be called Phone 2.
We paired the Motorola Endeavor HX1 with both the Apple iPhone 3G and the LG LX290. The Endeavor HX1 features voice prompts similar to the BlueAnt Q1--it announces to you when it's ready for pairing and walks you through the pairing process. It will also announce its battery status, when stealth mode is on or off, and if an incoming call is coming from Phone 1 or Phone 2. We found the voice prompts handy, especially when handling more than one phone.
We were extremely impressed by the sound quality of the headset overall. On our end, we could hear our callers very clearly with plenty of volume, though we did hear the occasional static and crackle. It was about on par with the incoming call quality of the handsets.
As for outgoing call quality, we found that we didn't have to use the "stealth mode" bone conduction all the time, especially in a quiet office or a moderately busy restaurant--the dual-microphone noise-canceling CrystalTalk technology was sufficient for the most part. With just CrystalTalk and without activating "stealth mode," callers said we sounded very clear with a natural sounding voice. They didn't hear a lot of static or interference. However, callers could still hear some background sound at times when we were outside, and the HX1 did poorly with wind noise when just using CrystalTalk.
It was a whole different story with the "stealth mode" activated. Background noise was absolutely eliminated--even when we were standing in front of a fan blowing at full speed, our callers didn't hear the fan at all. However, while they did say the sound quality improved, we did encounter a few snags. They said our voice sounded digitized and almost garbled at times. We had to enunciate words and speak a bit slowly and deliberately to avoid sounding garbled or mumbled. Our callers also heard a tiny bit of crackling at times. This is why we would only use "stealth mode" in the most extreme of noisy situations, since the bone conduction affects the quality of the voice.
The Motorola Endeavor HX1 has a rated talk time of 7 hours talk time and 10 days standby time.