April 19, 2004, 9:28 AM — There is little doubt that telephone headsets are one of the greatest inventions ever. I use one in the office with my desktop phone (an AT&T 955, which comes with a convenient 2.5-mm cellular-headset-compatible jack), and, of course, while on the road with my various cell phones. The primary reason I like headsets is ergonomic: using a headset produces a lot less strain on necks and elbows. I like headsets that hang over the ear, so that they're fundamentally light in weight, easy to put on and take off, and small to carry. For a long time I used a Jabra EarBud. This is the smallest headset available. It fits entirely in your ear, and uses bone conduction for a surprisingly good sound. Unfortunately, I never could get a good fit with the little gel things that are supposed to hold the device in your ear, so I've given up.
But the big issue I want to discuss is the debate over wired vs. wireless headsets (this is, after all, supposed to be a column about wireless technology). I am, again, no big fan of Bluetooth, but the one undeniable degree of success that Bluetooth has seen has been in headsets. Many cell phones now come with Bluetooth built in, and Bluetooth headsets are available from many sources. Just so the Jabra folks don't think I'm picking on them today (you may, after all, actually get a good fit with the EarBud), I urge you to check out the company's Bluetooth headset, though there are of course many others on the market.
I've been no big fan of Bluetooth because I think wireless LANs are a better choice for data communications and networking. But I don't think I'd want Wi-Fi in a headset; it consumes too much power, and you don't really need a network-attached headset in the first place. But Bluetooth in no panacea either:
Wireless headsets are by definition going to be bigger, heavier, and bulkier than wired models.
They're also going to be much more expensive.
They will be less secure, although I think the threat of eavesdropping is relatively minor.
Being battery powered, they may give out at the worst possible time.