Cool gifts for geeks, 2011: Smartphones and accessories

Presenting the gems that will enhance your smartphones during the holidays.

By Network World Staff, Network World |  Unified Communications, Android, iphone accessories

Icon HD Bluetooth headset + The Nerd, by Jawbone

The Jawbone Icon HD is a Bluetooth headset designed for your mobile phone with NoiseAssassin 2.5 software to create great-sounding phone calls from your end (that is, the recipient hears no noise; you may still hear some from their end). The Nerd is an extra USB dongle that can be attached to a PC or Mac, providing a wireless Bluetooth headset for computer-based VoIP applications (Skype or other unified communications software). In addition to providing audio for phone calls, the headset can stream audio from your mobile phone or computer for when you're not on a call.

The addition of the Nerd USB dongle makes this ideal for users who want a Bluetooth headset for their cellphone, but then want to use the same headset for VoIP calls on their computer, instead of investing in a separate headset. Like other headsets of its ilk, the Icon HD seamlessly switches between streaming audio and incoming calls, pausing the music to let you take the call, then returning to the music after the call is finished. It's also nice to have different fitting options -- the package comes with seven earbud sizes, as well as a plastic earloop that can fit behind the ear for a more snug fit. In my tests, the earbud-only option worked just fine -- I didn't need to worry about it falling out if I tilted my head.

I loved the addition of an on/off switch on the Icon HD -- it saves a lot of battery life for when you're not using the headset. The HD technology made for great audio quality on cellphone and Skype calls, and really enhanced music streaming from my iPhone; it only suffered slightly when streaming from the PC via the Nerd dongle.

And my callers are very appreciative of the noise cancellation features, which means I don't have to shout when I'm in a noisy environment like my car or the airport, where I'm doing the bulk of my cell phone calls. Bravo!

Some downsides - the power adapter has a very short USB cable -- if you use a wall outlet, you may forget that the headset is attached to it (I prefer longer cables that let you move the headset away from the wall outlet). While pairing the headset with my iPhone was extremely simple, I had more difficulty pairing with the Nerd USB dongle, bringing me back to the early days of Bluetooth where you had to hit buttons in the proper order and before time ran out on the pairing. Also, I preferred the voice activation feature on my Plantronics headset (the Savor M1100), which lets me answer an incoming call by saying "Answer"; on this headset, when an incoming call comes in, I needed to press the "talk" button on the phone. But that's a really minor quibble.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars
Price: $140
Reviewed by Keith Shaw

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