Come this "summer", iPhone 3.0 -- see our walkthrough -- will allow iPhone 3G (and perhaps next-generation iPhone users) to enjoy new Bluetooth functionality including stereo headsets, both the A2DP audio and ARCP control protocols. For consumers, the Motorola S9 Stereo Bluetooth headset (available from our sibling store, WMExperts) may be an option you want to consider come release day. For developers testing using the A2DP/ARCP profiles on the iPhone 3.0 Beta, they might even be something you want to consider now.
Note: This pre-review will not be focusing on iPhone 3.0 functionality, which is currently in closed beta. It will concentrate only on the headset itself. However, for those developers needing an A2DP headset for testing 3.0, it's our understanding this one works well on multiple units, over multiple carriers.
The Motorola S9 is a fixed form, if flexible plastic horse-shoe shaped, behind-the-head fitting audio solution that combines stereo music with phone functionality. The advantage of being a singular unit is that it's solid, unlikely to become loose or break off at some weak join point. The disadvantage is that if your head is too thin or too wide, the headset will be either uncomfortable or unusable. Likewise, the behind-the-head layout will appeal to those who like wearing hats or otherwise don't want the bar crossing over their head. However, it may be a non-starter for people who want to use them while reclining or lying down.
A status light in the middle of the bulge along the back of the headset separates the standards-friendly mini-USB charging port on one side from the power button on the other. Both are covered by soft touch red plastic. The right-side earpiece has controls for play/pause, forward, and back. The left side earpiece has controls for answering the phone as well as volume up and down. These controls are under harder black plastic, with the play/pause and answer buttons providing a tactile, click feedback, and the volume and track buttons on either side lying flat and flush.
The S9s are rated for 6 hours talk and 7 hours music, but like any re-chargeable product, battery life can and will vary based on usage and cycle. Sound volume is good, as is music quality, though the compression required for AD2P stereo Bluetooth transfer might not be to the liking of audiophiles. If you're happy enough with traditional MP3 sound reproduction, however, you'll likely have no problem with this device.
The freedom provided by wireless Bluetooth stereo headsets like the Motorola S9 will be a boon to iPhone users, the convenience easily outweighing concerns of audiophile-level sound reproduction (at least for most). They won't fit everyone on either end of the physical or usage pattern scale, but as with the quality, they're well suited for a large enough swathe down the middle.
Bottom line, if you want something solid, affordable, portable, and functional for your iPhone 3.0 developer unit, or upcoming iPhone 3.0 release unit, you'd do well to consider the Motorola S9s.