Review: Jawbone PRIME for iPhone

jawbone_prime_hero

First there was Jawbone. Then Jawbone 2. Now we have Jawbone PRIME, the latest -- and maybe the greatest -- noise-assassinating Bluetooth headset ever to pair with an iPhone.

Available for $119.95 from TiPb's iPhone store, we'll see if it lives up to its reputation, and its premium price... after the break.

What's in the Box

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Aliph really went all out to make the Jawbone PRIME an experience. Right from the start, the headset is presented to you floated in a clear box with a treasure trove of extras stashed beneath. Like with Apple products, you reveal these extras in layers, first a selection of 5 extra ear pieces for a total of six. You have small, medium, and large both for solo wear and for use with either the regular ear loop or the "premium" leather ear loop. Also included in the second layer is the USB cord (standard USB to proprietary connector -- unfortunately no micro-USB on the headset end) as well as an AC adaptor if you want to plug the cord into a wall socket. All in all, a generous and well rounded assortment.

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Design

Jawbone PrimeCompared to the original Jawbone, which was my primary headset for almost a year, Jawbone PRIME is smaller and lighter, if not appreciably thinner. Yes, the uber-sexy exterior still hides a fairly plump little, kidney bean shaped device that cozies up to its namesake -- your jawbone. It's also got a textured outside face, much like the original, though as with the Jawbone 2, it's gone from overtly cheese grater-like to a more subtle, dimpled look.

For the fashion-conscious, the simple truth is it remains arguably the best looking headset on the market -- and comes in a wide variety of colors so you can accessorize to your hearts content (meaning I went with turtle-neck black, of course).

Usability

Pairing? Come on, we're iPhone users. You turn it on, it pops up on your iPhone Bluetooth Settings panel, you select it, it asks for verification, and -- boom! -- you're paired.

Charging is also a snap -- literally. You snap the Jawbone PRIME (much as you did previous Jawbones) into the proprietary USB cable and plug the other end into a standard, powered USB port on your PC, laptop, hub, etc. or into the provided AC adaptor. Of course, I wish they'd used micro-USB on the headset end just so cables could be re-used between devices, so if there's a single knock against Aliph, that's it.

Wearing the Jawbone PRIME, depending on whether you choose to rock the ear loop is either as simple as placing it in your ear pointing down and twisting up (for without) or just hooking it into place. Easy peasy.

At this point I have to mention, as I do with every headset review, that my ears have been battered to the point that almost nothing fits right in them anymore (a few in-ear designs aside). So, I went with the ear loop and even then, if I'm not careful to readjust, the ear loop alone typically ends up keeping the device in anything resembling proximity to my head. For you non-mutants out there, you'll likely have no problem at all, especially given the 6 different fitting options that come with the Jawbone PRIME.

Using the Jawbone PRIME to take calls involves pressing the main "button" on the face of the device. I but "button" in "quotes" because Aliph seems to share Apple's hatred for obvious clicking mechanisms and so the "button" is completely invisible. You press it much as you do an Apple mouse or new-style trackpad -- through the entire surface.

There's nothing hidden about call quality, however. I tried it out walking outside, in the car during rush hour, and in a big-iron server room with multiple machines, drives, and cooling systems whirring.

This button will also, if held down, turn the headset off or on.

Jawbone PRIME's second button, located at the top of the device just above the charging port, is even more of a multi-tasker. It will cycle through volume (because there's no separate volume rocker... tsk!), reject calls, etc. (i.e. initiate voice calls on other platforms). If held down, it will also turn of NoiseAssasin, or turn it back on again.

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Technology

Forgive me for quoting from Aliph here, but if you're interested in more than just does it work (it does!), here's how:

Acoustic Voice Activity Detector (AVAD) provides a fail-safe mechanism when the Voice Activity Sensor (VAS) doesn't touch your face. When the VAS is not touching the face, Jawbone PRIME performs as good as or better than any other noise canceling headset. When the VAS touches the face, you get the turbo-boost to the NoiseAssassin performance.

Jawbone PRIME also has a subtle wind feedback mechanism built into the headset that gently alerts you when voice clarity is compromised due to wind gusts so the user can self-correct. While Jawbone PRIME does not completely remove the impact of wind, it does more than any other headset to remove wind and alert the user to the fact that wind may be affecting the conversation.

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Conclusion

Jawbone PRIME is the best headset I've used to date. Stylish, flexible, and most importantly -- highly functional, it builds upon the previous generation of Jawbone's to raise the bar another notch.

Sure, micro-USB and a volume rocker would be nice, no doubt about it, but those minor discontents can't take away from the overall package which, if it isn't best of breed, is certainly a leading contender for the title.

If fit, finish, and performance are more important than a budget price point, Jawbone PRIME just might be the headset for you.

Pros

  • 6 fitting options including 3 for ear-loop use.
  • Stylish yet comfortable
  • Cutting edge noise cancelation technology
  • Premium product

Cons

  • Apple-like lack of overt buttons and standard connectors
  • Premium price

TiPb Review Rating

5 star rating

(Note: I'm philosophically opposed to perfect scores -- everything can be improved. However, lacking a 4.9 star option, I rounded up in their favor. Still, I challenge Aliph to shoot for that 4.95 next year, okay?)

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Review: Jawbone PRIME for iPhone

32 Comments

I'm left wondering what the REAL difference between the Jawbone 2 and the Jawbone PRIME is. The only 2 differences I can see are colors and ear cushions. The Jawbone 2 was only available in Red and Black, I believe. Also, there's the new ear cushions included that don't require the ear hooks. Funny thing about that though, is Aliph is providing those new ear cushions for free to anyone who owns a Jawbone or Jawbone 2. I think I'll take the freebie and start calling my Jawbone 2 a PRIME.

There's a great review on my site, jawboneblue.com, that goes over the differences. The Jawbone Prime has Noise Assassin version 2.0, with updated algorithms for better noise canceling in louder environments, plus wind blocking up to 9mph, plus AVAD technology -- this is the big one. The headset cancels noise even if the rubber nub isn't touching your face.

I don't use BT headsets enough to justify spending that much on one, but if I was a "power user", this would certainly be on my wishlist!
At this point, I'm more interested in the stereo BT headphones that I might use with iPhone OS 3.0. If someone made an A2DP stereo BT headphone with the kind of quality that this headset has, I'd definitely fork out the money for it.

@Cassandra:
Your site has a few problems......
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The main problem I have with BT headsets is that most people really look like douche bags while wearing them. I saw a woman in Target the other day in furry house slippers and what looked like a nightgown/moo moo wearing a BT headset paired with her MetroPCS crap phone. Like see was expecting an emergency call from the President or something...

I have this one... I just couldn't/can't get the bloody thing to fit into my ear very well. No matter which tip I use.. :(

Not going to bother with something as expensive as this until I get hands-free voice dialing.

@Critter:
There are two pieces involved in ear fit. One is the tip, the other is the hook.
A "tall" ear, using a small hook will leave the tip in the wrong place get a good fit and stay in place.

I got this one and it seems to be pretty good! No complaints of "I cant understand you", "you're fading out" or "what is all that noise".
So its a keeper, I'm trying to do a better job at taking care of this one.
I'm super paranoid about it fallin out of my ear so I use the hook ear piece.

Bought this to move half way across the country and keep in contact with the other person moving with me. It worked awesome. The moving truck was noisy but I could hear him crystal clear with no background noise (when we could get signal on our iPhones or could keep from getting dropped with full signal...starting to hate my phone and AT&T) and he could hear me. Best BT we have ever owned.

This is by far, without question or equivocation, the WORST customer service I have ever had from any company. After returning three JawJunk 2 headsets to the store where I bought them, I called the manufacturer and they promised an advance replacement. They charged my AmEx $75 and then proceeded to "lose" the shipment. Over a month later I got the advance replacement and returned my original (my 4th actually) unit by registered mail. The factory replacement still caused most conversations to run like this, "Hello!" - "What? I can't hear you" - "I said HELLO! Can you hear me now?" - "I can't hear you, are you under water?" - "Is this better?" - "I can't hear anything, call from a landline" - "No, wait, let me turn off my JawJunk".
If that wasn't enough, this manufacturer decided to just keep my $75 paid for the advance replacement unit. So the math works like this: I paid $125 for the unit. I paid $75 to have it replaced under warranty. I sent them the original unit and they signed for it. They kept all the money. I paid over $200 for a JawJunk headset that doesn't work and has zero value.
Your mileage may vary. I have had four JawJunks and they were all bad. But my original JawBone was quite good (although very ugly). Still, I learned my lesson about this one hit wonder company. They can't make a good product so they just steal money from their customers.

anyone test out the Jawbone Prime with the Iphone 3GS -- it synchs up immediately for the phone but I cannot get the ipod or other apps with sound (i.e. MLB) to recognize that I have it on -- any recommendations?

I agree with the customer service comment and cannot support a company like that even if the product they sell looks pretty cool and chic (with a matching price tag).
I attempted to order a couple of Jawbone Prime headsets using a $30 off coupon, which was tempting enough for me to "go for it". The website accepted the coupon, reduced the price by $30, and took my credit card. I received an email receipt of the transaction. This was on a Saturday. On Monday, I received a phone call informing me that the coupon expired...no appology, no sympathetic tone, no offer to honor the coupon. After a few seconds of silence, I cancelled my order and submitted feedback through their website suggesting that if a coupon is expired, their website should not accept it and process the transaction!
The hype is definitely there, and the design and colors and marketing make it stylish, but for $129 and the type of "customer service" this company possesses, I will take my money elsewhere thank you.

for all of you jb2 owners, if you registered with aliph when you bought it you would've gotten an email late 08 or early 09 telling you that they had a new FREE earbud available. all you had to do was pay $3 for shipping. the came in a pack of 3. it was a limited time offer because when i lost my jb2 and bought a new one i had to pay $10 for a new pack of the new earbuds.
with that being said the difference between the jb2 and the prime is the better noise assassin. not only does it block a higher decibal of noise but it also has some wind cancellation. it admits that it can't block strong gusts of wind, and when it can't it will alert you that your speech may have been compromised due to the wind. how it works is it grabs your high frequency sound from the air and matches it with the low frequency sound thru the nodule and seamlessly puts them together. it's the ONLY bluetooth on the market with a solution to wind interference.

Is the earloop connection to the headset still junk? I went thru 4 earloops with a JB2 before I ended up returning it for a Moto. I did get the free ear gels to hopefully not have to use the earloops but it didnt fit correctly without them. Oh well, Until a design change Im avoiding the Jawbone. Way to fragile.

My local Costco has the Jawbone 2 (they call it a JB2+) on sale for $69. It includes two charging cables and a car charger. While the noise assassin 2.0 sounds nice, if you're not a heavy headset user like me this could be a solution for you for $50 less than the current model.

I've had an original Jawbone for several years now. It has not only been absolutely the BEST bluetooth unit I've ever owned, but the unit itself has withstood extremely harsh abuse (including having the earpiece cracked off and "krazy glued" back together) and it still works well! My only complaint has (and continues to be) the ridiculously poor design of the earloops, which continually break off at the weakest point ... right where it presses into the unit. All it takes is a hug from my kids while the Jawbone sits in my shirt pocket or hangs from my collar and the earloop is history. If Aliph had simply made that part of the loop thicker (which wouldn't have compromised the overall design at all) it would have been fine.
I thought I had registered the unit through the website, but never received an email offering the improved ear gels. I guess I'll have to try contacting the company, though after reading the complaints about customer support I suspect this might be a waste of time.
Still, for the right price I would definitely try a newer "improved" model, as call performance is second to none. My first Jawbone was purchased on special for around $60 or $70. I see that the Jawbone 2 can be had for as little as $25 these days if you watch carefully for specials. I may hold out, however for a sale on the "Prime," because I find I'm often losing perfect contact between the jaw sensor and my cheek ... having the enhanced noise reduction in place during those times would certainly be a plus for me.
Regards,
Steve

Update: I decided that for only $25 ($27 with tax to my state) there was just no passing up such a great deal on an awesome product! I sincerely hope the earloop on the second generation is a little more robust than the original, but I already have a solution worked out if it's not ... There's a company that sells a "do it yourself" custom earplug product (which I've already used successfully - motorcycle rider here), and I figured out that I can probably use the stuff to create a custom earpiece that will perfectly fit my ear and allow me to confidently (and comfortably) use the unit without the earloop.
Regards,
Steve

One last update ... Verizon screwed up and apparently oversold thousands of the Jawbone II's. Long story short, mine was among thousands of cancelled orders. Guess I'll go back to watching for a great deal on the new "Prime."
Regards,
Steve

I had an original Jawbone and it worked great. I could hear very clearly and callers couldn't tell I was on a headset or where I was talking to them from. It was big and heavy though, so I was stoked about the Jawbone 2 when it arrived. I was very disappointed in the performance though. It didn't have enough volume for me to hear well and it had a tinnier sound. Also, callers would often complain that I sounded like I was in a tunnel. I ended up giving it to my girlfriend and getting a Blueant V1 which solved many of the problems. I'm curious to try the Prime but I'm afraid I'll be disappointed again.

I got the prime 2 days ago. (There is a great deal right now from verizon wireless. It is 20% off and then use use code ACC20 for another 20%). I paid about 80 dollars and it was shipped overnight free! Anyhow, I just tested the noise assassin when the landscaper came to blow leaves and cut. I left a voicemail on my own machine and tried it with the noise function on and off. What a fantastic product! Really works great. Bravo Jawbone prime!

This internet site is actually quite good, but for some reason it does not display properly when trying to view on my Nintendo Wii. If it helps, the console uses the Opera web browser and am impelled to using the console for accessing the Internet whilst my PC is away being restored.

I spent the $ and got the prime, What a piece of junk!!!! Poor Design In and out reception, a charging cord that Kind of works sometimes, than the comfort of waring this piece of... Jawbone, I mean it is just about as painful as it could get, This dose not represent Good Engineering it is a lacking piece of Junk. Perhaps previous versions were good but this one is not worth the price, Going back to Plantronics they are ugly but out preform this Fake hands down

Great features, but I refuse to buy a headset or any device with a proprietary power interface. Tired of lugging multiple cables to power my devices. Hopefully vendors will figure this out as I suspect I'm not alone.

This is my Mii!I'm glad you like it!Thanks for putting it on here.I also made the Chemical Romance Miis and the Luigi and Zelda/Link ones too. I'll post more Miis soon. Bye!