Pre-Review: Motorola S9 Stereo Bluetooth Headset for iPhone 3.0

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.

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Form Factor

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.

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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.

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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.


  • Good sound
  • Good battery life
  • Good price-point
  • Light and comfortable
  • Well suited for on-the-go use.


  • May not fit all head sizes
  • Not well-suited for lying down

TiPb Accessory Pre-Review Rating

4 star rating

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I have one of those used it with my Helio Ocean, worked great. Now I can't wait for 3.0 Highly recomend this one.
  • I personally never used bluetooth before and don't really see the need for it either.
  • I still like my Sony DRT-22A. Yeah they look old school, but they can get loud without bad sound. Also they can fit my ginormous head. I've also used the Jabra BT 3030 which work great, but not loud enough, and the keypad is way too stiff.
  • Frank, if you ever work out with music you'll understand how annoying the cords get. Even if I put them down my shirt in the front or the back, you'll have to do some exercise that will cause the a problem with the cords. I can't wait.
  • I would still prefer the Sony Ericsson HBH-DS980 over this any day. With a OLED-display that shows track information, your phonebook, call history, battery status, the time, etc. Can't see why anyone would like this more.
    Really hope someone will make the HBH-DS980 work as nice with the iPhone as with my SE P1i.
  • @Frank: How does your comment contribute to the post in any way? If you've used them, a comment either pro or con would be great. Your post is useless and unless your momma is reading, nobody cares what products you don't see a need for.
  • Those s9 headphones are outdated. The S9-HD is out and is pretty damn good.
  • @Evilhomer:
    How does YOUR comment contribute to the post in any way? You didn't comment anything pro or con either. Unless your momma is reading, nobody cares what comments you see a need for. :roll:
    These look great, by the way.
  • I have the s9HD and have adaptor for AD2P for the iPhone 3g. They are the best thing love them ....
  • I have the S9 and love the sound quality. I do have to say that the sound of the user's voice is quite poor. I have been told this and have experienced it when a coworker used his for a conference call.
  • I have the JayBirds. Wish I could get my hands on one of the new iPhones this summer that way I could get rid the BT adapter.
  • This kind of form factor is not perfect if you're wearing glasses.
  • what, no picture of someone wearing it????
  • I had originally planned on getting the S9 but I when I saw the Altec Lansing BackBeat 906 I got them instead. I am LOVING the BackBeats! Instead of a rigid/semi-rigid frame they have a cord connecting two earhooks. They are very comfortable and light weight.
  • Can you guys do the voyager 885 as well ? :)
    I think those might actually get a 5/5
  • 855 actually.
  • I had an S9 before and I've also tried the Plantronics Voyager. After these burned out on my from my instense workout sweating I went and got a bluetooth wireless headset from JayBird. I found the JayBird is the better cause they stay on so well. They're also a good small size which I like.
  • +1 on Adam G's comment.
    Loved the form factor but if you want to use these while you workout (as advertised) they will go dead. Mine did during my second workout with them. I should have heeded the many warnings on Amazon not to buy them.
  • Sweet! I tried them on Beta 2 and they didn't work for me. I could connect them, but it wouldn't stream. Just tried again now that I'm running beta 3 and they work great! Sound quality is pretty damn good! No more cables! Time to get a new head unit for my car now. :-D
  • I only get audio from the left side using iPhone OS 3.0 Beta 3. The pairing shows "Motorola S9" I have read that the audio streaming pairing is separate but I don't ever see it on the bluetooth menu. Does anyone else have this issue?
  • I haven't seen the problem you are describing and I am on beta 3 too. I did notice that the 'stereo' portion of the device cannot be connected to anything else or it won't connect properly to the iPhone. But once properly connected i can play anything in iPod to switch over to the motorola s9. I have to take that step before using it with 3rd party apps.
  • I am also on Beta 3 and the s9 works great (pairs easily and sound good) if you are limiting your activity to light movement and line of sight proximity. Every time I try to ride my bike it cuts out continuously. I have tried it in my seat pouch, my shirt pocket and an armband. None of them work. I have a bike mount on order (should be here today) and will try that as next. But I don’t have much hope for that as it wouldn’t be any closer to the headset than the armband. When I connect a wired headset it works perfectly. I guess I could try strapping it to my helmet!
  • I'm also running beta 3. They work (the HD ones), but refuse to skip ahead or back when playing music. Hopefully this is fixed by the final version or there will be some workaround. If you are rocking beta 3 on a first generation, it won't work. The a2dp is not supported on these phones, only second gen and next.
  • Running 3.0 GM version on a 3G using original S9's and can confirm that song next/previous (AVRCP) does not work. I am able to stop and start music via the headphones. Also, there is no ability to raise or lower the volume using the side buttons when connected to a headset. There is also no volume slider in the pop up itunes control window.
  • just a heads up. i just connected my S9's against iphone 3.0 software on 3G (i've had them for a while for use with other products) and they work great. Sound quality is great. I had to pair twice to begin with because the first pairing was horrible so keep that in mind. as others have posted at various sites the 'next' and 'back' track buttons dont work on the original S9's but supposedly do work on the S9 HD's so keep that in mind. all other features work. for me this is kind of crappy because when i go for a run or ride i like the ability to quickly be able to skip a track if it is not motivating for exercise. otherwise, volume up/down, pause, play and phone functions work fine. i may have to crack and purchase the HD version just for the forward and back buttons to work but will test taking the iphone on long is a little too heavy to take on outdoor runs but is fine sitting on a treadmill shelf and transmitting. wow! on another note i just walked 40 feet from the phone and the sound is still strong. i even walked around a corner and into a closet and still great sound. the dongle that came with my original S9 never did a great job of transmitting bluetooth very far but i've noticed that on my curve and now the iphone the transmission is much stronger. hope this helps. -robert
  • Anyone tried pairing the Motorola S9 headset with the Gen1 iPhone running 3.0?
  • I have a motorola s9 it pairs great with the streaming music and I can hear phone calls, but the other person can not hear me. Also the volume buttons work but the pause and forward back buttons do not. I was just wondering if there was a problem with the headphones or this is just the way it is?
  • I've got the s9 and successfully paired with my iPhone 3g v3.0 ..everything works fine EXCEPT the "forward" and "back" buttons will not work... very frustrating, as I MTB with this setup and keep my iPhone in my camelbak. If I want to skip a track I've got to stop, get the iPhone out, turn it on, skip the track, put everything back.
    Anyone know of a way to fix these? Does Motorola offer a way to upgrade the firmware?
  • I have the S9-HD and running 3.0 os release and the foward and back buttons still not work. I love the headset and I hope they can fix this issue.
  • Input Please! I just purchased a 3G S.
    I've had the S9's for a while & they've worked flawlessly & completely with the Motorola Q9.
    With the 3G S the stereo sounds excellent, and the phone answer button is working. I can't get Play, Pause, or Tracks to work. Has anyone else??? Are others getting at least Play & Pause to work?
  • Great set. Play-Pause OK. Skip fwd and back beeps, however no responce.
    Skype w iPhone headset does not work.
    Normal cell phone works great. A little tincan echo reported by recieving caller.
  • If any one could help that would be great!
    Ok, so I am 60% hard of hearing in my left ear and was wondering if any one knows if phone call can be done in stero? Or placed in my right ear? I have been turning them up side down so I can hear people
    if any one could help that would be nice
    Thank you !!!!!!
  • Hey, I've heard that Audio Skips when running.. is it true? what if you placed your iphone on the treadmill while running? will it still skip? or is it because of the Device that the audio skips
  • Just got a pair of S9's to pair with my Iphone 3GS. They do work great indoors but the moment I headed out onto the streets for a run I got constant drop outs. I tried turning off Wi-Fi and 3G hoping this might reduce the problem somehow but alas no.
    If I held the phone directly next to the headphones then I didn't get any drop-out but, as you can imagine this is not a position best suited for running.
    I guess if I was on a treadmill inside I might not have this problem but jogging around the local park is a complete no go in them.
  • I have the S9 and once I updated to 3.0 it paired and worked fine, all except for the forward and back buttons as others have mentioned. However, now I cannot get the handsfree volume or play/pause buttons to work. This started happening intermittently and then when I recharged and unpaired and re-paired it would wortk again (all except for the forward and backward of course).
    One time also, strangely, when pairing an additional configuration option came up on the iphone asking about handsfree mode and asking for a PIN. I input the standard 0000 and it said invalid PIN and nothing seemed to happen. I have never seen this additional hands free configuration option again. and I am stuck now without the ability to start and stop thje muisic or change the volume. I can answer calls hands free though.
    Weird. I have shut the phone off an on, tried doing it while paired, while not paired, etc. Nothing seems to work. Maybe I shoudl go back and do some sort of hard reset on the phone and reload or something.
  • I upgraded From Motorola S9 to S9-HD , Both Next/Previous Track buttons dont work, But everything else dose.
    i sure hope some one will release something for Jailbroken Iphones to add Additional Bluetooth support for these function to become available ;)
    Other then the Next Track Button, S9-HD sounds Amazing, and was well worth the money
  • I think apple is missing some code in order for the S9s to work. At startup everything worked minus the back and forward button.But after a week of use, now the volume does't work nor the pause button. Maybe motorola will fix the problem since they stand to make a profit out of all those iphone out there.
    If it's around any other bluetooth devices it will immediately drop sound. It also constantly loses sync just walking around with my iPhone.
    Oh and it refuses to synch with any Mac running OSX 10.6 and on 10.5.7 it was dropping constantly even when I'm 5 feet away with a fully charged battery and all other bluetooth devices off.
  • Works great, resp. sound great, hold OK, comfortable, Volume/UPDown, Next/Prev do not works. 3.0 firmware, in beta 3 it sw error
  • I just got the 8gb iTouch (2nd generation) for christmas. I downloaded the 3.1 software upgrade and have bluetooth capability. I am trying to pair with my S9's. The iTouch does not seem to recognize them. Any thoughts?
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