Bluetooth headsets

They’re stylish and useful — but not entirely hassle-free.
 
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  • Updated:4 Jul 2007
 

05.Bluetooth basics

  • Bluetooth is a type of wireless technology that can connect up to eight devices in a small network. Some Bluetooth gadgets can communicate when they’re 100 metres apart, but mobile phone headsets generally only have a range of up to 10 metres.
  • Bluetooth devices communicate using rapid changes to the radio frequencies that the network uses, making it difficult to keep tabs on any traffic passing through the network. Additionally, you must enter a special code to connect Bluetooth gadgets — a process known as pairing (see dictionary below). Only paired devices can talk to each other.
  • Most new mobile phones and laptops now have Bluetooth capability and you may also find it on personal digital assistants (PDAs), digital music players and other gadgets, making it easy to transfer files, calls and other data.
  • Bluetooth is a digital technology, so part of the headset’s job is to convert your voice into a digital signal that it then sends to your mobile phone.

What you need

  • To make or receive phone calls you’ll need either a Bluetooth compatible mobile phone or an adapter that lets you use a Bluetooth headset with your current phone. If you plan on using a Bluetooth headset with a computer, say for internet phone calls (VoIP), you’ll need a Bluetooth enabled computer or a Bluetooth USB adapter.
  • Before you can make a call, you must pair the phone with the Bluetooth headset: turn both devices on and enable the Bluetooth capability in your phone (you’ll usually find this under ‘settings’). The phone will have a search function to locate nearby Bluetooth gadgets — when you locate the headset, you can choose to connect it. Generally you’ll need to enter a code but some gadgets have an inbuilt code that you’ll have to enter on the phone.
  • Once paired, the devices will recognise each other whenever they’re in range. When you receive a call, the phone rings and so does the earpiece. The headset has an answer button that you can press to take the call — you won’t need to touch the phone. Then, just speak as you normally would. The microphone should pick up your voice.

Dictionary

  • Boom: a microphone attachment that extends towards your mouth.
  • Pairing: the process of connecting Bluetooth devices.
  • Profile: a specification that defines ways in which Bluetooth devices communicate with each other. Profiles define what features the headset and phone can use.
  • VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol): A method of carrying voice calls over the internet.

Things to look out for

Headsets may come with one or more attachment types:

  • an earloop
  • an earhook
  • a headband
  • an earbud

Earloops go right around the ear, while earhooks act like a clip — some go behind the ear like a glasses frame and others, like the Nokia HS-26W, are more like a hinged clip that fits over the edge of the ear. You may find one style more comfortable than another. All the models we tested had an adjustable attachment that could fit either ear.

The headset earpiece may be designed to go over the ear, covering it, or may sit behind the ear like a traditional-style hearing-aid. Some headsets, such as the BlueAnt T8 micro, have an ear-bud, which fits into the exterior of the ear canal.

It’s a good idea to keep your headset on standby to conserve the battery and only switch it on when a call comes in — so you’ll need to find and use the power-on button easily while wearing the device.

A microphone boom (see Dictionary above) may pick up sound better than a microphone built into the earpiece. Check that the boom is adjustable so you can swing it out of the way when it’s not in use.

Bluetooth profiles

Headsets use profiles (See Dictionary above), which determine their features and capabilities. A headset with the basic 'headset' profile can answer and end calls, but more advanced features such as voice recognition and dialling require a headset with the 'hands-free' profile.

The Bluetooth version of the headset determines the power use and battery life. Bluetooth 2.0 uses less power and has faster transfer rates than Bluetooth 1.2.

 

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