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Motorola H550 Bluetooth Headset for Treo 750, 700p, 700w|wx, 680, 650

Mon Apr 9, 2007 - 6:27 AM EDT - By Jay Gross

Overview

With good sound volume and incoming audio quality, Motorola’s H550 Bluetooth headset sits near your ear, rather than invading it. It’s a small unit, though not the smallest by any means, and plenty stylish and functional. Its one big square button controls your incoming calls nicely, and its volume up/down buttons can be remapped if you’d rather have the "up" on top or bottom.

The H550’s ear hooks can be reversed, too. The package, a nice big box, includes a selection of ear hooks to fit different sized ears. Motorola also throws in a collection of international-flavor adapters so you can recharge the headset wherever in the world you might be, but there’s no car charger.

The company claims a single charge will give you days of standby or eight hours of talk time. Maybe you should make a note to place that call on your free nights and weekends plan.


Usability

To my joy, the H550 worked right out of the box. It came with a little bit of charge on its battery, and I paired it right up with my Treo 650. The unit’s versatile LED flashes red when the battery needs another charge, and it wasn’t blinking, so it had enough to keep going. For good measure, I charged it anyway. The red LED goes off when it reaches full charge.

The box includes a collection of international plugs that adapt the charger to work on various continents. Nice touch. As you’d expect from Motorola, the H550 is also very well globalized in other respects. The manual has sections in a bunch of different languages and alphabets. Some have nice fonts.

Pour through that multitudinously lingual manual and you’ll find directions on how to manage a variety of caller functions with combinations of the H550’s buttons. Answer the phone, disconnect a caller, handle two calls at once – won’t your cable company love that – or dial by voice (on non-Treos). You get some of these functions through a variety of contortions. Hold two buttons down while pressing the other, hold one down and wait. Meanwhile, listen for a veritable Morse code of beeps and noises to confirm various actions. Frankly, most of these features are for the power users and other obsessive compulsives among us, and you can just ignore all of it and enjoy the headset without much fuss. I for one hate call waiting, so I’d rather not know how to get it working, headset or not.

Being Bluetooth, the H550 does have to pair with your Treo (or your laptop, your MacBook, or whatever else). Motorola’s done a great job making that process simple and straight forward. It was even easy to do on my Treo 700p, which I’ve found to be rather frustratingly unfriendly to Bluetooth pairing. The headset will pair as a handsfree device or as a headset, whichever you like.

I was able to leave it paired with my 650 and 700p at the same time, but doing so locked up the 650, requiring a soft reset. The manufacturer makes no claims about multiple pairing capability, so don’t blame them. I tried it because I wondered if it would work. It didn’t.

Motorola also makes no claims about noise canceling, and the H550 doesn’t have any. For this kind of price, I’d expect some. The device puts out plenty of sound volume, however, to make up for noisy environments in which you might need to make cell phone calls.

The H550’s speaker perches on a changeable, reversible ear hook and ends up sitting a few millimeters away from your ear canal, not in it. Wonderfully non-invasive, but this means external sounds aren’t sealed out, a boon for driver/talker types. Even so, the speaker’s volume is plenty loud enough to make up for it.

The H550’s incoming sound quality is very good to excellent, with copious volume. You can turn the volume up (or down) with the two slivers of buttons on the side of the headset, and there’s even a provision for reversing which does what. I guess that’s for lefthanders, or maybe for trapeze acrobats.

Motorola’s also brilliantly thought out that cool LED lamp. It glows solid or blinks purple, red, or blue, short or fast according to what it’s trying to communicate. Too bad your eyes won’t reach around to your ear so you can admire it. The product’s web pages suggest this is so people around you can tell you’re on a call. Guess the fact that you’re talking into space doesn’t give them a clue. Anyway, the H550 provides a way to disable the LED, saving power (and keeping the fact that you’re on the phone a deep dark secret from everyone you meet).



Quibbles

The main thing I’ve found lacking in Motorola’s H550 is its outgoing sound, and I found that pretty well lacking. In my testing, the problem isn’t a Bluetooth range issue, but a shortcoming of the microphone, or perhaps its position near the cheekbone – as opposed to the mouth.

A normally treble-laden voice comes through more like a gravely-voiced blues singer. I tested this with other people besides me, and with landlines as well as other cell phones, including an LG (i.e., non-Treo) current model. The voice is still recognizable, and the phone caller comes through, but the incoming sound quality is below par, as in "barely acceptable." From Motorola, whose reputation in cell phones is out to the next galaxy, I expected better. Much better.

The charging port, too, has no cover. It sits there inviting dirt, dust, and flying dollops of mustard. A tethered cover like on LG’s odd HBM-700 Style-i headset-ish device (review | buy) would be quite welcome.




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