Ive always been a bit of a gadget snob. I've mainly stuck to Sony for my audio/video products, to Palm for my mobile phones and PDAs, to Microsoft for my operating systems, Motorola for some stuff... Im just weird that way. BlackBerry? CrapBerry. iPhone/iBook/Mac-whatever? Never. Samsung TV? Forget it. So when BlueAnt (Blue who? Ant what?) came around, I treated them like a red-headed stepchild.
Then came the
BlueAnt M1 Bluetooth speakers I reviewed a couple months ago. You can read that review here, but to make a long story short the M1 is a fantastic product. Its still my favorite gadget, and usually I have a new favorite every month or so. The M1 has shaken my whole gadget-snob foundation. Could it be that there are other manufacturers of products that Ive never heard of that are actually good? Really?!??! What do I do now?!?! I get dizzy thinking about it.
Well, I can tell you this much: BlueAnt is good. Like,
really good. I can now say that with a high degree of certainty after having some time to play with their V1 Bluetooth headset, which they advertise as the Worlds First Voice Controlled Headset. Im surprised no one else had already thought of this, with there being about 17,000 headsets on the market right now. It just makes sense.
website lists the following as features of the V1:
Revolutionary BlueAnt Voice Control User Interface
Voice Isolation Technology provides outstanding noise suppression, wind noise reduction & echo cancellation
Incorporates 'Voice Isolation' Standard & Max settings adjustable to surrounding noise environments
Dual microphones enable crystal clear communication in the noisiest of environments
Pairs with up to 8 Bluetooth devices
Innovative tie clip
Firmware upgrade via USB on your PC
Up to 5 hours talk-time or 200 hours stand-by
3 charging options including USB, car & wall chargers
Includes Comply Foam Tips & rubber speaker gels plus 2 optional over-the-ear hooks
Locally based Customer Support Center
2 Year Replacement Warranty
The first thing youll notice about the V1 is the great packaging its shipped in. Im not usually one to care about (or even notice, for that matter) a products packaging, as Im often so excited about getting something new that I just tear right into it, but this one is very cool indeed. It just gives you the idea that youre about to get into a particularly cool and well-designed gadget.
Once you get into the package, youll find way more accessories than you would think could fit in there. There are three extra earpieces, an extra ear loop thing, a USB cable, a mini-USB adapter, a car charger, a USB-to-AC adapter, a quick-start guide and a full user manual. The unit uses a proprietary connector on the headset itself, but BlueAnt wisely provides you with every type of solution you can think of to get it charged when, where, and how you need to.
The headset itself is very small for all the features it provides. For some reason, I looked at picture in the TreoCentral store and thought the V1 would be a lot bigger than it is. But as far as Bluetooth headsets go, this one is definitely on the smaller side.
The V1 fits very comfortably in the ear. I use one of the rubber pieces, but the optional foam tips work well too. I prefer the rubber because they dont fit as far into the ear canal and allow for more ambient sound. I like being able to hear the outside world a little when I have one of these things in, especially when Im driving. I would suggest people who buy one of these to try both styles and pick the one they like best. Having several options is always a good thing.
There are 3 buttons on the unit: two volume buttons and one BlueAnt button (BAB), which powers the unit on, answers and ends calls, and activates the myriad of controls and functions the headset offers. There is a bit of a learning curve for using the headset as, for example, you press the BAB once to activate and deactivate the Voice Isolation Technology (discussed further later), and double-click the button to end or ignore a call. There are also other more obscure controls, such as holding the volume up button down for 3 seconds to redial the last number, and holding both volume buttons down to mute the headset. Luckily you are provided with a handy little quick setup fold-out card to help you get acclimated with the headset.
The BlueAnt button is also illuminated in blue, purple, or red to indicate when the unit is paired, charging, low on battery power, etc. You can also upgrade the firmware on the device from a PC via the included USB cable.
The V1 provides excellent sound quality. The speaker is plenty loud, and has a soft, muted quality that comes across as very easy to listen to. There is never the scratchy, high pitched, treble-filled sound that I have experienced with other similar devices. The sound is very nice to the ear and adds to the overall comfort of using the device.
BlueAnt has also implemented some type of dual microphone setup to capture and transmit your voice. Im not sure how that works, but everbody I talked to heard me loudly and clearly. The headset also utilizes what BlueAnt refers to as Voice Isolation Technology, which is designed to give you a more intelligible voice in a wide variety of noisy environments. I tested the Voice Isolation Technology while in the car with the radio on and walking down the street on a windy day, and it definitely makes a difference. Its not a huge difference, but the person on the other end could hear a little better when I had it turned on.
BlueGenie voice activation
Now, everything Ive mentioned so far is pretty standard for every Bluetooth headset out there. And as a regular Bluetooth headset, the V1 performs very well. But what sets this particular headset apart is the BlueGenie voice user interface, which controls most functions of the V1. The BlueGenie interface is as effective as it is thorough, making it possible to make, answer, and ignore calls all with your voice, without needing to access your phone.
It all starts when you power up the device for the first time, and the BlueGenie welcomes you to the V1 and offers to walk you through the pairing procedure, step by step. Very, very cool. The BlueGenie will alert you when it has paired successfully with the device, and will let you know when you have successfully connected to your phone every time you power it on after having established the initial pairing. From there, you press the BlueAnt button to start voice control, and the BlueGenie will prompt you to say a command. Say, what can I say? and the BlueGenie will list all of the commands the V1 will recognize. Say teach me and the BlueGenie will present you with three categories of tutorials the V1 offers (one that which lets you attempt each command to help you get used to how to say the commands; a tutorial on how to set up speed dial; and one that gives you a bunch of tips and tricks to use the voice activation more effectively) to help you get better with using the headset.
Check out this BlueAnt V1 video from BlueAnt's
The V1 speed dial can either work in conjunction with the speed dial setup on your phone (which is the recommended method), or it can store the numbers in the devices memory if your phone does not adhere to what BlueAnt refers to as the Bluetooth specification for speed dialing. The PalmOS, to my knowledge, does not adhere to this standard, but Windows Mobile certainly does and my Treo Pro handled the speed dialing from the V1 perfectly. BlueAnt has this set up so that when you say call voicemail, the V1 dials the first speed dial number set on your phone, which is typically reserved for voicemail. When you say call home, the V1 dials the entry set up as the second entry on your phone; when you say call office, the V1 dials the second number and so on. So you have to set your speed dial entries up in a particular fashion for this to work just right, but its very much worth doing so in the end.
The second method for speed dialing is far less intuitive, requiring you to first
receive a call from the number you want to set up. When the call is coming in, you have to hold down the volume down button for 3 seconds, and the BlueGenie will ask which prompt you want to use for that number. This isnt nearly as nice as the other method, but its nice that you have the option. Blame your phone manufacturer if you dont like it.
Another very notable function of the BlueGenie interface is that when a call comes in, the BlueGenie will read off the number of the incoming call via caller ID. This is very cool, as you wont have to pull the phone out from wherever its stowed to find out whether you want to answer or ignore the call. And after the BlueGenie reads the number, you are prompted to answer or ignore the call, which you can do by simply saying answer or ignore. You dont even have to reach up and press the button on the headset. This is
The best thing about the BlueGenie interface is how well it works. I have a voice-activated speakerphone that has many of these same functions, but the voice recognition is
terrible. Its so bad, in fact, that the voice activation is practically useless. To use the speed dial at all, I had to program each number into the speakerphone by reading the numbers off, and the voice recognition was so bad that I literally had to say a number 5 or 6 times to get it right. Sometimes, I never got it right. It was soooo frustrating, I just gave up. If I hadn't, I would have thrown the thing across the room.
With the BlueGenie interface, there is no such frustration. The voice recognition is surprisingly smooth and effective. There were times when I was playing with the interface at work and basically mumbled the commands into the headset and it
still recognized them. There were times when there would be a lot of background noise that the BlueGenie would struggle a little bit, but for the most part, even with moderate noise, the interface was spot-on.
I dont know what else you could ask for in a headset. The V1 is
awesome. I cant recommend it enough. If there is one small knock to mention, its the battery life, which is listed at 5 hours of talk time and 200 hours of standby time, but for most people that wont be much of an issue. You could also knock it for the proprietary charging connector, but even thats been covered by BlueAnt by giving you so many ways to charge it out of the box (USB, AC, car adapter). So really, for $89.95, it doesnt get any better than this. It seems to me that with so many headsets on the market priced similarly or much higher than the V1, without including the stellar voice activation, that this is very likely the best Bluetooth headset available today.
Good sound quality
Small, comfortable to wear
Proprietary charging connector