Touch: You can touch this!

Occasionally I am sent a press release about a new product, or a soon to be released product, that I think is worth talking about.  That happened this week when I received a kit about an upcoming product called Touch Earbuds.

touch-campaign-openers-v02The Touch Earbuds are the next generation of a product I looked at a few months ago called the Dot, which was a single earbud (although you could buy two and listen in stereo), which attached magnetically to a charging device (which in turn made a good key chain).  I made some recommendations to the company based on my experience, and here is the result: A pair of ear buds that have probably the best specs on paper that I’ve seen.  The charger is now an enclosed case (that simultaneously holds and charges the pair of buds), the Bluetooth 5 technology gives it an astounding 200m range from your device, as well as faster pairing, and the low energy functionality is perfect for devices that are needed to run for longer lengths of time.  They also did away with the button, and the Touch runs on just that – touch technology.

Did I mention that the Touch ear bud is 21mm long, making it a little shorter than an American quarter?  It fits in your ear smoothly and discretely, and stays in place even during rigorous physical activity.  They are sweat- and water-resistant, so you don’t have to take them out when it’s raining, or when you are working up a sweat.  They also come with various sizes of ear tips, to make sure they fit you perfectly.

The Touch is the world’s smallest ear buds, and they are due out in November, just in time for Christmas.  If you want to get in early though, you can back their Indiegogo campaign by clicking here.  There are more pictures, as well as data sheets and comparisons that you can look at.

I am really looking forward to trying these out… they will be the perfect fit for my long jogs and gym workouts, as well as for whenever I feel like listening to music… or chatting on the phone, because the noise reduction microphone makes it as easy as pie to chat as well as listen.



Get Moving with the Jabra Motion+

I have always been finicky about my Bluetooth earpieces.  As long as I have been using them (since about 2005) I have been very selective, for several reasons.  Sound quality of course is important, but so is comfort, not to mention battery life.  When I found my Jabra Supreme (See article) I was thrilled because it offered me all of those.

When you find an accessory that you are comfortable with it is often the best idea to stop looking; otherwise it could get very expensive.  Gadgets are, after all, a very expensive hobby!  However when they add real benefits to your day to day work productivity then they usually pay for themselves pretty quickly.

I picked up a Jabra Motion earlier this week (specifically the Jabra Motion UC with Travel & Charge Kit MS) after seeing it demonstrated at a recent event.  It is a different style of earpiece than I am used to… the mechanism itself fits behind the ear (rather than over it) and only the actual piece that fits into your ear hangs down.  Because of this I was worried about how co mfortable it would be, but sure enough after wearing it for the better part of a day it was still easy to wear.

My first concern about the device when I put it into my ear was that it did not seem to be a one-size-fits-all mechanism.  The speaker house seemed to fall short of going comfortably into my ear.  That is, until I took a closer look and realized that the piece that the speaker house was connected to was actually two pieces, and that the ear was easily adjusted by pulling it down (or up).  This design allows me to wear the device without having it in my ear, and when I take (or make) a call I just have to pop it in… the speaker house hangs freely otherwise, and I don’t have to remove it completely to hear what is happening around me.

Jabra-Motion 3Another great feature of this component is that it allows me to rotate the speaker house itself, which means I can wear it in either ear.  If you wear any device long enough it may get uncomfortable, and by being able to change ears without taking it apart is a huge bonus for me.

Okay, so now it came time to pair the device.  Only I didn’t have the device ready, so when I pressed the button on the device it told me something I had never heard from a Bluetooth earpiece before: SEVEN hours talk-time remaining.  That is amazing… I used it all week and did not need to recharge until the end of the day Friday (which I was then able to do while sitting at a cafe, because I had the carry/charge case with me!)

Pairing the device was easy… I followed the same steps I would have with any other Bluetooth device, and within seconds it was first paired to my phone, and then to my computer.  However it gets better, and I only discovered this feature after I was already paired: The Motion has a feature called Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which lets you simply tap the phone and the headset together and POOF! they are connected.  How cool is that?  I will be reading more about that feature later on… along with testing it out for you of course!

Jabra-Motion 2Some models of the Jabra Motion come with a comprehensive, everything-in-its-place carrying case which is nice, but a lot more practical than most carrying cases.  The case itself plugs in to any USB port and becomes a charging dock!  The hard shell of the carrying case protects it when not in use (I have broken several while sitting on airplanes) and comes complete with your cable, UC connector, and two extra ear gels (so you can pick the one that is the best fit for you, but also ‘just in case’ one of them should get lost).  If you are ordering on-line make sure you specify that you order the version that comes with the case!

The sound quality on the Motion surprised me.  At first test (from my office cubicle) it was no better or worse than the Jabra Supreme (which I still love).  Where it really shone though was when I walked outside with it… even on a windy day the HD voice, Noise Blackout 3.0 and Wind Noise Reduction technology reminded me why I went out and got this device… My wife did not even realize I had left my cubicle and walked outside during our conversation.  These features alone are worth the price!

The intuitive call control features are pretty slick… Every Bluetooth earpiece knows when your phone is ringing… how many of them will automatically answer the phone when you pick it up?  The built-in motion sensors do that, along with adjusting the volume automatically for you when you are on the go.

There are other ways to answer the phone aside from the mundane ‘pressing the button’ method.  If the boom arm is up when a call is coming in just unfold it and you are talking.  If the boom arm is already down then you can just say the word ‘answer’ and it will!  How cool is that?

Of course it works just fine with the Jabra PC Suite , so you can add all sorts of control to your device with that.  It also streams music from any Bluetooth device, and at 17.5g (.62g) it is lightweight yet durable.

Do I recommend it?  Oh yeah… Just the UC features made my life better this week, as I easily and seamlessly switched between talking on the phone, Lync, and Skype.  Of course only the –MS models are certified for Lync, but they will all work.  Pick one up and see what I mean!

Jabra GO!

I don’t spend a lot of time working in my office at home, which is why it took me this long to discover this amazing feature of my Jabra Go 6470.  The 6470 is, of course, a great Bluetooth earpiece that works both with my cellular phone and computer.

Last month I wrote about how much I love my Jabra Supreme (Saved by Jabra: How my Bluetooth earpiece made my life easier this week).  I have been using that earpiece everywhere I go, and don’t know how I ever lived without it.  With that said though, no matter how comfortable they make it I still find anything that fits around my ear gets a little uncomfortable after a while.

When I wrote that piece I had completely forgotten that I also have a Jabra GO 6470, a great desktop set that works with my computer and my cell phone equally, and would even work with an actual phone if I had one (I do have a POTS at home, but there is no jack in my office).  The reason I seldom use the 6470 (and why it so easily slipped my mind) is that by looking at it there are no real functional differences between it and my Supreme Link… well, there are actually plenty, but for someone always on the go maybe fewer.

Additionally, when I got it I did not really investigate to see what options it came with; I pulled it out of the box and tried it the way it was.  It had excellent sound quality of course, but had the same type of over-the-ear clip that my Jabra Supreme has, so why bother.  It also had a nub that goes right into the ear, and I have never been fond of those for long periods of time.

(The stand is nice… when you leave your office you simply drop it back into the base and it charges.  The touch screen has some really cool features, including the ability to dial either your cell phone or your Lync… but since when I first ‘test-drove’’ it I didn’t have the Lync Enterprise license (i.e.: the ability to call out from my computer) it wasn’t really of interest to me.  Now that I have that ability I am like a kid in a candy store!)

Now here’s where it gets interesting: when I got in from Calgary on Saturday I knew that I was going to be in town for nearly 11 days… not quite unheard of but certainly rare for me.  I was planning on spending quite a few days in the home office working on slide decks, labs, courseware, and other stuff… and knew that I would be spending a lot of time here.

66_Jabra_GO_6470_headband_largeI took the opportunity to straighten up a little and came across a headband in a plastic wrapper.  Not sure what it was, but it was labeled ‘GO 6400 series Headband.’  Could it be?  I pulled the earpiece off the base, pulled the ‘strap’ off, and popped the earpiece into the headband.  It immediately solved my two greatest pain points: the ear nub, and the band around the ear.

I have now been wearing for a few days, and have been thrilled to be able to use the touchpad dial, not to mention saving the battery of my Jabra Supreme for when I really am on the go!

While I have had the opportunity to meet with a few of Jabra’s main competitors at trade shows recently I have to admit that I haven’t seen anything that they offer that tops the Jabra tools I use.  As well when I asked their representatives for a comparison each of them balked, stating simply that their products were as good or better, but not actually demonstrating or (better yet) letting me see for myself.

Effective immediately the Jabra GO is my new at-home wireless device (like the Supreme it will connect with two (and even three!) devices at the same time, and has the comfortable headband, the dock, the touchscreen dial, and the adaptability to adapt to my needs and comfort; the Jabra SUPREME LINK remains my device for the car, train, and wherever I need to be hands-free.  In hotel rooms I use the Jabra SPEAK 410 (although rumour has it they are coming out with a newer model… stay tuned!), and when I jog the Jabra ACTIVE meets all of my needs.

Thanks Jabra!

Saved by Jabra: how my Bluetooth earpiece made my life easier this week.

In May I posted about the genesis of my relationship with Jabra products (see Jabra Who? Jabra GO!).  Since then (and not strictly because of them) I have changed the way I do business in a lot of ways.  The Jabra devices I have in my arsenal have made a lot of those changes a lot smoother than they would have otherwise been.

I actually have four main Jabra devices that I use on a regular basis, although I actually have a couple others as well.  The ones I use always are:

Jabra_SUPREME_UC_Full_View_T_Position_04_1440X810Although I spent a lot of time on the phone, I always found that wearing an earpiece for extended periods of time became painful so frankly a few years ago (after I accidentally ran my Jawbone 2 through the washing machine) I stopped using them.  When Ben Sept (from Jabra) heard about this problem he asked if I would be willing to try one of their devices that he said was ‘designed for longer-term comfort’ than most of the devices I had tried before.  Enter the Supreme.

It is worth noting that in Ontario, like many jurisdictions, has made it illegal to use a handheld device while driving.  I spend a lot of time driving, and initially I figured that the integrated Bluetooth system in my car would solve that problem.  Boy was I wrong.  It may be fine during a nice sunny day with the windows up, but even then the ambient noise causes interference that is intolerable to the person on the other end of the line.  A comfortable earpiece would make my life easier.

The Jabra SUPREME was different from the other devices I had tried in several respects, not the least of which was that rather than inserting a piece into my ear, it had a large cushion that holds the device comfortably over my ear, with a padded leather covered wire that went around my ear.  It is certainly more comfortable than the other devices I had tried. 

So I finally have a device that I could wear for longer periods without pain; the sound quality and noise cancellation is excellent, and the battery life is second to none.  I was happy, and linked it to my phone.  However because it also has a little USB dongle, I plugged it into my laptop for the odd time that I used Skype or Live Messenger.  Oh, and by the way, the device talks to you. ‘Power On…. Connected.’  Just in case Winking smile

Several weeks ago I heard a audio prompt from the earpiece that I hadn’t heard before.  ‘Two devices connected.’  What do you… Oh, so I can be connected to my computer AND my phone at the same time?  Cool.  At the time I didn’t realize that this functionality would soon save me a lot of hassles.

Last month when I became a Virtual Technical Advisor at Microsoft Canada I quickly had to become a big Lync user.  It’s not that I didn’t want to be before, but all of a sudden I was internal with an organization that uses it for everything – meetings, phone calls, you name it.  That was when my Jabra usage went into high gear.  After my first Lync meeting for which I did NOT have a UC device, I pulled out the Jabra Supreme and made sure my levels were adjusted.  It was going to lose it’s new car smell in a hurry!

Earlier this week my Lync account was upgraded to have a phone number associated to it, which means that now I can not only speak with other Lync users, I can also make and receive phone calls from Lync.  Aside from saving a ton on long distance charges, it has already proven useful when the battery on my cell phone is low.  However last night and this morning is when the device became my best friend.

I won’t bore you with the details of the issues that we had with shipping this week, but Wednesday evening Pierre and I found ourselves waiting in the Microsoft office in Montreal until 9:30… waiting.  We were scrambling to track down a shipment that was late and critical; at the same time Pierre was dealing with another critical issue, and I was dealing with a few on my end.  We were two guys, four devices, and a lot of problems.  Oh, and the battery on my computer was nearly dead so I had to leave it plugged in.  We were both getting e-mails left and right, our smart phones were going like gangbusters, and just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, I heard that dreaded tone on my smartphone that told me that my battery level was critically low.

I had to charge the phone, but I had to keep running around dealing with issues… but I had to stay tied to my phone just in case any of several pieces fell into place.  The earpiece would be a temporary saviour… but could it be more?

‘Two devices connected.’

I had almost forgotten!  My Jabra Supreme would not only let me answer calls on my cellphone… it would not only alert me when I got an e-mail… it would not only read my text messages to me, and then let me reply by just speaking clearly… it would also simultaneously let me participate in the Lync conference calls that were going on constantly, all while sitting nearly 50 feet from both my computer and my cell phone!

I was hyper-connected and untethered, free to do what I needed to do, where I needed to do it.  To say that the Jabra Supreme was a lifesaver would be overstating it, but it is certainly safe to say that it really made my life easier yesterday.

It got better today…

This morning was going to be stressful no matter what happened.  The twenty-two laptops that we use to run the IT Pro Camps for Microsoft Canada arrived at the Montreal office at 7:05am, and Pierre and I had to get them set up, plugged in, connected, and reset in time to start the Camp on time at 9:00am.  Ordinarily 1:55 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to do that, but there were two problems:

  • Our students don’t arrive at 9:00, they start arriving at 8:00; and
  • I had an urgent conference call that could not be missed at 7:15.

I had a little under an hour to get the computers ready, and could not take time away to take a phone call that I had to take.  Solution?  Leave my computer plugged in at the front of the room, call in to the call from there, and participate on the call while I did the work to set up and reset the machines.  Oh, and again it was important that I be alerted to incoming e-mails, and the subtle tone in my ear did that.

Don’t get me wrong… I love the Jabra SPEAK 410 (affectionately known as the Puck)… I use it not only for conference calls when several people are in the room, but also as a computer speaker for when I present to medium-sized audiences and need sound, as well as to watch movies from my laptop in hotel rooms.  I use the GN2000 when I am sitting at my desk and need a simple headset to take conference calls – the wired connection is always going to have better sound quality than wireless.  When I am jogging (or on an airplane) the Jabra ACTIVE let me listen to my music, podcasts, or movies comfortably.

…But none one of these has saved the day in quite the way and to the same extent as my Jabra Supreme.  Thanks Ben!

Oh… and did I mention that it lets me have clear conversations when I am in the car? Smile

Jabra Who? Jabra GO!

Last week someone started calling me the Gadget Guy.  Actually, to be more accurate, they told me that I was the New “Q” from the James Bond franchise.  I wasn’t entirely sure why, but I was showcasing a bunch of new laptops and other mobile devices running Microsoft Windows 7 (and even Windows 8 on one or two of them), so I guess it kinda fit. 

I was invited by Microsoft Canada to man the OEM Hardware Wall, and had a great time doing it.  The surprise that waited for me in Building 33 in Redmond was that not only would we be sharing the OEM wall space with Jabra, we would also be showcasing their products.  Okay, not a problem… I would just have to… learn all about them really quickly so that is sounds like I have been using them my entire life.  Ben Sept – the Territory Sales Manager for Jabra – gave me a crash course, and did a really good job of two things: first, he prepared me to present the products to the attendees.  More importantly, he got me interested in the products.

Let me explain… I started using Bluetooth earpieces seven years ago or more, and was always ‘plugged in.’ I wore my Jawbone everywhere and always, and put up with the plethora of smart-alec comments from people saying I looked like I was plugged into the Borg.  When I got my first car that was Bluetooth-capable I paired my phone with it, and decided that when I wasn’t driving I didn’t really need hands-free.  I haven’t worn the earpiece since I married Theresa and besides, I am so seldom in my office so why would I need a desktop unit for the local phone?

Oh wait… sometimes I need to record audio into an on-line system, such as was the case prior to the launch of Windows 7, when I recorded something like fifteen hours of on-line training into a Live Meeting session.  I went out and bought a Plantronics headset which worked pretty well, as long as I was on an analog phone.  I used it for a little while, but spend very little time on analog calls (especially not for extended periods).  that device is somewhere in my ‘Device Graveyard’ which is replete with devices that are good… just not quite good enough.

So when Ben showed me the Jabra GO 6470, I figured it was just another one of those… ‘not quite good enough devices.’  Boy was a I surprised.  However before I gave it my real ‘seal of approval’ I was going to have to test it out… see how the reality compares to the marketing fluff. 

The GO 6470 has a lot of features that are great, but not entirely useful for ME.  However it has a number of HUGE benefits for me, which really proved its use:

  1. jabra-go-6470Its range is far greater than the normal Bluetooth standard of 30’.  The specs claim a maximum distance of 300’, but I am reasonably sure that when I walked from my station in Building 33 to the staff room I was farther than that.  Either way, it did not disappoint.  I remember several occasions leaving my cell phone in the car as I walked away, and lost my call mid-sentence.  I could now easily park the car in the parking lot at Microsoft Canada and go right into the DPE corner on the 3rd floor without losing my call!
  2. One earpiece connects to multiple systems… as in, all of them.  My base is connected at my home office to the analog phone, as well as to the USB port of my main laptop’s docking station… so I can be anywhere in the house (or out in the yard or out front in the circle playing with my son) and take calls from Lync, the analog (POTS) phone, or (of course) my cell phone – even if I left it on my desk.
  3. Six (6) hours talk time… I am not sure that I spend six hours talking on the phone on any given week, so having more than I need is reassuring… I hated when my earpiece would die and I would have to switch to the handset.
  4. Did I mention that all of Jabra’s devices (at least the ones we were showcasing) are optimized for Microsoft Office Lync? Cool!
  5. I love both of my cars, but let’s face it, if you have ever spoken with me while I was driving you will agree that the sound quality sucks.  I am sure they have gotten better in the new models, but my 2009 and 2010 cars have lousy speakerphones.  The Jabra earpiece quality is as good as if I was speaking with you in person!

There are more benefits, but these are the ones that mean the most to me.  If I worked in a multi-tenant environment I would appreciate that you can connect multiple earpieces to the same base for shift workers, and several others.  For this road warrior I appreciate that I can wear the earpiece for hours and not realize that I am wearing it… I love the comfort, the responsiveness of the touch controls (which I can also control from the base unit’s high quality touch screen), and the fact that I can press a button on the earpiece while driving and issue any voice command that my smartphone (a Samsung Focus Windows Phone 7.5) accepts – from a simple ‘Redial’ to ‘Call Theresa Garvis Home’ and it just works.

If you want to check out some of the great products that Jabra had me showcasing at the Canadian Leadership Summit, come to one of my upcoming user group sessions in Mississauga, Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, and elsewhere… I have a few left over that Jabra has agreed to let me give away as door prizes!  Thanks Jabra, you guys (and your products) really do rock!