Bluetooth earpieces come in many shapes, sizes and colours, most of which leave you looking like a lame call-centre operative who has wandered into the street to carry on a conversation. In this respect the Jabra Stone 2 really stands out.
With its unique shape and charging mechanism, it’s the first of its kind that I felt comfortable using while walking around in public. Indeed I was surprised at the number of times people asked what it was, so they could buy one. One person even said “you look like a West Wing operative”. One aspect that helps is that it has a black colour and my hair is black so that means it stands out much less than a colourful or shiny Bluetooth ear piece.
I write short articles as well as long feature “explainer” articles on topics including: Google Android Smartphones and Tablets, National Broadband Network (NBN), Space, Civil & Military Aviation, Ebooks and the Publishing Industry, Electric cars, Technology augmenting human capabilities etc for Geare Magazine. The editor of GEARE has kindly permitted me to post articles here after the magazine issue the article was printed in has passed its shelf life. I have added updates where new information is relevant.
The ‘Stone’ itself is the small recharger unit into which the minimalist curved earpiece neatly slots; the Stone itself can be charged from USB so it will deliver up to eight hours recharge on the move. Part of the Stone 2’s trademark curve hooks around your earlobe, and I successfully paired it with the several phones we tried, enjoying excellent performance in both directions.
It achieved conversational cut-through while walking along busy Sydney streets with lots of ambient noise, even staying clear both ways at a very noisy election night event. Some reviewers in the USA have complained about average audio quality, but I suspect this is largely mobile carrier related. For example my testing showed audio quality to be significantly better with mobile phones on the Telstra NextG network than on Optus or Vodafone.
So far so good. But how about voice command, one of the hardest things for any product to get right. The Stone 2 was indeed less than perfect here. Voice commands for ‘answer’ and ‘ignore’ only worked sometimes – it was more reliable to press the earpiece to do this. But voice status updates such as “battery level high/low” and “incoming call from 0412345678” were reliable.
Battery life was often frustrating. It’s quoted at two hours talk-time without a recharge but I reckon it’s about an hour and a half tops. This means you need to take the charger Stone with you – and won’t be able to use the earpiece for 20 minutes each time you need that rejuice of charge. Standby talk-time (including Stone recharges) is quoted as up to 15 days. Left-handed people are also out of luck, because the earpiece is unavoidably asymmetric – it’s designed to be used only in the right ear.
If the trends mentioned in my Augmented Humanity story continue, perhaps the Jabra Stone 5 or 6 might recharge directly from the electricity generated by your body.
Battery life and voice commands aside, the Stone 2 distinguishes itself on both operation and design – a cool Bluetooth earpiece that performs well. The Jabra Stone 2 retails for between $100-$150. At time of writing Techbuy sells the Jabra Stone 2 for $102.10.
Note that the Stone 2 review unit was provided for review by Jabra to me as well as lots of other journalists who cover the smartphone/mobile device area.
This article was originally published in GEARE Magazine issue #66. It is “digitally reprinted” here with permission from the editor. I have added updates where new information is relevant.