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Jawbone Era (2014) review

It’s been three years in the making, but the Jawbone Era has just received a welcome update and the new 2014 model does things a little differently to its chunkier predecessor.

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Jawbone Era Design: Tiny talker

There’s no confusing the 2014 Era over any of Jawbone’s other headsets. One of the biggest refinements in its development has been a significant drop in size. It’s absolutely tiny (42 per cent smaller than the last Era), and excluding the earpiece, the main body extends just 4cms along your cheek, about the size of an AAA battery.

With the stigma that Bluetooth headsets still carry, despite the world’s slow embrace of wearable tech, the unobtrusive nature of the Era will suit even those put off by most other conventional designs.

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That’s not to say the Era fades away into obscurity; the ergonomics and aesthetics have clearly been considered. There are four colour/pattern options on offer; Black, Red or Bronze Streak, which all feature a metallic finish and a ridged parallel design on the outer face, alongside Silver Cross, which swaps out the parallel design for a crossed diamond pattern.

Unlike the last Era, the accelerometer has gone, leaving just a power switch on the inside face and a single function button at the back, which sits next to a microUSB port for charging and updating the software when plugged into a computer.

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Its simple one-button design makes taking and redialling (the last number in your call history) calls simple by means of a single or double tap. Long-pressing will allow you to interact with your smartphone’s voice command system too. It works best with Siri on iOS which offers voice feedback, results from Android smartphones vary with Google Now sometimes chatting back, but sometimes remaining silent, it’ll depend on your device.

In our encounter with members of the Jawbone team, they also revealed that Microsoft’s Cortana should play nice with the Era too, which presently defaults to display on-screen results using the existing Windows Phone Bing voice search.

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The Era is also pretty good at pushing a clear mono music experience to your ear and it can intelligently switch from music, to a call and back without the need to touch your device at all. A single tap during music playback stops your tunes, which can only be restarted again via your smartphone, an annoying quirk, but it comes as a result of the audible battery report the Era issues when you press the headset’s button whilst it’s idle.

Jawbone Era Comfort: Size matters

In the box you’ll find three optional translucent silicone earpieces, the design of which has apparently taken ten years to perfect in Jawbone’s labs. Whilst we can’t necessarily tell just how much time has been spent refining the design by wearing it, the Era is immensely comfortable to the point you almost forget it’s there.

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Make sure to find the best-sized earpiece for your ear, prolonged wear of the medium option caused aching and a little pain after an hour or so, but switching to the small made all the difference. Taking the Era out after an hour felt exactly the same as taking it out after six hours, and more importantly, pain free.

As the Era weighs just six grams and the earpiece slots so neatly in the ear, you shouldn’t worry about it dropping out. Even a bit of violent head shaking and neck rolling on our part wasn’t enough to shift the headset from our ear and instead just left us with a bit of a headache.

Jawbone’s own research revealed that the majority of users will naturally use a mono headset like the Era in their right ear. The box contains one medium-sized left earpiece if you want to swap sides, and more can be ordered from Jawbone too if you’re set on remaining a lefty.

Jawbone Era Audio Quality: Turn up the volume

Dialling out or listening to music offers crisp audio with surprisingly clear bass for such a tiny driver. There’s a pair of digital microphones on the underside of the headset that use a unique algorithm to cut out background din as part of Jawbone’s Noise Assassin 4.0 technology, at least, that’s when they told us.

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In practice, those on the receiving end often couldn’t tell we were on a headset, but once or twice, calling out resulted in some unusual acoustics affecting our voice, with bathroom-like echo cropping up at one point. This didn’t ruin the call, just made for an odd side effect.

With the single button design of the Era, your phone’s volume rocker is the only method for controlling the volume. If you’re in a static environment like an office, you won’t have to fiddle around too much, but in certain instances, like moving from a busy city street to a quiet room, having to fiddle with your phone can be a bit of an inconvenient.

Jawbone App: Best on iOS

Whilst it’s not essential, Jawbone also offers an app for iOS and Android which lets you customise your Era. You can download alternative voices, redefine the long-press action on the Era’s hardware button and assemble playlists, which can pull tunes from a multitude of music services including Rdio, Spotify and Deezer (some services require a premium account to utilise this feature).

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On iOS, you get an additional battery meter on your iPhone’s screen, showing the current lifespan of the Era when connected and on Android, you can also view an agenda based on your phone’s calendar, however in practice this feature has a tendency to glitch out.

Jawbone Era Battery Life: Ten hours split

The pint-sized Jawbone Era is billed as sporting ten-hour battery life and technically this is possible, provided you buy it with Jawbone’s compatible charging case. The Era itself boasts four hours of talk time per charge, which in real-world use lasted us just under a working day, with phone calls and music playback aplenty.

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The additional six hours comes from the charging case, whose spring-loaded design lets you quickly pop the Era in and out. There’s also a battery indicator on the side so you know how much extra juice you have and a loop to attach it to the outside of a bag or clothing.

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You don’t need to pick up an Era with a charging case, but if you plan on switching to full-time headset use, we’d strongly recommend considering it. What’s more, the Era itself can go from flat to fully-charged in just under an hour, the charging case, just over, so either way, you won’t have to wait long to get wireless again.

Jawbone Era Conclusion: Shaking the stereotype

If you can shrug the now-dated Audi S4 driver stereotype, the Jawbone Era might be the first ‘cool’ Bluetooth headset in recent memory. It’s unobtrusive and for the most part meets Jawbone’s own ‘make tech disappear’ ethos. It’s even future-proofed with HD audio support.

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Functionality is surprisingly robust beyond phone calls, battery life is balanced and it’s easy and enjoyable to use. The new Jawbone Era can be had for £79 on its own or with a black or silver charging case for £109.

Jawbone ERA (2014) score

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