Aliph's new Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset aims to combine good looks and a customisable, voice-driven interface.

The shape is the same, and so is Aliph's distinctive noise cancellation technology, but the new Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset series of Bluetooth headsets sports a bit of style and a new level of user customisation. And you can upgrade them in a manner usually reserved for cell phones and computers: with applications.

The Aliph Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset is smaller than the original rectangular Jawbone but retains its basic good looks. Instead of a metallic sheen, the Icon headsets come in iridescent and pearly colors and have snappy names such as 'The Bombshell' and 'The Hero'.

According to Aliph, the Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset incorporates design improvements and features suggested by Jawbone users. For example, the Icon has a simple on/off switch on its underside and a large talk button on one end - that's it for physical controls. Pairing the unit with a mobile phone is easy: you simply hold down the talk button while switching the device on to place it into Bluetooth pairing mode. And instead of beeps and flashes, the Icon uses voice technology to communicate to users. If you press the talk button while no call is in progress, for instance, the Icon announces how much battery time you have left (a fully charged Icon might announce, "About 4 hours of talk time remaining"). If a call comes in, the same voice states the Caller ID information.

Like older Jawbones, the Aliph Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset uses vibrations from your face as part of its Noise Assassin noise-cancellation technology. A small nub called the Voice Activity Sensor rests on your face while the unit sits in your ear. The vibrations from your face help the unit separate your voice from the noise around you. If the nub loses contact with your face, however, the Icon reverts to a less-effective noise-cancellation mode.

In practice the noise cancellation worked well, washing away the drone of a nearby TV. When the nub slipped off my face for a few moments, however, the person at the other end heard a distinct drop in audio quality. Since proper fit makes a difference in performance, the Aliph Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset comes with six earbuds in addition to the one already installed, as well as a small and somewhat fragile-looking earloop.

The Aliph Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset uses technology that maintains your preferred volume level from one call to the next, once you set it the first time. If your next caller is a whisperer or has a penchant to bellow, the unit automatically alters the volume as needed. You can still adjust the volume level from your phone, however.

The Icon aims for personalisation: not only can you choose from the six different styles and colors, but you can also download new voices from the Jawbone MyTalk audio and dial application website. Currently you'll find a voice for each of the six Aliph Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset body styles. You can also switch the language to Spanish, German or French.

In addition, you can customise the talk button to support voice dialling or to gain quick information access; you can even set the Aliph Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset up to work with Jott Assistant, an application that lets you send updates to Facebook, Twitter and other online services by voice. If you use the headset with an iPhone, a battery meter for the Icon appears on the phone's display - a handy bit of integration.

The MyTalk website, which is still in beta form, requires Internet Explorer or Firefox. Our attempt to use Google Chrome yielded a polite but large error message. Once at the site, you'll need to download and install a small Jawbone Updater application. The site is also the spot for downloading Aliph Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset firmware updates.

The battery in the 8g Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset provides 4.5 hours of talk time and 10 days of standby time, according to Aliph. Although the Icon and the top-rated Jawbone Prime, introduced last year, are each just 24mm thick, the Icon is stubbier at 18x45mm.


Even without the customisation options, the Aliph Jawbone Icon Bluetooth headset is an admirable addition to the company's line of sharp-looking Bluetooth headsets. It remains to be seen, however, if Icon users will embrace the opportunity to tweak their headsets.