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Bluetooth Headset Wars

Posted by: Cliff Edwards on April 23, 2009

Who knew the mobile headset market could be so contentious?

With Bluetooth wireless headsets becoming as trendy as iPhones and Blackberry’s, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the increasing games of one-upmanship that are being played.

Plantronics today officially released its first headset billed as being as good or better than the current noise-canceling champion, Aliph’s svelte Jawbone (I say officially because exclusive launch partner Best Buy apparently began selling them a few days ago).

Not coincidentally, Jawbone’s creators announced people can pre-order an updated new devices, the Jawbone Prime, that promise s improved noise elimination, multi-point, digital wind reduction and customizable fit options. Prime will come in three colors: black, silver and brown. Another device, called Earcandy, will be offer four, more colorful hues. It’s not clear whether Earcandy will feature the newer technology. The devices won’t go on sale until May 2.

The Jawbone has won rave reviews since it was first introduced a few years back because of what the company touts as “military grade” noise-canceling technology. Its great design hasn’t hurt either.

But rival Bluetooth headset makers such as Plantronics, Motorola and Samsung have painted a target on it since the $130 Jawbone created a nice, high-margin category for Bluetooth sales.

Plantronics with its new Voyager Pro opted not to imitate the Jawbone’s tiny, cheek-hugging design. Instead, it refines its traditional boom, over-the-ear headset with nice design points that nicely bring its work-horse product in the realm of fashion accessory. Thanks to improvements in its noise-canceling technology and wind-filtering techniques, it’s already getting decent online reviews.

So it Aliph sweating? Could be. It’s press release address every one of Plantronic’s selling points, while stressing its great design and new colors (Voyager Pro offers only black, with silver accents).

We’ll have to wait a few weeks to see if the Jawbone can maintain its technological edge over rivals, but at least we’ll be entertained by the various claims and counter-claims that are sure to be made in the interim.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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