For any of you who know me, I spend a lot (really a lot) of time on the phone. I use my mobile device almost exclusively, and often am on the road. I really like listening to music, especially while running, traveling (which I also do a lot) or working out. Frequently I have calls when I am on the move, or just walking around. Talking while walking gives me space to think, I can be totally uninterrupted this way. So having the right headset is really important to me, as I'm sure it is to many people.
My traditional headset...
For years I have used the iPhone earbuds -- you know the ones with wires that come standard with your phone. The sound is good, and people can hear you clearly. Background noise is minimized (not as good as the true noise canceling that you get on the iPhone) but it's decent. They are comfortable to wear (for hours if needed).
But those wires are a real pain. I bet I spent an average of 30 minutes a day just untangling them (they don't look great in business meetings so I rolled them up when not in use). Even more frustrating, they break -- all of a sudden you notice that people can't hear you anymore or the sound starts cutting out. Then you have to go buy a new pair of earbuds (at $30 each), which means a trip to Best Buy or the Apple Store... it's all so wasteful and non-productive.
My search for a decent wireless headset...
I've tried many Bluetooth devices over the years, including Jawbone and other headsets. They are only for phone calls, don't work well at all for music, and really were not a great solution. They were a separate device that I had to carry around, charge (and not lose...).
In February Apple released the Bluetooth AirBuds. At first I was eager to get them -- until I realized it was two separate devices to manage (and not lose). That just didn't seem practical.
At the same time Apple's acquired company, Beats, introduced the BeatsX. Supposed to be great for music and it has a mic too. I thought "awesome," I will try those. I waited for 3 months to get them (they were delayed), only to find they really were awful for calls. The music sound was OK, but calls is what I needed. So I gave them back (something I almost never do).
I read reviews online, and I saw that Bose now has wireless Bluetooth headsets. I thought "if anyone has good sound quality, it's Bose." I went to a Bose factory store, and decided to not mess around and get the top-of-the-line QuietControl 30 model -- at a price of $300 (definitely more than I ever paid for anything like this). The listening sound for music was incredible, and the noise canceling (while listening to music) was really amazing. On a plane I almost didn't hear the engines as we took off. I thought, "wow, I'm set."
That is, until I actually made a call. It turns out there is no noise canceling for the mic at all. In fact, it actually amplified external sounds or other people talking because of the location of the mic. It was almost unusable unless I was in a room by myself (which is almost never the case). The earbuds plugged my ears, so the sound of my own voice was awful, making me talk louder than I should. This was a non-starter, so I decided to return them.
I thought the Bose SoundSport would be better, so I bought a pair of those to try (and they were 1/2 the price of the QuietControl 30 model). The mic worked a little better, but it was still pretty lousy, and they still plugged my ears. I finally concluded that Bose is a company that knows how to provide music listening, but they don't know how to listen to your voice.
Finally, a wireless headset that works...
Out of frustration, I read some more reviews. And then I saw Plantronics, the company that makes headsets for call centers. Maybe they would have something I could use.
Finally I got a pair of Plantronics Backbeat 100 headphones (you can see them here). The music quality is pretty good (it would be really good if they had earbuds that fit my ears). But the voice for phone calls is terrific! I had a long call with an associate, walking around along busy streets at rush hour, and unless something was really loud (like a truck next to me or a high pitched sound), he didn't even hear the background noise. Even when there was background noise he could hear me clearly. Wow, I was very happy about this.
In addition the battery life is impressive, with up to 8 hours of talk time per day. So far I have not had to recharge them during the day, which is very nice.
The only improvements I would suggest are an even smaller earbud size, and to have Apple make the Bluetooth volume louder. I noticed limited volume for all of these units compared to the wired earbuds, unless the earbuds were really jammed into my ear (not very comfortable).
So now I have a wireless headset that actually works, for music listening and most importantly for phone calls. I no longer have to mess with wires, and can just do what I need. And people can hear me when I'm on calls (I can hear them well too). The Platronics Backbeat 100 is an impressive product, I'd recommend it to anyone with similar needs.