Confirming months of rumors, Apple announced two new iPhone 7 models which have no headphone jacks. There are two schools of thought on this decision. The first is the headphone jack is antiquated and not necessary. The second, Apple wants to make more money and charge royalties for use of the Lightning connector.
The reality leans far more towards the second option because if the headphone jack sucks so bad, Apple could introduce a complete line of Lightning headphones and the market would flock to them as they are far superior.
A business decision: In other words this is a profit-boosting move for Apple and a pure PIA for customers.
If you’re an Apple shareholder this is a good decision because the inconvenience won’t be enough to lose a lot of customers and Apple will mint money as manufacturers license Lightning adapters in greater numbers. They also own Beats which sells the majority of bluetooth headphones.
Show me the money Tim: Heck, they’ll make tens or hundreds of millions just from selling adapters between the analog headphone jack and the Lightning connector.
If you follow tech news at all – you were aware Apple was going in this direction and as a result I got a hold of a Jabra Halo Smart Wireless Stereo Headphones evaluation unit.
The claim to fame of these headphones is the battery lasts for many hours – 17 or so. That’s pretty much the whole day. Quite impressive. I have yet to get through a whole day with any bluetooth headphones so I was quite excited about this new product.
As advertised: In my review, listening to podcasts and music, I went a week without charging, listening from one to three hours each day. I did turn the unit off when not in use. Until I used these headphones, the measly battery life of bluetooth headphones was a constant issue. I got three to five hours at best. Then there is the inevitable in-ear fit issue… With the typical sports headphones, the battery sticks out of your ear meaning some increased pressure for them to come lose during exercise.
The concern I had about using the Halo headphones was, would it be uncomfortable to have a neckband hanging around my neck all day.
The answer, depends on the activity and the clothes you wear.
A day in the life: In a t-shirt, the headphones are very comfortable… I hiked up mountains in Vermont, hit a speed bag, jogged through the woods, went through a full routine of lifting weights for all body parts and generally didn’t have any issues. I found that if you lie down, the neckband could feel uncomfortable if your body moved – for example if you performed leg raises, leg press, scissors, etc. Hitting a speed bag meant you would occasionally touch the wire which protrudes from the neckband and goes into your ears. If you perform triceps pull downs, the cable could rub against the headphone wire and possibly the neckband, depending on how bad your form is.
When wearing a collared dress shirt and a jacket, it was occasionally uncomfortable to have the headphones underneath.
None of these issues were deal-breakers for me… They are minor trade-offs I’m willing to make in exchange for such long battery life.
What to like: What really stood out besides battery life is the dedicated Google Now/Siri button as well as the sound quality which provided deeper bass than typical in-ear bluetooth headphones. Also, when talking on the phone, the microphone did a great job filtering out wind – I had few issues with others hearing me.
The earbuds are magnetic meaning you can clip them to the neckband when not in use – this didn’t work well for me. What worked better was clipping them together when not in use. A great feature is music automatically stopping when they touch and automatically answering calls when they are disconnected. This means less time fumbling for your phone.
Another great feature is the headset vibrates when the phone rings and when the headset is turned off and on. In fact, it vibrates before the phone number appears on the phone. This was very useful.
The ear-gels come in small, medium and large and I’m generally a medium but for this headset, I needed large for an ideal fit.
There is an app that works with the headphones – Jabra Assist – it provides tips and a manual which are quite helpful. I didn’t find it useful for much else. I read somewhere that one of the apps will provide a battery life level but I couldn’t seem to find it. I looked on the iTunes App Store and the Jabra website for a while but then realized I can find out if the battery is on low, medium or high just by pressing the volume up or down button when no audio was playing.
The neckband is flexible making it possible to secure it around your neck.
Room for improvement: I really don’t have any issues with the device. Every Jabra headset I’ve used has required me to use a sharp knife to get to the charging port. This unit had the same issue but once I used a knife I could use my fingernail going forward.
Competition: Apple has new headphones as well – AirPods, two wireless units which come with a recharging case and look very easy to lose. Apple provides five hours of battery life which I believe could be too low when there are better alternatives. On the positive side, it seems Apple may have made it easy to use one set of headphones with multiple devices – with greater ease than current solutions.
Cost: Apples’s Earpods cost $160 and you’ll pay retail, Jabra prices their competitor as low as $70 online making it a superior value.
Summary: Jabra nailed the trade-offs with this unit. You can wear it for days without worrying about battery life. It is comfortable – to the extent that wearing something around your neck can be, and the sound is really good. I listened to EDM and pop music primarily. I like to use Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture in my audio reviews but didn’t get around to it.
I recommend the Halo Smart Wireless Stereo Headphones as a Great iPhone 7 Companion and they will work great with any bluetooth source where sound quality and long-battery life are important.