I know it's not PC to say so, but I hate a lot of things. For example, I hate people walking around with those stupid cell phone earpieces looking like Lt. Uhura from Star Trek. They wear them like some sort of fashion jewelry, even when they're not asking John to phone Sally to tell Jorge he needs to phone Mary. For my sake, they should put their headsets away when not in use. Meanwhile, to find out what these people see in these devices and whether they have any practical use, I tested the suddenly very cheap Motorola HS820, a small Bluetooth, wireless headset.
The HS820 comes in one of those plastic containers that are NASA sealed for your protection. After repeated attempts to chew the package open, I got the scissors out and proceeded to cut my finger on the razor sharp plastic. Once open, I extricated the headset, charger and folded eight language manual. [NB: Yes, I’ve seen the TV ads for the Pyranna plastic cutter, but that’s not a car-related accessory.]
Stylistically, the HS820 is reasonably attractive, at least compared to some of the larger, uglier headsets adorning large swathes of the mobile generation. Motorola claims the HS820 possesses a “Funky surfboard design.” If true, it may be way too LA for many users. While the HS is smaller than your average ear thingie, and therefore less obtrusive, its small size may also affect battery life (discussed below).
I plugged the HS820 into my car’s 12-volt socket (a.k.a. cigarette lighter) and waited two hours for a full charge. I then switched my IPhone into Bluetooth discovery mode and hoped for the best. The telephonic apple of Steve Job’s eye quickly discovered the HS820, illuminating its blue bluetooth indicator light. That's a lot more exciting than it sounds; I’ve had Bluetooth recognition issues before. I was relieved to see the two devices make nice so quickly.
I tried to make a call. Nothing. There was no sound in the HS820's earpiece. The IPhone said paired, but I despaired. So I used another phone to call someone to tell them to call me. When the call came through, I pressed the big ‘phone’ button to answer. Still nothing. So I unpaired and paired again (like the shampoo instructions say, lather, wash, rinse and repeat).
Second go. This time, when I went to phone a friend, the IPhone offered me a choice of phone, speakerphone, HS820 or ask the audience. Kidding. When I selected the HS820, I heard a beep in my ear. And then, finally, the earpiece went to work.
Calls were audible enough for rock and roll. All the people I annoyed on your behalf stated that my mellifluous tones were clear on the receiving end, and swore I didn’t sound as if I was calling from an undersea Plexiglas bubble. No one complained of an echo, which was a real problem with the Bluetooth speaker in the previously tested Magellan 4040. Comfort was not an issue; at just 17 grams (about half an ounce to the metrically challenged), the headset’s weight didn't once threaten to deform my cranium.
The HS820’s range was within the Bluetooth specs of about 30 feet. The sound quality, such as it was, wasn't affected by a ten foot stroll away from the iPhone. Beyond ten feet, the caller’s voice warbled but remained audible, with no complaints about my voice on the receiving end. In-car use uncovered no range issues whatsoever. I suspect most users will stick to the mobile mobile environment– especially with the increasing number of states where operating a cell phone illegal without a hands-free device can land you in the hoosegow.
Motorola claims the HS820’s battery is good for six hours of talk time and 120 hours of waiting for somebody to call time. In the real world, even I can’t talk that long, so I have no idea if the six hours time limit is even remotely realistic. However, I do know that if I didn’t use the HS820 for several days, it was always DOA. So the promised five-day schmooze fest seems a tad optimistic.
When the HS820 first hit the market, it was priced at $99. I’m sure your friendly Verizon store still sells it for that price. You can now find the HS820 for significantly less. Amazon will sell you an HS820 for $31.95, and best-digital's giving them away at $19.99. At that price, it’s a no-brainer.
But if ultimate quality, sound and battery life matter to you, look for a newer Bluetooth 2.0 device. (The HS820 is 1.2 technology.) With fair sound quality, small size, okay battery life and a whole lot of cheapness, the HS820 is a decent choice for a wireless cell phone headset.
Should this be a TTAC-approved item?