A wireless headset allows users to move freely while engaged in a conversation.
Bluetooth is the low-powered communications standard that makes wireless phone headset transmissions possible. The term Bluetooth originated as a developer tribute to a Danish Viking King known for unifying the mighty 10th-century legions of Denmark and Norway. According to myth, the King had blue-stained teeth because of his love of blueberries.
Bluetooth technology was developed by Jaap Haartsen at Ericsson Mobiles laboratories in Sweden. Because several telecommunication companies at the time were working on technologies similar to Bluetooth, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) was formed as a nonprofit trade association that relied on the participation of Bluetooth developers from a variety of telecommunications companies, including Nokia, Intel, IBM and Toshiba. The SIG was formed mostly as a standardization group to promote Bluetooth interconnectivity between all participant companies' electronic devices. As of 2006, over 2,000 telecommunications companies were members of the Bluetooth SIG.
At its most basic, Bluetooth technology relies on two devices communicating with each other over low-frequency radio waves in a 2.4 GHz (gigahertz) range. Bluetooth is an unusual connectivity technology. Bluetooth-connected devices need not be in direct line of sight of each other. However, these wirelessly connected devices must be in close physical proximity of each other, typically up to 30 feet. Bluetooth-enabled devices, when paired, initially search for each other. As many as seven Bluetooth enabled devices can be connected at speeds of 500 kps (kilobytes per second) or higher. Some types of Bluetooth connections are secured via a Personal Identification Number (PIN).
It is important to note that there are several generation versions of Bluetooth, which may cause compatibility issues between Bluetooth-enabled devices.
A headset is best defined as a headphone combined with a microphone, essentially forming a hands-free telephone. The first phone headsets were developed in 1910 by Nathaniel Baldwin as a technology aimed primarily at airplane pilots.
In 1961, aircraft pilots Keith Larkin and Courtney Graham developed a wireless phone headset for United Airlines. The headsets were created to replace the outmoded handheld microphones used by DC-8 pilots. The company Plantronics was formed from this two-person venture. In 1962, Larkin and Graham developed a wireless phone headset for the NASA space program. Their company Plantronics is still a leading maker of wireless phone headsets.
Wireless phone headsets are commonly used by office workers who move around their office space as part of their work routine, particularly call center operators. In some cases, wireless phone headsets are technically not wireless at all, because they often require telephone-line connectivity into the phone's wireless base station.
Wireless phone headsets are most commonly connected to mobile phones or PDAs, home or office landline phones, computer-enabled Voice over Internet (VoIP) applications like Skype and peer-to-peer gaming devices like Sony PSP Xbox.
Wireless phone headsets not only accommodate voice transmissions, but they can also be used to transmit image files and ringtones to smartphones and PDAs.
Types of Bluetooth-enabled devices that link to wireless phone headsets include laptop computers, PDAs, iPods and digital cameras. Currently, the most common type of Bluetooth connection is to a mobile phone.
With more legal restrictions against handheld cell phone usage by drivers, wireless phone headsets for Bluetooth-enabled cars allow for hands-free driving. As of 2009, nine states have enacted hands-free driving laws: California, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska and Minnesota.
As of 2009, wireless phone headsets are among the most popular Bluetooth-enabled products. Bluetooth technology is now integrated in a range of mobile phones, from smartphones to low-end cell phones. Notable wireless phone headset brands and models include the LG HBS-250, Plantronics Voyager PRO, Motorola 8700 and the Aliph Jawbone.
Wireless phone headsets either have one speaker, like a telephone, or two speakers, one for each ear.
According to Slate, questions to ask before buying a wireless phone headset should include:
The Motorola H700 model includes a flip-open microphone feature. While this may not seem like an important feature for nonusers, the flip-open function serves to eliminate a common annoyance for some headset users, particularly call-center users. When a wireless phone headset is turned on, users are unable to speak directly into their cell phone. They must answer calls through the Bluetooth enabled on their headsets. This phone-answering operation may seem clumsy and uncomfortable for some users. With the Motorola H700s flip-open built-in microphone feature, the act of flipping open the microphone turns on the Bluetooth. Conversely, the act of flipping it closed ends the phone connection. In other words, the headset's flip function mimics direct cell phone usage.
The Plantronics Voyager PRO has many unique and advanced features that include two noise-cancelling microphones on a boom for optimum user voice capture, AudioIQ noise-cancelling technology for incoming audio and WindSmart technology to block wind noises. The Voyager PRO offers six continuous hours of talk time plus five days of standby mode all on one charge.
The Kyocera Wireless Bluetooth Headset includes a headset docking station with a built-in speakerphone.
Aliphs Jawbone 2 headset includes its Noise Assassin ambient sound-cancellation technology, which was originally developed for DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the U.S. Department of Defense's independent research branch.
LG HBS-250 Stereo Bluetooth Headsets strongest features are its stereophonic audio quality and its compatibility with portable music devices. The headset also includes sound equalizer controls and pause and play controls for music playback.