After earning the adoration of tech-savvy celebs and geeks alike with the original fashion-meets-function Jawbone and its subsequent iterations, Aliph has done it yet again with Icon. The latest Jawbone shrinks to the smallest size yet without diminishing sound quality, piles on even more techie features, and somehow yet again manages to make previous versions look old with fresh design, all for a lower $99 price tag.
From the original model launched in 2006 to the most recent Prime, every new Jawbone has become smaller and smaller, and the Icon makes no exception to this rule. Where the Prime measured 2.11 inches long, the Icon goes to just 1.77, and drops from 11 grams to 8.2 in the process.
As usual, Aliph has also prioritized style, but broken away from the old lattice textures that carried through every previous headset. The Icon comes in six color designs: Hero, Rogue, Thinker, Ace, Catch and Bombshell. Overthought names aside, we applaud Aliph for actually varying the texture and finish of each design significantly, rather than merely slapping new shades on the same plastic. The Hero, for instance, has dimples, the Catch has been polished to slippery perfection, and the Thinker recalls the classic Jawbone crosshatching, all with deep finishes that look more sophisticated than merely paint. Our review unit, the Rogue, looked gloss black in dim light but showed a deep amber hue around the edges when it caught sunlight, similar to Samsung’s vaunted “touch of color” TV bezels.
Besides the usual shave down and restyle, the Icon hosts some interesting new features as well. Aliph bumps its potent “NoiseAssassin” voice isolation technology from version 2.0 up to 2.5, adds some small touches like a battery meter that appears on iPhones, and perhaps most curiously, has added “apps” that do everything from change the notification voices to read Twitter feeds.
Proper fit is important for any piece of technology you’ll actually wear on your body, so Aliph’s generous selection of earbuds to customize the Icon to suit makes an enormous difference in fit. You can take the standard approach and try any of four donut-shaped earbuds that require a snap-on earloop to support the headset, or one of three unique “earbud-only” tips that literally twist to fit the ear and support the headset all on their own. We found that these three seemed to work best, making the earloop seem extraneous unless you really need the confidence of knowing that your headset is physically looped over your ear. (Skydivers, tightrope walkers and high-rise steel workers take note).
Aliph also includes a USB wall charger and a corresponding microUSB cable for charging. The cable, which is less than a foot long, can make charging at remote outlets (like one buried under your desk) difficult, but also eliminates tangles and makes it easier to travel with.