Thursday, July 15, 2010

Jabra STONE and Palm Pre

I recently came across the Jabra STONE bluetooth headset. I am a bit of a sucker for things that look elegant and are functional, with emphasis on elegant. So, I had to own one. I picked one up from and it arrived within about 4 days.

I was a little disappointed to see that the STONE had arrived in an OEM Bluetooth package. I had kind of hoped for a pretty box. It would have been nice to have added to my collection of recent Palm product boxes. Needless to say, my interest in the packaging dwindled quickly and I was excited by the contents. The first step was to charge the STONE for 2 hours. I complied with the instructions so that I could play with my new toy as quickly as possible.

The first thing that excited me about the STONE was that it really did look like a stone. The STONE base is roughly 2 in. by 1.5 in., and about 3/4 in. from base to top when laid to gravity's natural will. The STONE headset is about 1 in. wide by about 1.5 in. in length. The headset fits nicely into a groove in the base which makes the entire STONE appear as a natural, semi-oblong egg shaped stone.

After waiting for about 2 hours, my first task was to get this thing paired with my Palm Pre smartphone and in my ear so that I could start testing out the Bluetooth Streaming Audio (A2DP) functionality.

The manual states that one can start the pairing process for the first time by popping the headset out of the base and the headset will go into pairing mode. No dice. Thankfully, like the zillion other headsets on the market, you can press and hold the ring button to turn it off, and then press and hold the button for about 3-4 seconds and it will enter pairing mode. Done! Now my Pre and STONE are talking. I started listening to music.

The audio quality for the STONE is not the best, as I would have expected. It is a little muffled. I feel that this had to do with the way that the STONE sat in my ear. It seemed to push the audio against the ear canal wall instead of into the ear. At least, this seemed to be how it worked up until recently, when I discovered how to place the headset in my ear in a manner that provided the most comfortable fit and the best audio quality. With the ear gel that my STONE shipped with (not the flat circular gel, but the gel with a slight lip), I have found that the most comfortable fit is done by gently resting the ear piece in the entrance to the ear canal, as opposed to trying to force the ear piece down the canal. This allows for a slightly better audio quality and a little more volume from the device.

The next intricacy is the volume control. The control is actually touch sensitive and not a button. I have not quite determined if it responds to a tap or a swipe gesture, but both seem to do the trick. I find that swiping up to increase the volume, and down to decrease the volume, are the most effective. Sometimes it takes a bit of swiping for the headset to respond, and sometimes it is an instantaneous response.

The battery life on the STONE leaves a little to be desired. I have found that it gets about 1 hour or so (up to about 1.5 hours at the most) of battery life when listening to music. While this is not terrible, it is also not spectacular. Thankfully, there is a second battery in the base unit. The base unit, when paired with the headset, can provide about 2 more charges to the headset. This allows the battery life to be extended a few more hours when on the road. Unfortunatly, it takes a little bit of time to recharge the headset in the base unit, and during this time period the headset cannot be used. I have read that there is a firmware update that will increase the battery life, though I am not sure if my STONE has this firmware already (I will be seeking out the mentioned firmware to test it).

While I have played with the STONE and streaming music, I have not had much of a chance to exercise the phone control aspect of the device. In the near future I will play with the audio quality and get a sense of how it sounds to the remote party (the guinea pigs being my parents, who will likely promptly complain if the sound quality is slightly off).

So far my favorite aspects of the device have been the stone like shape and the touch volume controls. I feel that both of these features, and the fact that the stone comes with a base that includes a battery, make up for the slight battery life short-coming. In the end, I would give the Jabra STONE a 4.5 star rating out of 5 stars.

Image references (in order of appearance):

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

mōVox (SIPper) - webOS VoIP - An Update

Pixi Dial Pad My project for the last few months has been SIPper. SIPper will be a VoIP client for the Palm webOS platform. Initially, it will support making and receiving calls. In the future it will support sending and receiving text messages, multiple accounts and a myriad of other features. Who knows? Maybe it will even support video conferencing and video sharing some day.

So far, I have been making decent progress. A lot of the JavaScript code is coming together. The biggest show-stopper, at the moment, is the lack of microphone API in the webOS PDK. Once this becomes available, I will be able to implement a sound driver to wrap everything together for calls to be made. Until then, I can implement the rest of the application.

The name of an application is also very important. While SIPper is kinda cute, and could be made to remind the user of a sippy cup, it wasn't very professional. The target audience of this application is business professionals who want to leave their office phone behind, but still utilize access to their corporation's VoIP system to receive calls (not to forget consumers looking to reduce their phone bill). So, to accommodate a more professional name that makes a little more sense, SIPper will now be known as mōVox. mōVox is a concatenation of the word "mobile" and the Latin root, "vox," which means "voice." Mobile Voice is what this application does.

Now that you know where things currently stand, please have a look at a few screen shots here: mōVox Screenshots

I will continue to post updates as events unfold. I'll also try to broaden the topic to include webOS development.