Katherine Boehret

Phone Headset Curbs Sounds of the City

Wireless headsets can be a real boon to mobile-phone users, especially for chatty folks who often have their hands full. In recent years, these headsets have bolstered their noise-canceling technology, making it easier to conduct conversations even while walking on noisy city streets.

Today, Motorola (MOT) is unveiling its $100 Motopure H15 Universal Bluetooth Headset. It’s available from Verizon’s (VZ) stores and Web site, and I’ve been testing it.

While focusing on the new Motopure H15, I also took another look at two noise-canceling headsets we reviewed in May — the $130 Jawbone from Aliph Inc. and the $120 Plantronics (PLT) Discovery 925. I made calls on the three headsets while standing beside a construction crew’s loud generator in busy downtown Washington, D.C., and, in a separate test, running my hairdryer on high in the background.

In both of these loud scenarios, the results favored the Motopure over the Jawbone and Plantronics Discovery. Of the three, the Plantronics headset allowed the most background noise through and made it difficult for people to hear my voice. The Jawbone was much better than the Plantronics headset, but not as good as the Motopure, which dimmed loud background noise to a faint hum and seemed to amp up the volume of my own voice. I called various people and even left myself voicemails so I could hear the differences.

More Microphones

The Motopure H15 uses two microphones, while the Jawbone uses two microphones and one modified microphone that works as a voice-activity sensor. The Plantronics headset uses one microphone. Motorola says one of its microphones hears the user’s voice, the other picks up background noise and a technology called CrystalTalk works to filter that noise out.

In my Motopure testing, I saw at work technology that Motorola says is meant to automatically adjust the headset volume as noises increase or decrease in the background. And at no point during my tests with the headset did friends on the other end of the line notice any odd echoing or fading volume in my voice, as with some headsets.

Snug Fit

Unlike the Jawbone, which — as its name reflects — works by touching bones in the face to eliminate excess noise, the Motopure H15 never touches one’s face. In fact, Motorola cites this as an advantage over the Jawbone because it doesn’t need to touch a user’s face to work. Motorola’s headset fits using a loop of clear plastic that wraps snuggly around the ear, along with an in-ear piece, though it took me a little while to figure out which of its five earbuds fit best.

And unlike the Plantronics headset, which has a larger, triangular-shaped boom, the Motopure has a tiny boom that folds away when not in use. Users receive calls by simply folding the boom down, which instantly turns the headset on and connects to calls. When the boom is closed, the headset turns off to save battery. I liked the finality of closing the boom and knowing my headset was definitely off whenever I put it in my purse. And in its tucked-in position, the Motopure H15 is petite and portable.

But if you’re wearing this headset on your ear, opening and closing the boom is almost impossible. Motorola recommends using the boom as you would a clamshell cellphone: Answer calls by opening the boom before donning the earpiece and end calls by removing the earpiece and closing the boom.

Of course, many users will want to keep the device in their ear for an extended period, rather than fishing for it when a call comes in. For them, the awkwardness of the boom switch may be a problem. They can still keep the Motopure on with the boom opened, receiving and ending calls at any time by simply pressing the large Call button. In this state, the handset is in standby mode rather than off — the same as most Bluetooth headsets waiting for calls.

One Headset, Two Phones

A plus of the Motopure is its ability to simultaneously pair with two phones, such as a personal cellphone and a work smartphone. Incoming calls to both lines are represented by different colored lights on the headset. But as soon as a call with one phone begins, the Bluetooth link to the second phone is disconnected.

The Plantronics headset also has dual-phone pairing capability, but the Jawbone doesn’t.

According to Motorola, the Motopure’s battery lasts for about 4.5 hours of talk time. The Jawbone’s battery lasts four hours; the Plantronics headset, five hours. In standby, Motopure and the Plantronics Discovery last for about seven days; Jawbone lasts for eight. Pressing and holding the Motopure’s up and down volume buttons spurs an indicator light to glow red, yellow or green to represent battery strength.

I liked the Motopure’s sturdy charging stand, which doubles as a holder for the headset. Though this desktop charger isn’t available today from Verizon, it will be available later this month from other carriers and retailers in a $130 bundle with the headset.

More Colors Later

Today, the Motopure is available in a slate color, but it will be available in black later this month and other colors are tentatively planned for November. The Jawbone and the Plantronics headset are each available in three colors, and Jawbone will release blue and pink headsets later this month.

Overall, the Motopure H15’s noise cancellation worked the best out of these three headsets, and its tiny build and fold-up boom make it a helpful tool for consumers who want quiet conversations no matter where they are.

Write to Katherine Boehret at mossbergsolution@wsj.com

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