Wireless. It’s fast becoming the standard for pretty much everything. From the wifi internet connections our laptops use to the remote key fobs that unlock our cars, connectivity of the non physical kind is a very popular attribute in the world of technology. When it comes to what is probably the most used wireless device in the world – the mobile phone – an important type of wireless connection is the bluetooth incarnation. Created in 1994 by Ericsson, it allows compatible devices to communicate with each other over short distances. I personally use bluetooth on a daily basis, via my cellphone. I have a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 smartphone that runs on the android operating system. As someone who like to maximise my tech’s potential, this works well for me as the OS allows me (with root access) to play with the capabilities of my hardware (like overclocking and undervolting) and do things that are normally not possible with the standard tech that is normally available. I particularly enjoy the apps that I have found on the android market, some of which have made my accessory purchases last longer than expected. I use two bluetooth devices with my phone – the MW600 stereo bluetooth headset and the MBW-150 bluetooth watch.
After years of using the wired headsets that came along with my phones, I decided to get myself a wireless one. Prior to this, I was pretty skeptical about them, believing that they would be plagued with disconnections, pathetic battery capacities, and low quality sound. More than for calls, I used my headsets to listen to the mp3s I had stored on my phone. Once phones were able to play music, I never got onto the iPod (or any mp3 player) bandwagon, because I didn’t want to have to carry around another gadget along with my phone. I remember having a 256mb capacity mp3 player at one point, but this was before I had a phone that could read music files. I have no idea what became of that mp3 player either.
Because of my lack of wanting to fill both my pockets, I started using the Sony Ericsson Walkman series of phones. These came with memory card slots that served to hold the music I wanted to listen to. The headsets that were supplied with the phones (I eventually used three walkman phones over the years, the W880, W910, and the W902) worked quite well for me and the music players didn’t use up much battery. When the time came to get a new phone, I wasn’t too happy with the music related models available at the time and decided to get the flagship of the Sony Ericsson stable, the Xperia X10. The phone was heavily advertised with the MW600 headset and it caught my eye. By that time I had gotten the MBW-150 bluetooth watch and was very satisfied with the bluetooth connectivity (my fears of disconnections were proved wrong). So I decided to get one and do away with the wired headsets.
In the packaging you get a pair of Sony Ericsson branded earphones, three sizes of ear buds, the micro USB charger, and of course, the actual headset piece. Sleek and minimalistic, it has an OLED display, microphone, playback buttons, touch sensitive volume bar, power button and dedicated call button. The tech is about the length of my pinky finger and has an approximate 17mm circumference (its not round, but you get the picture). It’s got a clip on it (which seems a tad too fragile) and a standard 3.5mm jack, enabling you to swap the earphones for your own pair, if you so choose. I found the supplied ones more than adequate.
The micro USB socket makes life more convenient as I can use one charger for all my micro USB products. Not that I have to charge it that often. This little thing lasts quite a while, though it cannot be used while charging. Advertised as having 11 hours of talk time and a whopping 500 hours on standby, I tend to have to charge it every four days or so with fair use, sometimes longer. Charging time is around 2 hours and change. The music comes through via the A2DP bluetooth standard, and is of pretty good quality. The OLED display is clear and, when you get a call, displays the caller ID while the standard Sony Ericsson ringtone plays through the earphones. If music is playing when that call comes through, the headset automatically stops playback and resumes once the call is completed. The call button answers calls and can be clicked once when idle to use voice commands (though this is only possible with phones that have compatible voice recognition). If the call button is double clicked, the last dialed number is called. I have not been able to reject calls with this headset though.
The headset uses what is advertised as multipoint technology, which basically means that it can be paired with multiple devices. I have mine paired to two phones and my PC, and switching between them is as easy as holding the play button for a couple of seconds, and then using the volume bar to select the device I want to use with the headset. Though a little tricky to get the computer setup sorted out, I’ve managed to use this headset for Skype calls on my PC. You can simultaneously pair your phone with the headset by holding the call key and selecting it, and pair the media side of the headset with another device, making the headset truly ‘multipoint’. I’ve streamed music from my PC onto it while pairing with my phone for calls.
The MW600 also has a built in FM stereo radio with RDS, selectable in the same way you would select a different media device. If the radio broadcast supports it, the OLED display will show the radio station, programme name, and even the playing song name. The volume bar is touch sensitive and can be hard to use at first, but once you get used to it you hardly notice it. It does however activate even with the slightest touch, normally just lighting up the display, and it’s not uncommon for the volume to go up and down when this happens. From standby, clicking the headset button will activate the media app on the phone and start playing whatever’s on the playlist (or resume from a paused track). As long as the phone supports it, the media info (essentially, songname) for the track that is playing will scroll by on the OLED display.
All in all, this is a great piece of kit. Though it’s battery is phenomenal, I’d say the best thing about this headset is the ease with which you can use it. Audio quality is above average, with it being capable of delivering good bass, provided the media source has a decent equaliser. Though it’s designed with Sony Ericsson products in mind, it’s capable of pairing with a variety of other handsets. I personally don’t know what I would do without it, though Sony (which, after their buyout of the Ericsson part of the joint venture, is what the mobile firm is branded under now) has unveiled a new headset that seems to do everything this one does, with the addition of a memory card slot for a built in mp3 player. This looks promising and after a year and a half of the MW600, it could be my next headset. In the meantime though, I’ll continue to enjoy my MW600, and act like some sort of spy skipping tracks that I’m listening to on the headset with my bluetooth watch the Sony Ericsson MBW-150 Music Edition.
This watch is quite dated, having been released some time in 2006 or 2007 (Sony Ericsson has taken down the product page so not able to double check) but is still an accessory to be reckoned with. Designed in collaboration with Fossil, this is quite a chunky watch but is very nice to look at, regardless of its bluetooth capabilities. I actually got mine as a birthday present while I had my previous phone, the Sony Ericsson W902. The pairing process was pretty straightforward, and the watch is quite useful along with its geek appeal.
Featuring an Orange OLED display and a predominantly black and orange theme (keeping in line with the company’s ‘Walkman’ theme), the watch has a rubberised strap, a watch dial and five buttons. On the left side the media buttons (rewind, play, forward) are fair sized and easy to push, and the right side has the dial and two more buttons, one for the pairing and options, and the other for notifications and calls. This watch has a vibrate function, and not only vibrates when you’re getting a call (with the number displaying on the OLED screen) but also vibrates when your phone has gone out of range. This particular function has prevented me from losing my phone at least a couple of times. The watch also vibrates and shows a picture of an envelope when a text is received.
Holding the play button for a couple of seconds will activate your phones music player, which can play via the phones speaker or, if in use, a headset (wireless or not). The rewind and fast forward buttons double as volume control buttons too. A long press on either will change the track, and short clicks will manipulate the volume. The top right button activates the display when in standby mode, showing the time and date in digital format. It can also be used to manipulate incoming calls. One press will silence the ringtone but maintain the call, and another press will reject the call (busy tone/send to voicemail). This particular function has saved me from many an embarrassing situation when I forgot to put my phone in silent mode. Being able to do this also makes you feel like some sort of spy with killer gadgets. hehe.
The bottom right button provides all the options for the phone including pairing options and a choice as to whether you want to have text notifications or not. When this menu is active, the top right button is used to confirm the options that the menu brings up. Battery life is pretty good, with the watch needing a charge roughly each weekend. A little charging clip is provided that lines up some electrical contacts on the back of the watch and charges it in about 2 hours or so.
Like the MW600, media information about playing tracks shows up on the display of the watch, as do the names of the people who call you (provided they’re stored in the phone’s addressbook). The vibrate function comes in quite handy, as you don’t actually have to pull out your phone to know who’s calling you. You can just glance at the watch, and if you don’t want to take the call, mute it or reject it. Muting the call stops the watch (and phone) from vibrating, but the contact name stays on the display as long as the contact stays on the line.
I used this watch while I had my Sony Ericsson W902, and when I got my android phone I believed that the watch would have to only serve as a timepiece from then on, as the MBW-150 was not supported by the Xperia X10. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was there an app available that allowed me to use the watch with my new phone, it actually gave me better functionality! I found a nifty piece of software called OpenWatch that allowed me to do all the things I could with the previous phone, but also display the content of my incoming texts as they came in. The notification button can be used to see the last message received, and I was also able to program OpenWatch to display the subjects of my incoming emails (gmail). This breathed new life into my accessory and I’ve now been using my watch for over two and a half years, through the lifetimes of two phones.
I’m more than happy with this watch, it’s served me well. One problem I’ve come across (and am still trying to solve) is the fact that because the model is discontinued, there are virtually no spares available for it and my watch strap has broken. I have not been able to find a replacement, and the design of the watch makes it impossible to use any other strap. Like the headset though, Sony has announced a new watch that looks very promising, with a touchscreen interface and accelerometer (very drool worthy) that I will be watching closely and possibly buying.
I’m very happy with both my bluetooth tech accessories, they’ve let me indulge my tech cravings and helped create my digital lifestyle. Now that Sony has unveiled their 2012 versions of both these products (the Sony Smart Wireless Headset Pro and the Sony SmartWatch) I may be retiring them, but not until the new products have proved themselves.
Too close for missiles, I’m switching to guns.