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Review of Bluetooth-headset Motorola S9

Sales package:

  • Headset
  • Charger
  • User Guide

I have never seen a Bluetooth-headset being advertised so widely. Accessories normally sell themselves announcements of new gadgets pop up in the Internet from time to time, they have a certain consumer group interested in enhancing the handsets they own. But the Motorola S9 is a totally different story. On the product page you can get a virtual tour of the S9, read about the key aspects and look at David Beckham wearing headset on his metrosexual head. However does it live up to the hype? First of all, lets talk about the S9 and then turn to the conclusions.

Design and controls

I would characterize the design as aggressive: black and red colors, rubberized keys, no gaps or holes whatsoever together all these things look more like a sports tool. In fact, thats the way it is, since the S9 is positioned as a device for people preferring active way of life. And who are these people? Obviously, teenagers. Young people I questioned about the headset came to the following conclusion: yeah, it is a cool gadget for wide pants, sport shoes and proper music playing at full blast. Yuppie in ties should look elsewhere. So I have nothing left to do but agree that the S9 is a typical youth-aimed product styled in the way we have come to expect, thats it. Also I can recommend the headset to gym-fans, as there are no irritating wires, which you could hook with dumbbells or chest expander.


The build quality is not bad, the materials used are quite decent, and it is good to see that it is a pretty much no-nonsense design without any bulges, ridges, whatever. The metal you see here surely adds some sort of style to it as well. It can be found in the company logo placed on rear and in the speakers grill. The fact that the device can not be folded up is really disappointing, since it takes to much space in your pocket, so the best way to carry the S9 is a bag or a jacket.

Wearing the headset

Looking at the football stars photos wont give you an idea of how the headset will fit your head in real life. At first I got really worried about the headset standing to far aback. My head is probably larger than Beckhams, as in my case there was no gap between the headset and my head, and the ear loop fitted right around my head. Speaking of the comfort, in the beginning everything was fine, nothing disturbed me, but then pain in the right ear came out of nowhere, in the place where the speakers rubber ridge touches it. The pain was quite intense but the next day I felt nothing, I would seem I was simply getting used to it. However every time I wear the S9 for more than an hour that pain comes back. I recommend you to try the headset on before buying, of course, you wont feel any pain outright, but, at least, youll have an opportunity to see whether it fits your head or not, so as to avoid possible discomfort while using it.


If dont take this detail into account, the rest is just great. The headset is tailored to fit various heads and if you dont suffer from baldness, it will keep low profile on your head, the same goes for the times when you wear a hat - the S9 looks like a mere pair of earphones. The headset sits firmly, it doesnt fall off even when you are dancing, jumping or jerking, so it gets highly recommended for sports. The thing I do miss now is winter, since I would really love to slide down from a steep slope with music pumping in my ears (of course, a wired headset is an option, but the former way is more fun, isnt it?).

Now a small lyrical digression: of course, all this pretension to being a sport-savvy gadget is somewhat made up, if you want wireless stereo sound during work-outs, you should be quite content with the DS-970 as well. But if you throw the DS-970 at the wall will keep working? Will the playback continue if it gets under heavy rain? Perhaps, it might, but the S9 will do better in these situations. Unfortunately, youll have to take it on trust, but I really tried all the things I mentioned above. And the headset still works, though the flap covering the charger slot loosened a bit, and one of the rubber stripes near speaker couldnt stand it.

Controls

The keys are placed on ear loops and on the edge of the rear part. On the right ear loop is the dedicated fast forward key and play/stop button, while the left one houses the volume buttons and the multifunctional key (call receive/reject, switching between lines, voice dial and last number redial). The rear edge holds the power button and the charger jack. As the commercial claims, touch-sensitive controls are one of the headsets draws. But this doesnt apply to all buttons here the multifunctional button, play/stop and power buttons are very conventional, they are pretty stiff, yet by and large responsive. All other keys are touch-sensitive and do pretty well, even outstandingly well, I would say. Every time you put the headset on or take it off you will unintentionally press one of them. Trust me, thats the way it works, still could not master it after my quality time with the S9. Even an accidental touch is enough to set fast forward on or jump to the next track. On the one hand it is really great, but on the other hand I wish the keys were mechanical.


It wont take you too long to get used to the controls, despite all these touch-keys, everything is quite convenient.

Next to the power button is the indicator which flashes red, green or blue, depending on the situation. A curious fact: during daylight the milky white plastic covering the diod doesnt let the light go through ,so you will not see what happens inside.

Battery life

The S9 utilizes built in 180 mAh Li-Ion battery. To tell the truth, they could have crammed a more capacious batter into this casing, and it wouldnt have been a big weight issue. As the manufacture claims the S9 is able to work for 200 hours in stand by and about up to 6 hours in music and call modes. Almost all tests indicated that being linked up to a notebook the headset can play music for about 4 hours straight at full blast. With the Motorola ROKR E2 the headset lasted a bit longer than that. The battery life is quite meager; I dont know whether its only one unit we owned or the device itself. And again, they should have embedded a more capacious battery, consumers would have noticed this 10-15 g difference, but in that case the numbers wouldve been substantially better.

The charger jack is presented by standard miniUSB socket, it handles Motorolas own chargers in convenient fashion. The S9 can also seamlessly charge from PC but it takes the battery more time to charge from empty to full, from the mains it gets full charge in about 2 hours.

Connectivity and sound quality

The headset was tested in pair with the Motorola ROKR E2, the Samsung F300, and the Sony Ericsson W880. With all these handsets coupling delivered no problems, but automatic connection worked properly only with two latter devices, ROKR E2 seems too old for such tricks. To pair up the S9 with a phone you dont need to press any keys, you just turn the headset on, the code is standard 0000. The sonic experience you get greatly depends on the handset which you are going to use the headset with. In case with Motorola and Sony Ericsson the sound quality was pretty decent with sufficient volume, though compared to wired headsets, there is a bunch of letdowns, it is especially notable when thinking of standard earphones excellent playback quality. The Samsung-branded device gives it all up while the volume level is fine, the sound gets somewhat flat. On the other hand, if you prefer electronic music youll barely notice the difference, and more importantly during work-outs music will be just a kind of background for you. So, our conclusion on music is as follows: it is quite good in general, but could be better. I can for sure that the volume level put up by the S9 is sufficient, everything is all right with it. The playback management system works fine, the response time is pretty tiny, but you cant skip forward or backward within tracks.

Though, while used as a mono-headset the S9 falls flat. The sound was a tad muffled; people on the other end frequently asked me to repeat my words and instantly guessed that I wasnt speaking via the phone. The voice dial doesnt work properly, as you have to say the same thing over and over again to get it dial the number.

Conclusion

Lets revise the S6s pros and cons, the former go first:

Pros:

- good design for the target audience
- good sound quality
- quite good ergonomics (I wish the buttons were mechanical)
- good advertisement
- Bluetooth 2.0 profile

Cons:

- not everyone will like the way you wear them
- battery life isnt decent
- speech transfer quality leaves much to be desired
- the headset could have been given folding design

Ive already written above who this model is targeted at, now lets think together: is the S9 worth buying? The headset will retail for about 100 USD. Listing out the rivals, there are the Jabra BT620S (with longer battery life and better speech transfer quality, but bulkier ear buds), the Nokia BH-501, the BH-601 (everything is like in Jabra, except the speech transfer quality) and the Sony DR-BT21G (the same plus interesting design and average voice transfer quality). Generally speaking, the S9 is not as bulky as its competitors are, provides comparable and even better music playback experience, and, moreover, it is water-proof. The price is pretty much adequate, especially compared to some of its competitors.

And now a few words about David Beckham, as far as I know he has been cooperating with Motorola since 2006, but thus far many people in our country have been under a strong delusion that celebrities get signed only for poorly selling products. But it is not only Motorola that employs famous people for these purposes, for example in Kiev I saw the N91 advertised with some local band; Samsung is no stranger to this business either. I could think of a great many of examples, but it is quite the problem to figure out whether it is economically reasonable or not, all the S9 marketing efforts might end up in vain - I doubt this product will be all the rage, teenagers might well not have these 100 bucks in pocket. On the other hand, it is a precedent, which way it goes only sales will tell. Because, for instance, Sony Ericsson promotes its Bluetooth-headsets all together without highlighting specific products, or coming up with tailored advertising campaigns, but still it has a great line-up that generates some nice sales. Motorola is a quite different story, though it offers signature products, but in the sense of call quality and battery life they often look like guests from the past. The advertising activity around the S9 might inject new life into all offerings but the thing that is really needed right now is large-scale advertisement of some uber-phone, which the S9 could be used with. Promoting any headset as a stand-alone gadget is totally wrong as I see it, but drawing more eyes to something bigger via such accessories this might prove to be interesting.

Specifications:

  • Bluetooth version: 2.0
  • Weight: about 30 g
  • Battery life (talk time): up to 6 hours
  • Battery life (standby): up to 200 hours
  • The way of wearing: over-the-head loop

Sergey Kuzmin (skuzmin@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Oleg Kononosov (oleg.kononosov@mobile-review.com)

Published — 4 July 2007

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