Don't mock them til you try them
The line between Bluetooth headphones and Bluetooth headsets has become quite blurry indeed. Just about every Bluetooth headset for iPhone set has a built-in microphone and allows you to answer calls. The arrival of truly wireless buds, with each earpiece completely independent, further muddies the water, since you can use a single bud as a headset in a pinch.
Still, the traditional (and oft-mocked) dedicated Bluetooth phone headset still has a place and we’re going to look at the best Bluetooth headsets for iPhone.
Why Use Headsets Over Headphones?
Bluetooth headsets have a few advantages over simply using headphones. First of all, they tend to be much less expensive. Secondly, they leave you free to hear the outside world, often even on the side, the headset is mounted. Lastly, they are designed from the ground up to be used for phone calls.
That means better clarity, better microphones, and much longer standby and talk times. If you need to speak on your phone a lot or spend significant amounts of time driving, a Bluetooth headset for iPhone like the ones highlighted below is the perfect tool to get the job done.
This bundle package from Plantronics is the perfect choice for people who travel a lot and want to use their headset around the home or office on a desk-based setup. The included travel charger case also doubles as a charging stand. The system comes with a wall charger and the headset features a sensor that will answer the call as soon as you put it on. This is an awesome way to use one of these headsets if you think about it.
It has multi-layer noise cancellation, so using it outdoors or in noisy environments should be no issue. On a full charge, the headset is rated for 7 hours of talk time, with 9 hours of standby. The charging case increases that by another 14 hours of talk time.
The last feature of the Voyager that caught our eye is its wide compatibility with various smartphone apps. Such as Cisco Jabber, GoToMeeting, and Skype to name a few. That lets you stick with the app you enjoy the most, rather than being forced into a manufacturer-specific app.
Mpow EM16 V5.0 Mini Bluetooth Earbud [no longer available]
One of the biggest complaints people have always had when it comes to Bluetooth headsets is how obtrusive they are. It seems that looking like a member of the Borg from Star Trek just doesn’t appeal to that many people.
Which is why the Mpow EM16 deserves to be on this list. If you need a hands-free Bluetooth headset that also doesn’t scream “Wall Street yuppie”, the EM16 might be just the ticket. It’s small enough that it fits inside the inner part of your ear. It’s even more compact than the typical wireless bud!
The EM16’s design allows you to use it in either ear with equal comfort and there are three sizes of silicone tips and one memory foam tip which should be universal. Despite its compact size, the EM16 is rated for eight hours of talk time, has active noise cancellation for call clarity, and is IPX4 water-resistant. The best part may very well be the price since this tiny wonder comes in at a very palatable sub-$30 mark.
Is New Bee meant to be a play on “Newbie”? We’ll probably never know, but this particular Bluetooth headset came up on our radar thanks to how popular it seems to be on Amazon. A part of that popularity is certainly down to its insanely low price, but thousands of people wouldn’t rate the New Bee so highly if it wasn’t also at least decent to use.
Offered in three colors (though we can’t recommend the gold), this headset has a respectable spec sheet considering it’s of the budget persuasion. In fact, with 24 hours of talk time and 60 days of standby time, it seems like an impossible deal.
Nevertheless, the actual user experience confirms a long battery life and good call quality. If you want an inexpensive Bluetooth headset for iPhone that will always be ready when you need it, there seems to be little reason not to pick the New Bee.
The Aminy UFO is another very inexpensive crowd favorite, which immediately makes us wonder just what sort of bang-for-buck magic is going on here to keep so many people happy.
Talk time is decent at a claimed 8 hours, but it seems the long-term comfort of the headset is what won most buyers over. It spreads the weight of the earpiece over three discrete support points, making it less of a burden to wear all day.
Another innovation is the use of removable battery modules. There’s one for the left and one for the right ear included here. So if you don’t mind swapping ears, you could tease 16 hours total from two fully-charged batteries. Putting the weight of the battery behind the ear is another way in which the Aminy UFO tries to improve comfort.
The final piece of the puzzle is call quality, which again is a surprisingly common bit of praise customers have for it. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a Bluetooth headset but might have to wear one for long stretches, the UFO could be a good choice for you.
It’s no surprise to see another Plantronics headset on the list, given that they are a juggernaut in the market, but the Explorer 110 is quite a different beast from the Voyager.
It’s a compact, premium headset with an (in our opinion) fantastic design. It also comes with an air vent clip holder which is a very clever idea. It means you don’t have to wear the earpiece all the time but can get to it quickly in a safe way while driving.
It can also maintain its charge for up to 6 months, so if you aren’t actively using it and just throw it in a storage compartment, it will be ready to go the day you suddenly need it. Talk time is rated at seven hours, which is average, but sound and microphone clarity is reportedly a step above your average cheap headset.
The bottom line is that this premium Bluetooth headset for iPhone will look great in any car, sounds good with just about any content, and won’t make you look like a nerd while wearing it.
At first, the inclusion of a stereo headset such as the Titanium may seem like a bit of cheating. However, it ticks the same boxes that a Bluetooth headset should. The most important being that you can wear it without cutting yourself off from the world around you.
You see, these are bone-conducting headphones. They don’t go in or on your ears at all. Instead, they send sound directly to your middle ear through the bones of your skull. This lets sound from the outside world enter your ears as normal.
We’ve used Aftershockz products over the years and the technology is uncanny. While the sound quality and aspects such as bass don’t measure up to traditional headphones, it’s surprisingly good. They are mainly marketed as a way to jog or cycle safely while still listening to music or hearing navigation prompts, but they also do a great job as a way to take calls while keeping your hands free.
So they’re great for work environments where you need to hear everyone else but also don’t want your audio to bother other people. A very neat gadget overall!
OK, now we are probably cheating for real. Aren’t Apple’s own AirPods Pro just wireless Bluetooth buds? Well, yes. Also no.
Thanks to Apple’s fantastic “transparency mode” you can easily hear what’s going on around you while using the AirPods Pro. Alternatively, you can simply use just a single unit. The other will just stay switched off in the charging case. Both units have microphones, so either will do.
The brilliance here comes from the choices you have since you can switch from transparent mode to noise cancellation instantly. You also get the best integration with iPhone imaginable and benefit from virtually lag-free audio.
The only real downside is the limited playback time of 4.5 hours. But if you don’t mind swapping between the left and right unit during the day you’ll get 24 hours total via the charging case. So it will do in a pinch!
Any one of these Bluetooth headsets would be a fine addition to your iPhone, but we’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below as well. Why are you looking for a headset specifically and do people give you funny looks when you appear to be talking to yourself?