If you want a Bluetooth earpiece for your mobile phone but don’t expect it to be permanently attached to your ear, this HM1700 one from Samsung is a reasonably priced option.
I’ve long avoided these in-ear Bluetooth devices for talking on the phone. They’ve rightfully been lambasted in the press as the most effective way to signal to everyone that you’re a dork. Or a Borg from Star Trek. So whether the manufacturer was Jawbone, Plantronics, or Samsung, I couldn’t look at them without picturing some a-hole walking through the airport talking too loud into the thin air because he had one of these in his ear.
For me though, there are two key times these Bluetooth earbuds can come in handy: 1) in the car and 2) when you’re alone but need to do something else with your hands while you’re talking.
The first one is really key. Depending on whose stats you believe, driving while distracted by a smart phone now causes close to—or more—car wrecks on U.S. roads than drunk driving. When I look back at all the near-wrecks I’ve had the past year, in most cases I can see the distracted soccer mom in an oversized SUV messing with her iPhone when she should be paying attention to the road and other drivers.
The long intro brings me to the Samsung HM1700 headset. It arrived in a testing package I got with the Samsung Focus phone with Windows Mobile I reviewed a while back. I snickered derisively when I saw it, but popped it out and started using it while driving or doing a scheduled call in my office.
The verdict? It’ll still be a cold day in hell before I wear this thing around in a crowd, but when I am using it with my phone, it does what it’s supposed to. There’s a little degradation of sound quality that’s noticeable on both ends, but not enough that we couldn’t understand each other as well as usual. Let’s face it—talking on a cell phone of any kind is never an ideal experience, with all that stepping on each other and having to wait your turn to talk, but it’s the price we pay for convenience. Is it “good enough?” Yes.
Before I got used to it though, I did cut off several calls but hitting a button while trying to readjust the positioning of the device. “Call disconnected” the voice said in my ear. So try it out on your understanding friends and relatives before making important business calls. That button is not well-placed.
The other buttons are a volume control and an on/off button. I found it kind of annoying that when I switched this off and tossed it in my pocket, my phone didn’t automatically figure that out and go back to using its own speakers. The only solution on my Android phone anyway seems to be to go into settings and turn the Bluetooth off. (If you have a better solution, please share.)
There’s a tiny built-in battery that recharges by micro USB. Thankfully two phones and multiple other devices I have use the same connector. Handy. The phone industry is finally settling on standards so we don’t have to keep track of 20 different chargers. The design is rather simple: a piece that goes into your ear and a flexible plastic wire that hangs over your ear. There are some tiny accessories included that can help it stay in your ear easier if you’re having problems with that.
You can listen to music from your phone or laptop on this, which not all Bluetooth earpieces can manage, plus you can switch back and forth between two sources: a car system and your phone, for example.
This Samsung Bluetooth cell phone earpiece lists for $40, but is frequently discounted. It comes in black, purple or Magenta (do you really want to call attention to it though?) You can buy it at many cell phone stores, electronics stores, or online at Amazon, where it’s currently selling for a shade over $21.