I almost always have my phone set to “silent” mode. The reason is simple: I don’t want to annoy those around me with a basically never-ending barrage of push notifications.1 But the past couple of days I’ve been trying out a new device, the latest Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset, and now I feel rather ridiculous given all the audible wonders I’ve been missing.
You see, with the Era in-ear and tethered to my phone, any sounds that would normally go through the speaker of the phone go right to the device. So I no longer feel bad about leaving the sound on. And now that means I get to hear not only push notification sounds, but all sounds being put to clever usage within apps. And some of them really do alter the way an app feels.
To some of you, this will be the most obvious thing in the world. But I know a lot of people are like myself and almost always have their phones set to silent. And we’re all missing a big component of many apps and the overall mobile experience.
The downside, of course, is that I have to be that guy who walks around all day with a bluetooth headset hanging out of my ear. But the Era is actually quite sleek and lovely. And besides, I was already that guy who would walk around with my headphones in my ears. (Though oddly, still with my device in silent mode. The reason being that with headphones in, I’m usually listening to music, which works whether the phone is set to silent or not.)2
All of this inevitably leads to a discussion about the film Her. In it, the main character, Theodore, walks around all day with a (presumably Bluetooth) earpiece in his ear to be able to listen (and talk) to his A.I. companion, Samantha. He presumably does this for the same reasons I outlined above: letting Samantha speak in public through the speakers on his device would be annoying (or worse) to bystanders. This earpiece is a vital piece of his life and the film.
I do have to wonder if services such as Siri and Google Now are going to lead to a world where these Bluetooth ear pieces are the norm. Yes, these devices are already used a lot by business users (a fact which probably hasn’t helped their reputation), but that’s primarily to make and receive phone calls. I wonder if such devices may eventually hit more mainstream usage due to other functionality not limited to phone calls (or music, for that matter).
Imagine walking around a city and being able to get audible notifications of things you might be interested in. Local places to visit, sights to see, breaking news alerts. And that’s just the obvious stuff.
If you’re walking around with someone, that may be considered annoying or rude. But is it really any more so than checking our devices as we do right now?
Then, as always, the real issue will come down to battery technology. Four hours of usage means charging these devices at least twice a day if not more. That’s not going to cut it.
Anyway, after just a couple of days with the Era I find myself feeling quite naked without it. And I find my smartphone usage a little less joyful because it’s so much less audible. Maybe I’m weird. Maybe I’m not.3
And actually, silent without vibration on as well in recent years because that can actually be more annoying to people. Plus, I check my phone enough that I rarely miss things anyway. ↩
And you can argue that the headphones-in-ear look is good for another social reason — avoiding social interaction — but that’s a topic for another post. ↩
Okay, I am — but maybe not in this way. ↩