TIME Gadgets

Check Out Microsoft’s Very First Wearable Fitness Tracker

It's Microsoft's new foray into the wearables market

Microsoft is joining the parade of tech companies flooding the crowded wearable health space with a big bet that it can make its way not only to consumers’ desks and laps, but onto their wrists, too.

The company announced a new device Wednesday evening called the Microsoft Band, which will be coupled to a service called Microsoft Health.

Microsoft Band works much like a Fitbit or a Jawbone Up: throughout the day, it tracks your heart rate, steps, calories burned and the quality and length of your sleep. It contains a GPS device, so it tracks distance traveled, too. The Band feeds data back to your Microsoft Health app, which works on Microsoft phones as well as Android and Apple.

The Band does things some other wearables can’t: it notifies you when you receive a text message or a call and allows you to monitor your email. It also lets you interact with Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant, Cortana, provided you have a Windows Phone. Microsoft also touted Microsoft Health’s coordination with its HealthVault program, which can share information with doctors. And at $199, The Microsoft Band is considerably cheaper than the cheapest Apple Watch will be when that launches early next year at a $349 starting price.

“We don’t think there’s any other device with this level of functionality,” Yusuf Mehdi, a Microsoft vice president, said according to the New York Times in a demonstration of the device on Wednesday. Microsoft released the Band after it apparently leaked early in some app stores.

The big question for the Microsoft Band is whether it’ll hold users’ interest. In a recent survey, PricewaterhouseCoopers found about a third of respondents said they no longer use their wearable device or do so infrequently just a year after purchasing one.

TIME Gadgets

Motorola Phone Promises 48-Hour Battery Life

Droid Turbo
Motorola's DROID Turbo smartphone promises 48-hour battery life Motorola

Looking for an Android smartphone with a huge battery that just won’t quit? You may want to check out Motorola’s newest entry in its DROID line of phones, the 5.2-inch DROID Turbo. The device will be available through Verizon Wireless starting on Thursday, October 30.

The most compelling feature of the DROID Turbo is easily its huge 3900-mAh battery. It promises to last a full 48 hours of mixed use on a single charge – approximately double the life of the Apple iPhone 6 Plus. And when time is a factor, you’ll be glad to know the DROID Turbo charges quick: You can get up to eight hours of power out of a brief 15-minute charge when you use the included Motorola Turbo Charger.

The DROID Turbo’s other features are no slouches, either: A 2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor powers the phone, the same chip found in the powerful Google Nexus 6 (also by Motorola). The 5.2-inch Gorilla Glass screen, meanwhile, delivers stunning 565 pixels-per-inch quad-HD resolution, perfect for watching the 4K video shot from the Turbo’s 21-megapixel camera. And lest you wonder, yes, the DROID Turbo comes pre-loaded with Android 4.4.4 KitKat, the latest build of Google’s mobile operating system.

The DROID Turbo will be available with 32 gigabytes of storage in your choice of Metallic Black, Metallic Red and Ballistic Nylon colors for $199 with a new two-year Verizon contract. A 64-gigabyte version will be available in Ballistic Nylon only at a price of $249 with a two-year contract. To learn more about the new DROID Turbo smartphone, visit the Motorola blog.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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Ask TIME Tech: Good Streaming Security Camera?

The $149 Dropcam streams live security footage to the web, accessible for free via mobile apps and computers. Dropcam

We're looking for an easy, cheap way to catch an intruder in the act

Question: I just moved to a new apartment and for a number of reasons, I’m feeling like I need to have a video camera in my place. Mainly because I feel like the management company continues to come into my apartment to “fix” things, and it’s causing me to feel violated.

I was wondering if you knew of a relatively cheap camera that would hook up to an iPhone app and send some sort of notification on the phone when there’s movement.

Short Answer: The $149 Dropcam HD should do the trick.

Long Answer: There’s no shortage of streaming security cameras out there and while Dropcam isn’t the cheapest option, it’s really easy to set up, it’s reliable and its free mobile app works great.

There are two models available: the $199 Dropcam Pro and the $149 Dropcam HD. You’ll be just fine with the $149 model pictured above. The $199 version gets you a wider field of view (130 degrees versus 107 degrees), lets you zoom in closer (8x versus 4x) and has a newer wireless chip that can take advantage of faster connections.

Either model will alert you to movement via email and text message, and you can watch live footage from your phone or from a computer. You can also set up movement zones in your home, such as doorways and stairwells. This is handy if you have pets, for instance. You don’t want motion notifications going off all day when your dog is moving around; only when someone comes in through the front door. Each camera sports voice communication, too, so you can tell your dog to get off the couch or tell an intruder that you’ve called the police.

There are two service plans available, which record footage that you can use to play back later if you need it for legal reasons. The 7-days-of-recording, $99-per-year plan should be just fine. There’s also a $299-per-year plan that saves 30 days of footage.

Note that you don’t have to use a service plan at all, though. If you just want to check in on live footage and get alerts when someone enters your place, that’s all included without a plan. My advice would be that if you decide to go without a plan and you get an alert that someone has entered your home, capture a screenshot (or several) of the person in the act by pressing the power button and the Home button on your iPhone at the same time. That way you’ll have proof if you need it later.


TIME Gadgets

This Is the Best Home Bluetooth Speaker You Can Buy

Marshall Stanmore Marshall

This amp-style Marshall speaker drowns out its competition

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the original full article below at TheWirecutter.com

If I were buying a Bluetooth speaker for home use, I’d get the $400 Marshall Stanmore. It sounds more refined than most competitors, has convenient bass and treble controls, and plays loud as hell without distortion—3 to 5 decibels louder than anything else we tested. I base this recommendation on a series of blind listening tests as well as professional and amateur reviews.

I also have a recommendations for speakers if you dislike the styling of the Marshall, or want to save a little money or spend more and get a speaker with Apple’s Airplay wireless music technology.

Who Should Buy This Bluetooth Speaker

Anyone looking for an easy-to-use audio system that delivers good sound quality (that doesn’t need to be portable) will find a home Bluetooth speaker a great choice.

Bluetooth is the easiest wireless audio technology to deal with. You don’t need to install an app: If you’ve been using, say, the TuneIn Radio and Pandora apps on your tablet to listen through headphones, a Bluetooth speaker lets you use those apps the same way you did before. Any Bluetooth source (tablet, phone, computer) works with any Bluetooth speaker.

Bluetooth does degrade sound quality compared to Wi-Fi-based systems like AirPlay and Sonos, but it’s unlikely you’ll hear a significant difference. Be warned, though: if you’re a serious audiophile, this kind of speaker is unlikely to please you, because none can match the sound quality of even a halfway-decent conventional stereo system.

How we decided on the Marshall Stanmore

First off, in choosing models to test, we passed on anything with an internal rechargeable battery (which we would consider portable, regardless of the size.) We concentrated on speakers around $400, which past experience has told us is the least you can reasonably expect to spend for a wireless speaker that produces decent bass and fills a room with sound. If you spend more than $400, you’ll likely get AirPlay capability and even better sound.

A good home Bluetooth speaker should have bass, midrange, and treble in natural and roughly equal proportions. The sound should be full and satisfying, and the midrange should sound smooth, without making voices sound unnaturally edgy or constricted, and the treble should let you clearly hear high-frequency sounds like the breath of a flautist. We also looked for physical controls like volume adjustment.

We used outside reviews to narrow down our final list, which included the Wren V5BT, JBL Authentics L8, Fluance Fi30, and the Marshall. I then set up a blind test pitting these speakers against each other, including myself, Wirecutter headphone editor Lauren Dragan, and frequent Wirecutter listening panelist and musician John Higgins.

Our Pick

The Marshall Stanmore is a solid speaker with no caveats (seriously). It sounds good with all kinds of music — rock, hip-hop, pop, jazz, classical, whatever — and it has plenty of bass and plays louder than any other all-in-one wireless speaker I’ve tested: 105 decibels at 1 meter. That’s 3 to 5 dB louder than most of the best wireless speakers. In other words, the Stanmore is loud enough to drown out conversation and get people dancing.

It has top-mounted bass and treble controls, and more inputs than its competitors: a 3.5 mm and stereo RCA analog and a Toslink optical digital input. You can connect it to an Apple TV and an actual TV and still have one input plus Bluetooth to work with.

Small flaws (but not dealbreakers)

Although there are two 0.75-inch tweeters, most of the Stanmore’s sound comes from a single 5.25-inch woofer, and there doesn’t seem to be any sort of simulated surround or crosstalk cancellation that would make the sound more spacious.

An almost as great Bluetooth speaker (that looks sleeker)

Some people may not like the retro guitar-amp styling of the Marshall Stanmore. If that’s you, the Wren V5BT is a great alternative for $100 less. It combines good overall sound quality (although not as good as the Marshall) and an elegant Danish modern-influenced design.

If you can spend more (and want AirPlay)

If you want better sound quality and/or multiroom audio capability, we recommend the $600 JBL Authentics L8, which is one of our picks for Best AirPlay Speaker. The L8 sounds great for an all-in-one wireless speaker without the distortion problems that plague most of its peers. It also has clearer mids and highs than the Marshall and a somewhat more enveloping sound. The L8 also offers AirPlay and DLNA wireless, so it can be used in multi-room systems. But keep in mind, that this is a lot to pay for a bluetooth home speaker.

The best Bluetooth speaker for $150

The Fluance Fi30 is a step down in sound quality from the Marshall, but it’s still pretty good for just $150. It has a very basic set of features — a power button, a Bluetooth mating button, and a 3.5 mm analog audio input — but it looks at least as nice as anything we tested.

In closing

After considering the opinions of our listening panelists, the statements of other reviewers, and the verdict of consumer reviews, we think you’re mostly likely to have a good experience with the Marshall Stanmore.

This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation, please go to The Wirecutter.com.

TIME Gadgets

The iPod Classic Died Because Apple Couldn’t Get Parts For It

Apple Announces iPod Upgrades
An Apple Special event attendee holds the new iPod Classic September 5, 2007 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

"We couldn't get the parts anymore"

Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed Monday that the company quietly discontinued sales and production of its iconic iPod Classic last month because the company couldn’t get its hands on the parts for the device any longer.

The iPod vanished from Apple’s online stores in September, several weeks shy of the device’s 13th birthday. Cook explained the decision came down to a shortage of parts that couldn’t be replicated without a significant expense to the company.

“It wasn’t a matter of me swinging the ax, saying ‘what can I kill today,'” Cook said during a Monday night interview at the WSJD conference in Laguna Beach, according to Mashable. “The engineering work was massive, and the number of people who wanted it very small.”

Demand for the classic iPod persisted partly because of its ample storage capacity — 160GB of disk space, which was popular among owners of large music collections. Still, those customers formed a dwindling minority as customers shift away from collecting music and toward streaming services.



6 Things to Do Before Selling Your Android Phone

Looking to donate, hand down or sell your old Android device? You’ll want to make sure you have a copy of all of your personal data and that you’re not leaving any of your personal data behind for the new owner. Here’s how. (Steps for iPhone owners can be found here.)

1. Back up your data and settings to your Google account

Save backups of your app data (saved games, etc.), contacts, calendar entries, Gmail, documents in Google Drive, web browser bookmarks, Google+ photos and more to your Google account. Ensure all of your data has been backed up recently by heading over to Settings > Accounts (tap Google) > Select Google account > check everything you want to sync.

You can also back up your Wi-Fi passwords and other device settings. You can find this option under Settings > Backup & reset > and check “Back up my data.”

For a one-stop backup solution, try MyBackup Pro ($2.99) or Helium (free for backup to internal SD card or $4.99 for Helium Premium for backup to your desktop or cloud service).

2. Back up your photos and videos

Back up all of your photos and videos to the cloud or manually to your computer. To back up to the cloud, you can use a number of cloud storage options, including Dropbox, Flickr, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Photos. All of these let you set your device to automatically back up your photos as you take them or only when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. If you haven’t signed up for a service already, Flickr, gives you the most free storage — one terabyte.

To back up your photos and videos to your computer, you’ll need to connect your phone to your computer. If you’ve never connected it before, you may need to install software or drivers. If you do, you’ll be prompted through the process.


Your photos and videos are stored on the phone’s memory and may be saved to the phone’s SD card, if it has one. Open both locations — the Phone folder and Card folder. Inside, open the “DCIM” folder. Inside that, you’ll find folders that contain all of your photos and videos. Copy and paste the ones you want to your computer and then delete the DCIM folder and its contents in both the Phone folder and the Card folder.

For an extra measure of security, you can shred your files when you delete them. We like File Shredder (free) for Windows PCs and Permanent Eraser (free) for Macs.

3. Back up your texts and call log

If you’re concerned about keeping a copy of your text messages and call log, you’ll want to back those up separately. One of the easiest to use is SMS Backup + (free in Google Play). The app stores each entry in a folder in your Gmail. If you’re an AT&T or Verizon customer, you can back up your call logs and texts with the AT&T Messages app and Verizon Cloud.

4. Encrypt your data

Once you have all of your data backed up, it’s time to wipe it from your device. To ensure all of your data is gone, you’ll need to do more than perform a factory reset. In a recent study by Avast, the company found photos and other personal data on factory reset phones.

First, you’ll want to encrypt your data. That means that if someone wants to see any data on your phone, they’ll need your password to decrypt it. To encrypt your data, go to Settings > Security > Encrypt phone. You also have the option of encrypting the SD card. Only do that if you plan on handing over the SD card along with the device.

5. Disable reactivation lock

Disable the reactivation lock, if you’ve set it. You’ll find it in Settings > Security > and uncheck “Reactivation lock.”

6. Perform a factory reset

Perform a factory reset on your phone. Go to Settings > Backup & reset > Factory data reset and then tap “Reset phone.”

For a visual guide of steps four and six, here’s a video about how to properly wipe an Android phone or tablet:

This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

Amazon Fire TV Stick vs Google Chromecast vs Roku Streaming Stick

TV Sticks
Clockwise left to right: Amazon's Fire TV Stick, Google's Chromecast, Roku's Streaming Stick Amazon : Google : Roku

Amazon has jumped headfirst into the streaming stick game, squaring off against Google’s Chromecast and Roku’s Streaming Stick with its new Fire TV Stick. Here’s how the devices stack up against one another. Spoiler: They’re all good.


Chromecast costs $35, Amazon Fire TV Stick costs $39 and Roku Streaming Stick costs $49.99. If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick costs $20 until 6am Pacific on October 29, though.

Winner: Chromecast

Remote Control

Chromecast has no remote, so it sits out this round. You’ll need to run everything from your phone, tablet or PC, which is great if you’re the type of person who loses remotes all the time. If you’re hungover on the couch or watching stuff in bed, it’s marginally less relaxing than using a trusty remote, though.

Both Amazon and Roku include remotes, and both remotes work well. I’ll give Roku the slight edge here, as its remote has four quick-launch buttons — two of which are for Netflix and Amazon. The other two are for the far less-popular M-Go and Blockbuster On Demand.

Winner: Roku

Available Content

If you’re going for quality over quantity, all three sticks support just about every major streaming service. Notable omissions: Amazon’s stick doesn’t support HBO Go and Google’s stick doesn’t support Amazon content. Roku, on the other hand, has been around forever relative to its competitors and supports just about everything. And if there’s not an officially supported channel on Roku, chances are good that there’s an unofficial version that you can manually connect to the device.

Winner: Roku


Amazon takes the cake here. Since the launch of the Fire TV box earlier this year, the company has done a good job porting games over, with the current tally sitting somewhere north of 200. The Fire TV’s $40 game controller works with the Fire TV stick, too.

Winner: Amazon


On paper, the Fire TV Stick handily bests its competitors, with double the processing cores, double the RAM and eight gigabytes of storage. The Chromecast has two gigabytes of storage; the Roku has 256 megabytes. Amazon needs more storage because of its emphasis on games and apps that can be loaded onto the Fire TV Stick, though: Storage isn’t really an issue on the other two sticks. Amazon also packs a better Wi-Fi chip than the Chromecast, though it’s on par with the Roku.

Winner: Amazon


I’m going to throw a curve ball here and say that the Chromecast’s utter lack of an interface makes it the best interface. You use the same apps you always use and, provided they have a Chromecast button, simply tap it to start playback on your TV. There’s no need to learn a new interface. Not that Amazon’s and Roku’s interfaces are overly complicated in any way — there’s really no bad interface for this category — there’s just something elegant about the Chromecast’s simplicity.

Winner: Chromecast

Device Compatibility

Chromecast works with certain iOS and Android devices and Google’s Chrome web browser on various computers. Roku works with certain iOS apps and Android devices and has beta computer and mobile screen mirroring features that are just getting off the ground for Windows 8.1, Windows Phone and Android. The Fire TV Stick works with certain iOS apps and Android devices, as well as with Amazon’s line of tablets. This one’s really close to a tie: Slinging your current browser tab to your TV is a great Chromecast feature; being able to use Amazon’s tablets with the Fire TV line is a great addition, and Roku has some interesting stuff in the works, too. In the end, however, the broader range of computers that can mirror Chrome to your TV means Chromecast takes a slight edge.

Winner: Chromecast

Which One Is Best?

Luckily, you have three dynamite options for under $50. You really can’t go wrong with any of these. If you have a lot of Amazon content and own an Amazon tablet or two, the Fire TV stick is a no-brainer. Same deal if you want to play games. If you don’t want to futz around with menus and you don’t want to spend a ton of money, go with the Chromecast. If you want a great remote and a nearly unlimited selection of content — both mainstream and off-the-beaten-path — head straight for the Roku.

Winner: Consumers

Here are some more in-depth specs from our friends at FindTheBest:


Read next: It’s Time to Seriously Start Expecting an Apple TV Again

TIME Gadgets

4 Products That Will Save You Hundreds On Your Utility Bills

If you’re looking to save money every month, your family’s home electric bill is a good place to start. Smart, green tech updates will save a lot of electricity — and money — over the course of a year. Even small changes add up quickly.

From home heating to lighting, I’ve compiled a list of four simple tech upgrades for your home that will save you a combined $225 per year on your utility bills. Most can be installed yourself with a little bit of handyman knowhow. And, once they’re installed, these devices are smart enough to take care of racking up the savings.

Honeywell Lyric Smart Thermostat

Average savings: $130 per year*


One of the most powerful ways to save money on your home heating bills in the winter and electricity bills in the summer is to install a smart thermostat like the Honeywell Lyric. It takes indoor and outdoor humidity and temperature into account when cooling or heating your house, making temperature settings feel more consistent from season to season. You can even have the Lyric track your smartphone’s location, automatically turning the AC or furnace off when you’re away and turning them on when you return. And, of course, you can always control settings manually on the thermostat itself or via the included Lyric app.

The Honeywell Lyric Wi-Fi Enabled Thermostat is currently available for purchase through amazon.com for $239.01. Be sure to check with your local utility to see if any special rebates are available to lower the price even further.

Lutron Occupancy-Sensing Light Switch

Average savings: $10 per year per switch*


Does it feel like there’s one room of the house where the lights are always on, even though no one ever seems to be in there? Fight back against wasteful lighting with the Lutron Maestro occupancy sensor switch. It’s a replacement for a standard light switch that senses when people enter and leave a room (from up to 30 feet away), turning the lights on and off as needed. Advanced XCT technology helps the switch know when you’re moving around a room, so you won’t get accidentally left in the dark. Smarter yet, if the Maestro sensor detects enough natural light, the switch stays off. I like it for guest bathrooms, utility rooms and other places people typically stumble around looking for the light switch.

You can find the Lutron MS-OPS2-WH Maestro 250 Watt Occupancy Sensor Switch in a wide range of designer colors at amazon.com starting at $23.85. A version with a dimmer is also available starting at $34.98.

Belkin Conserve Smart Power Strip

Average savings: $75 per year*


Your home entertainment center is likely hiding a large number of energy vampires – devices like DVD players and video game consoles that suck up large amounts of electricity even when they’re not in use. The Belkin Conserve Smart Power Strip fights back against this problem in a unique way by offering a remote switch that can turn up to eight connected devices 100% off from 60 feet away. Just as importantly, this strip also offers two always-on slots for anything that truly needs power 24/7. The Conserve has 1,000 joules of surge protection and is backed with a limited one-year warranty and $100,000 connected equipment warranty.

You can find the Belkin Conserve AV Switch for sale at amazon.com for $51.36.

Cree 3-Way LED Lightbulb

Average Savings: $9.88 per year per bulb*


If you’re still using energy-wasting incandescent bulbs, the time is right to consider trying LED home lighting technology. This three-way bulb from Cree puts out up to 1,620 lumens of soft warm white light (2700K). The color is better than with older CFL bulbs, and the energy savings are better too. Just note that these three-way bulbs have an unusual base shape that may not fit smaller fixtures. The regular Cree bulbs have a base that’s similar to incandescent bulbs.

You can find the Cree 3-Way LED Lightbulb for sale on amazon.com for $27.55 each or a regular 60-watt replacement for $12.95 on amazon.com. They are pricey, but consider that each one will save you approximately $10 per year on your electric bills over the cost of an incandescent.

*Savings estimate for the Honeywell Lyric from GreenOhm (for Honeywell) based on a home located in Newton, NJ. Estimate for the Belkin Conserve based on a TV, DVD Player, VCR, game console, subwoofer and compact stereo on but not active for 19 hours per day at $0.117 per kilowatt hour. Estimate for the Cree LED lightbulb based on use as a substitute for a 100W incandescent. Estimate for the Lutron Occupancy-Sensing Light Switch based on 1,000 wasted hours per year of 100W light.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Gadgets

Fitbit Unveils High End Model to Rival Apple Watch

Fitbit Surge Fitbit

Fitbit packs its latest wristbands with new features in a bid to compete with Apple's device due in early 2015

Fitness device maker Fitbit unveiled three new watches to monitor health on Monday, including a high-end model that could help the company fend off competition from Apple’s hotly anticipated smart watch.

Fitbit Charge, Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge all feature LED displays that track the device’s usual health metrics, such as heart rates and footsteps, and will incorporate new features such as automatic sleep detection and incoming calls.

The company has packed the highest end model, the Surge, with eight sensors that continuously monitor health statistics and the wearer’s location to create a comprehensive log of activity throughout the day. Fitbit priced its newest watches from $130 for the Charge to $250 for the Surge, making the most expensive model $100 cheaper than the $349 starting price for an Apple Watch, which is scheduled to launch in early 2015.

Fitbit will not only have to overcome competition from smartphone makers, but also its own bungled rollout of a previous line of wristbands that were recalled last February amid complaints from users about skin rashes.

TIME Big Picture

Phablets and Bluetooth Headsets Are Perfect Companions

When I saw the original Samsung Galaxy Note a few years ago, I couldn’t believe it was actually a smartphone.

It sported a 5.3-inch screen and at the time, it looked more like a small tablet. But I was told that it was indeed a full-fledged smartphone, designed to be used as a phone as well as a small tablet.

When I picked it up and put it to my ear, I thought I looked ridiculous. In fact, in one of my columns at the time, I pointed out that something this large did not make sense for use as a phone given its form factor and what I considered its unruly size.

Yet the Galaxy Note struck a nerve in many regions of Asia and became quite a hit. In these markets, people generally only carry one device with them and with the Galaxy Note, they got a small tablet and a smartphone in one.

Now Apple has jumped in with a phablet of its own, which has immediately become a hit in all of the markets that it’s sold, including the U.S. and Europe. To be clear, the iPhone 6 with its smaller 4.7-inch screen is outselling the 6 Plus at least five to one, but there are still many people buying the 6 Plus who like its actual size. I am one of them. I struggled with which new iPhone to get but decided on the 6 Plus because of its large screen and the fact that I could read its screen without my glasses. Now I love it and feel like a hypocrite for dissing phablets in the past.

However, I will not put it up to my ear and use it as a phone, as I still think I look ridiculous putting something this size to my ear and talking on it. I might be the only one who feels this way, but I find that for me, a Bluetooth headset is the best solution. I use one religiously when making or receiving calls with the iPhone 6 Plus.

The Bluetooth headset I like the most has been the one from Bose. It fits in my ear well and delivers great sound, and the people who hear me on the other end say I come in clear.

I have tested over 15 headsets and while I especially like a couple of models from Plantronics and Jabra, so far I keep coming back to my Bose Bluetooth headset for use with the iPhone 6 Plus. However, I recently got to test a new Bluetooth headset that has the potential to become my primary headset. While it works like a Bluetooth headset with any smartphone, it’s unique in that this feature is secondary to its purpose.

The folks from Soundhawk, who make this new headset, call it the worlds first smart listening system:

Soundhawk was founded by one of the world’s leading hearing experts, Dr. Rodney Perkins. He started his career as an ear surgeon but quickly became one of the world’s most successful life sciences entrepreneurs. He has started twelve companies, four of which were in the hearing sciences and three of which went public. As a physician, he realized that there were limits to the number of patients he could help. As a result, he began to apply his knowledge and creativity to building products and companies that could have a much broader impact.

What makes the Soundhawk headset so different is that its main purpose is to help enhance and amplify the conversations around you, especially in noisy restaurants, sporting events, or any gathering when you want to hear people but it’s too loud to hear them clearly. This is not a hearing aid in the traditional sense, although its use to help people hear better has its roots in Dr. Perkins’ medical practice. He would often have people come to him thinking they might need a hearing aid but when they were tested, they didn’t have the aural problems that qualified them for such a device. Yet he understood that these folks had real issues with hearing, so he started Soundhawk with the idea of creating a headset that would help people hear better in noisy situations.

The Soundhawk system from left to right: charging case, wireless mic, smartphone app and Scoop earpiece Soundhawk

The Soundhawk smart listening system consists of four components. The first is a smartphone app that gives the headset precise controls for four distinct situations. It can be fine-tuned for use indoors, when dining, when driving and for outdoor activities. Then there is the headset itself, called the Scoop. It’s smaller than my Bose headset and fits well in any ear. It uses adaptive audio processing to enhance key sound frequencies in order to elevate what you want to hear while reducing unwanted background noise.

Its third component is a wireless mic that gets you closer to what you want to hear in even the noisiest environments. You simply place the wireless mic near what you want to hear and it will pick up that sound and deliver it in great clarity to the Scoop. The wireless mic is perfect for noisy places like restaurants, coffee shops or even at home.

I spent last week in Honolulu working on a project, taking many meetings in restaurants. I took the Soundhawk mic and placed it on the table front of the person speaking, and even in these very loud environments, I could hear them clearly. The mic even has a clip on it, so if the environment you’re in is really loud, you could ask the person you’re talking with to clip it on their lapel instead.

One interesting thing about using the Scoop and the mic together is that when someone was talking to me in a noisy area, it was like the person was speaking only to me. Their voice came in loud and clear, making the conversation seem even more personal.

The fourth component is the case that houses the Scoop and the mic. The case has a rechargeable battery inside and protects, organizes and recharges them so they are always ready to go. This is a really cool feature. All other Bluetooth headsets need to be plugged into a wall outlet directly to charge them. This charges in the case and the case itself can be recharged over night. This is a very handy feature.

According to Michael Kisch, CEO of Soundhawk, “As our world gets noisier, many people are hearing less of what matters most. At Soundhawk, our mission is to transform the listening experience simply and affordably, and empower people to hear the world the way that they want to.”

The Soundhawk’s Smart Listening System launched recently, and at the moment is only available on the company’s website for $299. I realize that most high-end Bluetooth headsets are priced much lower than this, but keep in mind that this product has a lot of added value to it. It works on iOS and Android devices.

It’s an interesting product, and one I think will meet a need for a lot of people who would like to be able to hear better in noisy environments and also want a great Bluetooth headset for use with any of the larger smartphones on the market. Of course you could use this with any size smartphone, but at least in my case, it’s a perfect companion to my iPhone 6 Plus. Even though I have only been testing it for a week, it has the potential to become my primary headset.

Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every week on TIME Tech.

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