Today, Aliph has announced the newest iteration of its Jawbone headset, the Jawbone Icon. Fast Company sat down with Aliph's CEO, Hosain Rahman, for an exclusive interview about the new product.
Jawbone has always aspired to be a fashion accessory, and the first thing you'll notice about Icon are the six different case variations, designed by Aliph's long-time design director, Yves Behar. Each one is meant to flatter different sensibilities—from "Hero" to "Rogue" to "Bombshell" (seen at left). Rahman says that the company built entire characters around each one; "Rogue is Vincent Cassel [who played the Night Fox from Ocean's 12]. 'The Catch' is the girl you've got a long distance relationship with. We think about her like a Mandy Moore."
Sales wise, that makes sense, given that Bluetooth accessories, for all the marketing effort behind them, still reek of dorkiness. Much like the Candyland color palette of the Jawbone Prime, several of the cases for Icon are meant to expand the headset's appeal to women, by being explicitly jewelry-like.
But it's the guts of the device that actually hold the real story: The software contains a built-in audio interface, with voice prompts for everything from caller I.D. to battery life. Moreover, it's Web enabled, so that audio-based apps can be loaded onto the headset. It's meant to become a constant point of contact with all of your computing devices, from your computer to your cell phone.
Here, Hosain flips on his techno-philosopher hat. "Think about all the places you place a call," he says. "There's a billion Bluetooth chips being shipped every year, four times as many as wi-fi. But the integration isn't great. It's a completely disparate experience, from gaming to Skype on your computer to your cell phone. What Bluetooth should become is a physical manifestation of the cloud."
Jawbone Icon is, for now, just an early taste of that idea. When the headset is plugged into your computer, it brings up MyTalk, a Web site where you can change the voices of the audio interface, from professorial to something just a tad shy of phone sex. But more importantly, it allows you upload apps to the headset. Currently, two stand out: One is a headset add-on for Jott, an iPhone/Blackberry app that allows you to dictate notes, text messages, and emails, and Dial2Do, which has similar functionality but also allows you to listen to e-mail and the weather, among other things.
Rahman says that eventually, there will be a host of apps available, thanks to a software developer's kit that allows mobile-phone apps to be adapted for Icon. "This turns Bluetooth into a living thing that changes depending on the user," he says. "Eventually, it'll be smart enough to know what it should connect with, depending on where you are. That's the type of intelligence we're building. It's not there yet, but that's where it's going."