If you’re an active person and a smartphone owner, I have two products to recommend. First is the Spibelt, an impossibly comfortable sports belt with a stretchy pouch that can accommodate keys, cash, your phone and other walker/runner/biker essentials.
The second is the Jabra Sport Bluetooth stereo headset, which lets you listen to music and FM radio and make/take calls while you’re exercising–all without wires. (Well, sort of.) The Sport has a list price of $99.99, but right now you can get it from Amazon for $60.99 shipped.
The Sport earbuds, which hook over your ears, are joined together by a yellow cord that can rest behind your neck to minimize the dork factor. (I figured this out only after letting it dangle under my chin the first few times–massive dork factor.) It takes a little practice to “install” them over and in your ears, and I’ll admit they grew a bit uncomfortable after extended wear–though competition with my glasses may have had something to do with that.
On the plus side, they’re all but impossible to shake loose, so they can easily stand up to jogging, mountain biking, and other strenuous activity. Also, Jabra promises “rain protection,” so you don’t have to worry about sweat and other moisture frying the circuitry. Everything seems pretty nicely sealed up.
Controls consist of a play/pause button, volume rocker and FM toggle button. Needless to say, there’s a bit of fumbling involved when you try to find and press buttons strapped to your ear, but the placement is about as logical as it can be given the size of the earloop, and the learning curve is pretty shallow.
I had an easy time pairing the Sport with my iPhone 4, and although Jabra recommends wearing your phone on a right-side armband, the two had no trouble communicating even while the latter was tucked into my waist-level Spibelt. And I especially liked being able to take phone calls during workouts, just by tapping the play/pause button when a call came in. The Sport’s wind-shielded microphone helped keep ambient noise to a minimum for the person at the other end (though it couldn’t quite mask my heavy breathing: “Yes…I’m…out…jogging…why do…you ask?“).
Depending on how often you exercise, you may find yourself recharging the Sport more often than you’d like: the rated talk time is 4.5 hours, but just three hours for music–and in my experience, more like 2.5. You do get a spoken low-battery warning, a nice touch. (The Sport also talks to you when it powers off, pairs, and so on.) It charges via an industry-standard microUSB port and comes with an AC adapter.
Finally, if you’re an iPhone or Android phone user, Jabra recommends the free Endomondo Sports Tracker app, which offers a Sport-exclusive feature: When you quick-press the play/pause button, you get a status update for your workout. (Apps like these are fantastic for tracking your activities, though I’ve long been partial to RunKeeper.)
I found the Sport’s sound quality to be top-notch overall, at least on par with other earbuds I’ve tried, and I loved not having a cord flopping around between my ears and my phone. For $61 out the door, this is a hard item to pass up. And it would make an excellent gift for the avid exerciser in your life.
Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently, “How to Do Everything: Palm Pre.” Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.