Now that Christmas is over, it is time to start looking ahead to the New Year, a time when many people make resolutions to workout more and to get into better shape. Over the past few years, there have been a number of great new wearable technology products that have hit the market that can help us achieve those goals, including numerous activity monitors and smart apps. One of the more innovative of these products is the new Jabra Sport Pulse wireless earbuds, a device that combines a pair of Bluetooth earphones with a built-in heart rate monitor.
If you’re a serious outdoor athlete, you have probably worn a heart rate monitor at some point. Traditionally, these somewhat bulky devices are strapped across the chest in order to keep track of your heart rate while on a workout. This can help track performance over time, and give you an indication of how efficient you are as runner, cyclist, or even swimmer. But wearing that chest strap can be uncomfortable and distracting for many athletes, which is why they aren’t used as much as they could be.
The Jabra Sport Pulse does away with the bulky chest strap altogether, and puts the heart rate monitor into the headphones themselves. These earbuds are a bit larger than most others you’ll find on the market, but once you get them properly fitted (using the included EarGels and EarWings), and have used them a time or two, you’ll soon forget that you are even wearing them at all.
The Sport Pulse earbuds pair wirelessly with a smartphone or Bluetooth enabled mp3 player, allowing the wearer to listen to their favorite music or podcasts while they workout without having an annoying cable running from their ears to their device. This same connection shares heart rate information with the Jabra Sport Life app (available for iPhone and Android), which tracks progress over time, and suggests workouts for improving performance as well. With the app installed on your smartphone, you can check historical data for your workouts, and see how your fitness levels change.
Throughout your workout, the Sport Pulse earbuds will also provide audio feedback to let you know how well you’re doing. At ten minute intervals, a voice inside your ear will let you know how far you’ve run, how fast you’re moving, what your current heart rate is, and what “fitness zone” you are operating in. Those zones can include “fat burning,” “cardio training,” and “intense cardio training” – amongst others – depending on how hard you are working out at any given time. This audio updates make it easier to know how well you are performing on any given workout, and can motivate you to go a bit harder and faster when you feel the need.
As someone who runs nearly every day, it is incredibly liberating to not have to deal with any kind of cable running from my earbuds to my music player. This may seem like an insignificant thing, but if you’ve ever found that cable to be annoying while you run or ride, you’ll understand how nice it can be to do away with it altogether. Throw in the ability to do away with the heart rate monitor strapped to your chest, and you start to see how convenient these headphones truly are. If you routinely run with a heart rate monitor now, you owe it to yourself to try these earbuds out. You may just discover how nice it can be to workout with a single wearable device that can function as your earphones too.
Jabra has included a number of other nice features on the Sport Pulse earbuds as well. The addition of an in-line remote comes in very handy for starting and stopping your music, while another button on the left earbud allows you to begin, end, and pause your workout too. An integrated microphone lets the user take phone calls while wearing the headphones, and it is even possible to interact with Siri on the iPhone (and Google Now on Android) while working out too. While I generally try to run to get away from phone calls and text messages for a little while, it is nice to have the ability to take them if the need arises.
These earbuds have also been built with the outdoor athlete in mind. They are surprisingly durable, and have been designed to resist rain, dust, and the shock that comes with being dropped. Jabra knew that they had to make the Sport Pulse earbuds tough and dependable, and it shows in how well they are constructed.
It is hard not to be impressed with all of the technology that is crammed inside the Sport Pulse headphones, but they do come with a few flaws. For instance, I was less than impressed with the sound quality that they delivered. Jabra has a great reputation for delivering very good sound, but the Sport Pulse sound just “okay.” They aren’t particularly bad, but there is also nothing to get all that excited about either. I would have liked to have heard a little more punch – for lack of a better word – out of my music, but instead the sound quality left me feeling a bit detached from what I was listening to. That said, the music and vocals sounded clear, there just wasn’t anything exciting about it in any way.
Since these are wireless earbuds with a heart rate monitor attached, they also have a built-in rechargeable battery. That battery is good for about four hours of life before it needs to be recharged. That means you’ll have to remember to plug in and charge yet another device if you want to use these regularly. For me, I can get about three normal workouts from these earbuds before I need to juice them up again. Optimally, I’d love to see the battery life at least doubled, but considering how small these headphones are there will need to be some significant breakthroughs in battery technology to make that happen anytime soon. For now, you’ll have to recharge these headphones often, and keep your standard pair of wired earbuds close by just in case. Fortunately, the Sport Life app provides information about the current level of charge on the batteries, which is a good reminder of when it is time to plug them in.
Jabra sells the Sport Pulse wireless earbuds for $199.95, which sounds a bit expensive if you’re just comparing them to other Bluetooth earphones. But when you factor in the built-in heart rate monitor, they actually become quite a bargain. The fact that you can do away with entangling wires running to your audio player, and get rid of the bulky chest strap at the same time, makes this product completely worth the money for many outdoor athletes. If you set your expectations accordingly for the sound quality that these headphones produce, and make it part of your routine to recharge them regularly, you’ll find that Jabra has created an excellent product for those who are serious about their fitness.