Last fall, Nokia announced their new Bluetooth stereo headset, the HS-12W and it took a little bit longer to have it released. However, thanks to Nokia, I got one for testing and it's a fine piece of technology.
This elegantly designed Bluetooth headset lets you listen to your favorite music in stereo from your compatible phone, PDA or Bluetooth adapter through the Bluetooth stereo profile (A2DP) and even incoming calls won't ruin the performance - the headset automatically pauses your music when a call is received and switches back when the call is over, as long as your music source also supports the Bluetooth Audio Video Remote Control profile (AVRCP).
The stereo headset is a Bluetooth 2.0 device and works up to 10 meters.
It is worn with a neck strap and looks like a necklace. The neck strap also includes the antenna for the inbuilt stereo FM RDS radio which keeps you in the groove with automatic channel search and stores up to 20 channels you can easily go through but also the microphone and earpieces.
Clad in finely crafted stainless steel front cover, the LCD display indicates who's calling and reports received SMS and MMS messages as long as your mobile phone supports this feature. Depending on your music source, you can also view your current music track or radio channel (both, by frequency name or if supported by the radio station by station name (RDS)).
The sales pack includes the Bluetooth-unit with several buttons and a LCE display, a charger, three pairs of soft ear pads, a neck strap clip to tie up the strap laces and a user guide:
On top of the Bluetooth-unit there is a multi-function LCD display as well as the call/play key. On the bottom is the power plug to recharge the headset:
On the left photo we have the volume up/down key, the power key to switch on/off the unit as well as the stop key.
On the right photo we have the key-lock switch, the music switch and the fast forward/rewind key:
As said before, the Bluetooth unit itself hangs on your breast, worn with the attached neck strap. At the end of the neck strap, you get the two cables with the earpieces and the microphone.
The Microphone also includes a key to answer and end calls or to play a music track. The earpieces relay the caller's voice and the sounds from the radio and audio player:
With the previously mentioned music switch key you can switch between the initial stand-by headset mode as well as the adui mode and radio mode. As soon as you receive a call, you either see the callers phone number on the display or the name of the caller, as long as the name is stored in your mobile phone's address book and the mobile phone supports this feature:
Incoming calls can be either picked-up with the main call/play button or with the button in the microphone. It even shows you a notification of missed call or received text and MMS messages, if this feature is supported by the mobile phone.
If the headset is connected with a A2DP compatible Bluetooth source, it also plays music from this source and the main-unit can be used to navigate through the playlist, to jump forward or rewind as well as pause or continue the playback.
Last but not least the FM radio which supports RDS. Radio Data System (RDS) or Radio Broadcast Data System (RBDS how is called in the US), is a standard from the European Broadcasting Union for sending small amounts of digital information using conventional FM radio broadcasts. The RDS system standardizes several types of information transmitted, including time and station identification. RDS is standard in Europe since the early 90s, but less so in North America.
Thanks to the RDS functionality the headset displays the name of the currently selected radio station (as long as the station uses RDS which most stations in Europe do) or even additional useful information like the song- and artis-name of the currently played song:
First of all, the Nokia HS-12W is a good looking, non-plastic looking headset which looks way more stylish than most other similar Bluetooth headsets and the LCD screen makes it pretty unique. Also the inbuilt FM radio (with RDS support) is pretty unique that you get most of this headset, even if your Bluetooth devices and mobile phones doesn't supports the A2DP profile for Bluetooth streaming.
The sound is just great, solid and loud enough, unlike I've heard with other Bluetooth headsets in the past. You don't have the feeling that you listen your music through Bluetooth but through a wired connection and also the earpieces sounds just good. Bass, heights, everything sound crystal clear and also voice calls gets a perfect sound. in both directions since the microphone is pretty close to your mouth.
I truly enjoy the features that this single gadget supports three of my most used scenarios: voice calls, audio playback from Bluetooth enabled devices and radio.
Unfortunately the headset isn't able to handle concurrent Bluetooth connections. For instance if it is connected with a mobile phone, it can not be used with a Bluetooth audio source to listen music in parallel but for some reasons both Bluetooth profiles (Headset and A2DP profile) have to come from the same device. For instance it's fine to use both profiles with an O2 Xda Atom which supports headset and wireless stereo but it's not possible to use it with a Windows Mobile Smartphone and an iPod (with Bluetooth dongle). The device which was first connected (after switching on the headset) gets and keeps the connection. That's a real disappointment since it is pretty common to use different devices for voice calls and music playback.
Another disappointment is that you can save up to 20 radio stations but you can not delete them one by one but you have to reset the headset to clean the memory which also deletes all Bluetooth pairs. Especially if you are traveling it could be handy to store one or two radio stations while you are at a certain city but if you have left it, you don't need these stations anymore.
All together the headset is a good one, even with the appointments described before and while the radio station thing might not affect too many, the concurrent Bluetooth session limitations urgently needs to be fixed (for the next revision of the headset). If this is fixed, it will gets a 100 % recommendation, until then it depends a little bit how you want to use it.
The headset costs around 130 Euro and is available from Nokia retailers as well as online shops around the world.
Cheers ~ Arne