There’s no escaping the enormously nerdy feeling of walking around with a Bluetooth headset lodged in your ear. With the tiny Moto Hint, however, Motorola is trying to escape the whole looking nerdy thing, even if it can’t fix how you feel.
The Moto Hint is an impossibly small earbud which manages to cram a lot of features into its micro size. The Bluetooth headset has a range of 150-feet, it can pair simultaneously with multiple devices, and it turns on and off based on if it’s in your ear—there’s no power button. On the surface, it’s a brilliant piece of technology which might not be getting the attention it deserves.
Motorola has pitched the Hint pretty hard as an accessory specifically for the new Moto X phone, but the truth is a lot more people will have Samsung phone or iPhones than ever will a Moto X. I paired the Hint with an iPhone 6 to test it out initially before also testing it with the Moto X.
Right out of the box, I was surprised at just how easy it was to connect to the iPhone. From the packaging, right into the ear and I was greeted with a female voice which told me to go to the Bluetooth menu on the mobile device. From there it was one button touch and the Hint was connected.
Without even touching the Hint, it’s an interesting device, full of intrigue. But after just a few minutes of hands on time, it was able to completely change my perception of Bluetooth headsets. It gets a lot of the often frustrating details right and delivers a delightful experience. One of those being the initial pairing, but it also handled well in everyday situations.
The Hint avoids a lot of complications by removing all buttons and switches. There’s only one touch sensitive area, which isn’t even all that necessary, depending on how you use the device. For example, when a phone call came in while testing, you can hear the ring of course, but then the female voice then directs you to either say, “Answer” or “Ignore.” This worked flawlessly each time I used it for both answering and ignoring calls. No touching involved.
It’s not a button or switch, but there is a proximity sensor on the Hint when can detect when it’s in your ear and when it’s not, this is how it turns itself on and off. Of course, this isn’t state of the art technology as you can still trick it by cupping your fingers around the back.
Touching the main surface area activated Siri and worked as well as you might expect. It wasn’t necessarily made for the Apple assistant, but it also accepts that people might want to use the functionality and allows it just fine.
One of the Hint’s other headlining features is its charging case. The device is too small to include a charging port directly on it so it comes with a small carrying case which can wirelessly charge it and provide two additional cycles. With a fully charged Hint and carrying case, you can expect 10 hours of use. The charging case slides open, you pop it in, and slide it back down to recharge the battery. There’s even a glowing light on the top that signals it’s doing its job.
The wireless charging case is a clever way to solve a serious issue with the small battery, but again, Motorola gets the details right and it’s a delightful experience. The case even has a loop hole on top that could attach to a key ring, though I consider it just slightly too big to gleefully carry in a pocket along with a bunch of keys.
Wearing the Hint around for a few hours at a time felt just fine. It comes in a nearly universal size so the fit could potentially be a problem for some people, but it fit in my ear well and never wiggled around. I definitely felt some ever so slight pressure from its presence, but overall it has a good feel and does come with three different silicon tips to alter its fit a tiny bit.
Although spending some time with the headset was mostly enjoyable, there were a few concerns that should be noted. The first is that the little speaker inside isn’t very loud. It’s sufficient for voice calls, but streaming music, or even listening to mostly talking content (Vin Scully call the Dodgers game against the Cardinals) was difficult in anything but a silent environment. Because it’s a single earbud and not two connected in stereo, it really is primarily for voice calls no matter how much I wanted it to be a music accessory.
If you are one of the people living the “Moto lifestyle” and have a new Moto X and Hint together, the Bluetooth headset should become even more interesting and useful. However, that wasn’t my experience.
Again, since there’s no buttons the way you activate the extra features when paired with a Moto X is simply by speaking the commands. Using a customizable voice prompt, you can just speak things like, “Navigate home” and it’ll start speaking the directions into your ear—hands free functionality. You can also use apps like Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp directly with your voice without looking at the phone.
It sounds nice, but the Moto X integration was extremely frustrating. Even after practicing the launch command—”Hello Moto X”—the system would pop up the voice menu every few seconds triggered by practically any word. Also, it would play select items into the ear piece, but I could never get it to successfully “Navigate” anywhere and give the directions in my ear. The kicker, when using its own suggested phrase, “Play Beethoven on YouTube,” it still didn’t work—it played a person talking and did so through the phone’s speakers.
Everything about the Hint, from its size to the clever details feels like it’s a device from the future—it’s awesome. It might even be able to convince a few more people to use a hands-free solution in the car and keep everyone a little safer. The supposed integration with the Moto X, however, is terrible.
The $150 price is a little steep, but out of all the Bluetooth headset choices, it’s definitely the coolest and worth the extra money for anyone concerned about how it looks. Motorola has somehow made the Hint small enough to make Bluetooth headsets cool again—and that’s no easy accomplishment.