As a Bluetooth 3.0-capable gadget, the Smart Wireless Headset links to Bluetooth-equipped phones so you can place and receive calls and stream phone-based stereo audio to its earbuds. It supports Bluetooth Multipoint, too, which lets you pair with two Bluetooth devices at once, say two phones or even a phone and a laptop.
At a basic level, the Smart Wireless Headset operates as a standard stereo Bluetooth headset. Downloading and installing the LiveWare Manager Android app enables more features. Just like Sony's SmartWatch accessory, paired with the company's software, the device can perform neat tricks like displaying text messages, e-mail, and calendar reminders pulled from connected Android smartphones.
For instance, pressing the Action button once calls up a list of recent text messages. Holding down the Action button commands the Headset Pro to show your phone's call log. A more mundane feature is the FM tuner that will provide song and other programming information if the tuned station transmits it.
My experience with the Sony Smart Wireless Headset Pro was mostly pleasant. Setting up the device to operate with both a Sony Xperia S (unlocked, Android 4.0 ICS) and Samsung Galaxy Nexus (unlocked, Android 4.1 JB) went smoothly. I simply turned on the headset and held its power button until a rotating sync icon appeared on the device's screen. I then found the Headset Pro in each test phone's Bluetooth settings menu and tapped its listing to pair.
I then enjoyed podcasts and music streamed wirelessly from my test handset and was also able to pause, resume, and skip ahead or back tracks in my queue directly from the Headset Pro. Adding music to the device was breeze, too, a matter of connecting it to my Windows PC and dragging files over.
I found audio quality piped through the Smart Wireless Headset good as well, with my test tracks having a decent amount of bass. The earbuds' soft rubbery tips provided a high degree of sound isolation, more than the Samsung Refined Sound EHS71 earphones, for example. Unlike the EHS71s, which sounded too bright and brash to my ears, the Smart Wireless Headset produced rich sound, though the highs were somewhat muddy.
On calls, the in-line mic picked up my voice and even ambient sounds such as people talking nearby very well. Callers on the other end had trouble discerning that I was chatting from a headset and voices came through the earbuds loud and clear on my side.
The Headset Pro's fancy smartphone functions worked as advertised, which is surprising considering my experience with the Sony SmartWatch. Paired with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Sony's LiveWare app, I easily viewed texts and e-mail and browsed my call log from the headset.
Sony rates the Smart Wireless Headset with an 11-hour battery life, whether playing music or talking on the phone. This claimed battery life is in line with longevity I observed anecdotally. I used the device heavily for a full workday but had to charge it twice within 24 hours.
The Sony Smart Wireless Headset Pro feels to me like an aging MP3 player brought back to life from the heady days of 2004 and taught a few new Bluetooth tricks. Its $149.99 price is steep for a set of earbud headphones no matter how good they sound. If you view the product as a portable music device that also happens to link to Android smartphones to provide information at a glance and limited call handling, it makes more sense, but not by much.
Today we live in the age of the smartphone, which now serves as the ultimate personal digital audio player. I'd also rather view texts and other alerts on a screen designed to do it best, namely a smartphone screen. That's why I don't recommend toting multiple gadgets around that serve the same basic purpose, especially one that's wireless in name only and that's physically hard to handle. Unless you want to convert a favorite set of headphones into a Bluetooth-capable device, I say skip the Smart Wireless Headset Pro in favor of a truly wireless stereo headset or a pair of quality corded headphones.