Following, so to speak, in the footsteps of Jawbone's popular Jambox, Jabra's Solemate is one of several compact Bluetooth speakers to hit the market this year and it's arguably one of the better ones, with a distinct, footwear-inspired design and decent sound for its size.
As its name implies, the Solemate has been cleverly designed to resemble a sneaker, complete with a carrying strap that looks like the loop on the back of some athletic shoes. The speaker is pretty small, but it's got a little bit of heft to it, weighing in at 1.34 pounds, and is larger than the popular 12-ounce Jawbone Jambox, which now costs slightly less (around $179).
I liked Solemate's design and the treaded rubber base helps keep it from moving around when you play it at higher volumes. On top of the Solemate are three large buttons, two of which raise and lower volume. The third gives battery status and serves as an Answer and End key when the Solemate is in Speakerphone mode.
A switch on the right side turns the speaker on and off or places it in pairing mode. This is where you'll also find a 3.5mm audio input for connecting devices that don't support Bluetooth. And below the line-in there's a Micro-USB port for charging the device and administering any firmware upgrades.
The Jawbone Jambox (like the Jawbone Big Jambox) has similar connectivity and button options, but Jabra's added a little extra flair to its design by stowing a line-in cable on the bottom of the device, in the tread on the bottom. You have to take it out of its groove to use it, but it's great to have easy access to in case you need it.
CNET colleague Brian Bennett and I agree that one of the slicker features of the Solemate is the included "sound bag" accessory, which doubles as a splash-resistant cover and protective carrying case. The bag's textured surface is designed to keep moisture, dirt, and sand out, but allows sound to escape virtually unimpeded. That's right, the Solemate sounds essentially the same in or out of its sound bag, which makes it great for backyard and beach parties.