There's More to the User Experience Than Meets the Ear

2 Aug 2016

Things are looking up when it comes to the user experience, as UCC vendors are focusing not just on the technology, but on how the technology impacts the way in which users get their work done. When it comes to business communications, a key factor in the user experience is audio or call quality. No matter how many features and functions a UCC solution may have, if you can't properly hear the party at the other end or they can't hear you clearly, the solution will fail.

All of the headset vendors have been focusing on the role that the endpoint device plays in a UCC environment, and they have all done an admirable job in focusing on ease of use, quality, comfort, and more. As an industry analyst, I have the opportunity to try out lots of cool gadgets that relate to business communications - including headsets. I have a somewhat large selection of wired and wireless headsets that work with my iPhone, laptop, office desk phone, home phone - well, you get the picture. I try to use the optimal headset for each situation, and to experience the various headsets for different use cases.

When I was recently asked to try out the new enhanced Sennheiser PRESENCE mobile headset, I jumped at the chance, as I had been using the previous version of PRESENCE on a regular basis. When I first became aware of Sennheiser, I asked how they differentiated themselves from some of their competitors, and no matter who I spoke to, the immediate response was "quality." The company prides itself on its high-quality audio, and the new PRESENCE met my expectations for sound quality, even in a noisy environment. As an analyst, I regularly take notes on my laptop while on calls and briefings, and there are times when the person on the other end has to ask me to go on mute while I'm keyboarding (or typing, for those of us over 40). This hasn't been the case with PRESENCE, and I've even heard fewer complaints about my dog barking!

When using PRESENCE while driving, the sound quality is also excellent, and most of the background noise is diminished. Unfortunately, the PRESENCE doesn't block out the annoying non-stop announcements at the airport, and I've had to mute myself during calls while waiting to board a plane.

I've tried the device with Skype and Skype for Business, and whether on multiparty conference calls or peer-to-peer calls, the audio quality has been excellent. I work from home and found that when using the PRESENCE with my laptop and a dongle, I'm able to roam around the house, let my dog out into the yard, and even walk to the mailbox and still have good clear audio quality.

The Bluetooth device is very comfortable, and incredibly easy to wear and turn on and off, even while driving and triple tasking (not that I would ever do that). It comes with three wearing options - I prefer the in-ear option, although the device also comes with an ear hook and a headband. There is a handy little carrying case, but the device needs to be removed from the case to charge.

One of the features is ActiveGard, Sennheiser "patented technology developed to safeguard users from acoustic shock and sudden sound bursts." I can't say how well this worked because I don't know whether or not I actually experienced any acoustic shock or sudden sound bursts from which the device protected me. I guess that's a good thing.

As I mentioned, I have a variety of headsets that I use depending on the situation, and the enhanced Sennheiser PRESENCE is a comfortable, easy to use, high quality device that is useful in a variety of settings and situations. While it is not inexpensive compared with comparable Bluetooth devices, you get what you pay for. And when it comes to business communications, quality matters.



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