A wireless earpiece is a miniature, cordless speaker that fits on or inside the ear, receiving signals from a detached transmitter. The detached transmitter might be a cell phone with integrated Bluetooth® networking technology, or a Bluetooth® adapter for use in a laptop in lieu of built-in speakers. A covert wireless earpiece receives signals from a walkie-talkie type transmitter via a pocket receiver that relays data to the earpiece.
In most cases when people refer to a wireless earpiece, they are referring to a small gadget that sits on one ear via an ear clip. The wireless earpiece consists of a tiny mono speaker and condensed microphone. The microphone is sometimes perched at the end of a small arm that reaches around the cheek. The device also houses a transmitter and receiver to send and receive signals from a paired cell phone so that the user can place and answer calls hands-free. These products are popular for driving but can also be used in other situations, such as at the office or while exercising.
A wireless earpiece communicates with a cell phone through Bluetooth® technology, ergo the phone must be Bluetooth® enabled or be fitted with a Bluetooth® adapter. Bluetooth® uses radio frequency (RF) waves to send signals across short distances of less than 30 feet (9.14m), creating a personal area network (PAN). Once the wireless earpiece and cell phone have been paired via Bluetooth®, one can control basic functions of the phone through voice commands, allowing use of the phone without handling it. Bluetooth® networking does not require line of sight, so the phone can be in a purse, pocket, the glove box, or laying nearby.
A wireless earpiece with microphone can also be paired with a laptop to bypass the computer’s built-in speakers and microphone. Wireless headsets are recommended for using Voice Over IP (VOIP) technologies like Skype®. VOIP services allow subscribers to place phone calls using the Internet, rather than a telco service. Calls are free and many VOIP services offer added bonuses like free conference calling and video calling. A wireless headset should cut down on echo created by feedback, and make communications more pleasant.
A one-way covert wireless earpiece is sometimes referred to as a “spy earpiece.” It is a small device that sits inside the ear, making it nearly unnoticeable. The receiver is separate and might be kept in a wallet or pocket. The transmitter is a walkie-talkie type radio, from which commands can be issued to those in the field. Range varies according to model, with some units advertising 3000 feet (914m) or about half a mile. In addition to the receiver, two-way earpieces feature a transmitter and microphone, sometimes clipped inside the sleeve.
Wireless headphones are also popular products, though an earpiece typically refers to a mono system. Wireless headphones use either RF or infrared technology to communicate with a transmitter that is wired directly to the sound source.