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Plantronics Outlines ’07 Headset Plans

Santa Cruz, Calif. — Altec-Lansing is entering the cellular headset market and leaving the PC headset market this year under the auspices of Plantronics, which bought the company in 2005 and set it up as a wholly owned subsidiary.

Plantronics also promised that most headphones and headsets under both brands will be iPhone-compatible, thanks to an overmold, or plastic base, that will be narrow enough to reach the iPhone’s 3.5mm stereo headset jack through a narrow, recessed opening on the phone’s chassis.

In other plans, Plantronics is:

—refreshing its Plantronics-brand lineup of PC audio headsets with 20 models;

— launching the MiX subbrand of cellular headsets under the Plantronics name. It’s targeted to 16- to 23-year-olds via packaging and select features; and

— expanding its Plantronics Voyager series of Bluetooth headsets targeted to repeat Bluetooth buyers.

Reflecting Plantronics’s position as a “voice-first” brand and Altec’s as a “music-first” brand, Altec is designing its first cellular hands-free headsets as upgrades to music phones at $39.95 to $89.95. They’re part of the Upgrader series, which also includes stereo headphones. Features include tangle-free fabric-wrapped cords.

Two Upgrader SKUs already shipping at $89.95 and $129.95 aren’t iPhone-compatible, but a model due in the week after the iPhone launch will be, and more will come, the company said. By Aug. 1, 10 Upgrader models will be shipping, and the selection will later be expanded to 25 SKUs to represent seven wearing styles, all with good-better-best options.

An Upgrader selector wheel will roll out to select retailers, and appear on the company’s Web site, to help consumers choose the right model for specific activities in the style they prefer.

With Plantronics planning to phase out the Altec name on PC headsets in keeping with Altec’s musical heritage, the company is refreshing its Plantronics-brand lineup of PC audio headsets with 20 models due in mid July.

Because of consumer demand for convenience and retailer demand for higher margins, the PC-headset selection includes multiple models that plug into a single USB port rather than into a separate headphone output and separate microphone input. The selection will also include the first Plantronics PC headphones that deliver a virtual surround experience.

Plantronics’s MiX sub-brand includes the $29.95-suggested MiX 20z corded stereo headset for music phones. Its cord incorporates a 3.5mm stereo input jack to enable two people to listen to the same song simultaneously from a connected cellphone. The four-SKU series also features a mono Bluetooth headset.

In the Plantronics Voyager series, which is targeted to repeat Bluetooth buyers, the company has launched the $99.95-suggested Voyager 520. It’s the brand’s second headset with multipoint Bluetooth, a proprietary enhancement that enables the headset to maintain wireless links with two phones simultaneously. Only one other company might offer multipoint Bluetooth in a cellular headset, a spokesperson said. The 520 also features noise cancellation and adds Bluetooth 2.0, whereas its predecessor uses Bluetooth 1.2.

Two more Voyager models are in the works for later in the year.