Don't call the Motorola Hint a Bluetooth headset. It makes everyone at Motorola wince. They'd rather you call it a wireless earbud, or, in a brilliant slip of the tongue from Motorola design chief Jim Wicks, an "earable." The Hint is a tiny, Bluetooth-enabled earbud that is designed to keep you in immediate, voice-enabled touch with the world around you.
But it's not for phone calls, or at least not just for phone calls. It's for getting directions, for doing quick voice searches, for hearing the text message you just got or quickly adding something to your to-do list. The Bluetooth headset is dead; long live the wireless earbud.
Motorola makes the same case for the Hint that Jawbone does for the latest Era, saying that Google Now and voice search have revived the power of talking to your phone. Yet there's no getting around the Bluetooth headset stigma, so Motorola did its best to make it look like you're not wearing one. Or wearing anything at all. The Hint is about the size of a peanut, and nestles entirely in your ear; it looks astonishingly like the earpiece Joaquin Phoenix's character wears throughout Her, a fact that's not lost on anyone at Motorola. And the intention is very much the same: you're not meant to put it in and take it out, but to wear it all the time.
It's comfortable and light (about the weight of a quarter), and has passthrough audio so it doesn't sound like there's anything blocking your ear. When you want it, it's just supposed to be there. You talk to it, it talks back. It gets 3.3 hours of talk time (ten with the two extra charges it gets from within its carrying case), and is dead-simple to use. There's a sensor in the earbud that recognizes when it's put in your ear, and it turns on and connects automatically; when you take it out it turns off. Hint isn't supposed to be any work, ever.
This kind of simple, passive interaction is possible in part because of Motorola's improved and re-branded ability to let you wake up and interact with the phone without ever touching it. It was once called Touchless Control, and you addressed it with "OK Google Now." On the new Moto X, it's Moto Voice, and you can call it whatever you want. (Everyone's definitely going to call it Jarvis.) The interactions mirror many of those you might have with a smartwatch: you can ask for directions, or simple answers to questions, or to set an alarm. In many ways, Hint is just another way, an aural way, to access the same information you might want from the Moto 360.
The Hint will be available for $149.99 when it comes out this fall (it'll be available globally before the holidays), and it's very much part of Motorola's wearables strategy. Bringing more information, more quickly, more ways, is core to what Motorola is trying to do with its latest round of devices — and bringing back the earpiece fits right in. But the real question still exists: have we forgotten the BlueDouche syndrome? Are we ready to put gadgets back in our ears again?