Mini Jambox: Jawbone outs its smallest Bluetooth speaker yet for $179

Jason Gilbert

Honey, they shrunk the Jambox!

Jawbone is out with its latest Jambox, and this one is its smallest yet: It's called the Mini Jambox (or an emphatic "MINI JAMBOX," officially), and it is noticeably smaller than both the first Jambox, introduced in 2011, and the Big Jambox, introduced in 2012. The Mini Jambox is both smaller in size (slimmer and shorter than the Jambox Classic) and in weight (9 ounces versus 12 ounces); Jambox hopes this size and weight difference will make it more attractive to customers looking for a wireless speaker they can bring anywhere.

The Mini Jambox will retail for $180 and goes on preorder today at the Jawbone website; they'll eventually make their way to Apple, AT&T, Best Buy, Target and Verizon stores. Unlike previous Jamboxes, the Mini will come with various color combinations and designs that can be chosen when you order.

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In many ways, the Mini Jambox is similar to its predecessors. It connects to your smartphone or MP3 player, via Bluetooth or through a two-way wire, and plays whatever sounds are coming through your device. It features three buttons on top: a play/pause button that can interact with your phone's MP3 player, Spotify, or Rdio; and volume up and down buttons This ability -- to control your phone's music player from the speaker itself -- has always been a welcome feature on the Jambox, separating it from cheaper competitors.

It also delivers excellent and clear sound, easily matching what you'd get from the Big Jambox in terms of quality. It doesn't get as loud as either the Jambox or the Big Jambox (to my ears, at least), but it's certainly loud enough to power a small listening session, or tunes for a car ride or your living room.

Jawbone is pushing the Mini Jambox's best feature as portability, and a representative challenged me to carry it around in my pocket for a day, in case I encountered any "gotta have a speaker" moments in my daily life. Perhaps I wear pants with small pockets -- I live in the East Village -- but I didn't find it practical to carry around a Bluetooth speaker with me; it's a bit too tall to fit comfortably in a pair of jeans.

What I will say, though, is that I'd prefer to carry around a Mini Jambox over a Classic or Big Jambox. It's quite slim, and light, and I had a few friends comment on its design. It's really nicely sculpted, and the colors pop.

The real question for Bluetooth speaker shoppers -- who have their hearts set on a Jambox, which runs more expensive than some competitors; Jawbone says that the sound quality and premium design makes up for the price difference -- is which size Jambox you should purchase. The Big Jambox is the clear winner for those hoping to power a party with a single speakersbut it comes in $299, a full $120 more expensive than the Mini (Also: If you REALLY want to power a party, you should invest in some better audio equipment than a single Bluetooth speaker). The Classic Jambox, meanwhile, will see its price drop to $149 in the coming days, making it an attractive option for those hoping to save some money; you will miss out on the gorgeous design and finish of the Jambox Mini, however, and a new set of audio innards that ships with the Big Jambox and Mini Jambox is also missing. Until Jawbone replaces the audio technology within the Jambox Classic, I'd steer clear, unless you REALLY want to save $30.

For now, then, I'd say the Mini Jambox serves most people's needs. The Jambox is positioned for speaker shoppers who are fine with paying a premium -- again, the Jambox isn't the cheapest Bluetooth speaker on the market (not even close!), but it does represent high quality and excellent design. For those desiring a Jambox, the Mini might just end up eating up all the sales that the other Jamboxes would have gotten.

You can read more about the Mini Jambox here, and pre-orders are available right here.

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