Moto Hint hands-on: Your whispering personal assistant

Who says a smart wearable has to be a watch or an eyepiece? Motorola thinks there's a future in wearables that whisper to you, with the Moto Hint Bluetooth headset its chosen approach. Not only far more discrete than the typical boom-style Bluetooth hands-free kit, the earbud also borrows from the Moto X's always-on listening bag of tricks.

Simplicity is the name of the game. There are no hardware buttons, with controls pared down to a capacitive pad on the outside of the earbud, and IR sensors on the inside that track whether or not the Moto Hint is currently in your ear.

Slot it into place and it turns on and connects; if you're currently on a call, it'll automatically transfer to the headset. Pull it out, and it turns off, returning the call to your phone. If you're listening to music, taking out the earbud will pause it (though music won't come instantly spouting out of your phone because, Moto Hint product manager Michael Kane pointed out to me, that might not be appropriate for the environment you're currently in).

I was able to jump up and down on the spot, as well as shake my head back and forth, and not dislodge it. The earbud did finally pop out when I got more aggressive with my shaking, but it certainly seems secure enough – and sufficiently comfortable – for everyday wear.

So far, so Bluetooth earpiece. What sets the Moto Hint apart is the fact that it's always listening out for you: you can ask the same sort of questions that you might commonly ask Moto Voice on the Moto X. Ingredient measurement conversions while your hands are busy with cooking; biking directions to your next meeting when you're cycling; even Google searches for arcane facts so that you look smarter than you really are.

When I tried it out, I was impressed how quickly the concept grows on you. There's no display, of course – not even the minimal panel you get with Google Glass – so instead everything is done by voice prompt and answer. You don't need to speak particularly loudly, so it's like having a conversation with a personal assistant who's hanging on your every word.

Of course, you needn't have a Motorola phone in order to use the Moto Hint. It'll pair with any Bluetooth smartphone or device – such as your iPhone, Windows Phone, or another Android handset – and indeed if there's some sort of virtual assistant on that platform then you'll get access to it as well.

So, if you're using an iPhone, tapping the Moto Hint's capacitive pad will trigger Siri; pair it with your LG G3, meanwhile, and you'll get Google Now speech prompts when you tap the key.

What you don't get is the always-on listening, which is limited to the Moto X. Range with the new Motorola flagship is up to 100-150 feet in plain sight, certainly enough to leave your phone on the kitchen table and busy yourself at the counter.

Effectively, anything you can do with Google Now can be done, by voice, with Moto Hint. That includes sending messages, making calls, having SMS read out to you, and checking the weather forecast. Since Moto Voice on the new Moto X now supports posting Facebook statuses, writing WhatsApp messages, and searching YouTube content, you can do that too from the earbud.

If your Moto X is out and in front of you, you'll see the handset walk through each stage as you interact with Moto Hint. However, it's smart enough to leave the screen deactivated if it knows it's in a pocket or bag out of sight.

On its own, the Moto Hint will last for around 3.3hrs. The charger case, meanwhile, has enough power for around three recharges, which means you'll get roughly ten hours of use in total. An LED built into the lanyard loop blinks slowly during charging, and lights up solid when the headset is fully charged.

There's more to come, however. Kane told me that Motorola is already working on a stereo version, which would consist of two earbuds rather than just one. It's a little more involved, since it requires splitting a stereo music signal, but it's certainly in the pipeline. Unfortunately, there won't be a way to flash the existing Moto Hint with new firmware and simply buy a second to replicate the stereo set, I'm told.

The Motorola Hint will go on sale in October, priced at $149.99. It'll be offered in a variety of finishes, including linen, wood, and leather, and with either a silver or a black anodized body.