Remember those cool-looking Parrot Zik wireless headphones we saw back at CES? Well, now we have a date and a price for you Philippe Starck fans out there. Announced at the Hong Kong launch event earlier today, these NFC-enabled, active noise cancelling Bluetooth cans will be available globally in August, with the US getting a price tag of $399 before tax (and for those who care, you'll be able to nab one in Hong Kong for HK$3,399 or US$440). During our brief ears-on, we certainly enjoyed the Zik's great audio quality, noise isolation and the intuitiveness of its swipe gesture input. While the battery is swappable, note that this expensive package only comes with one cell (accessible under the magnetic cover on the left can) that typically lasts for around five hours, so road warriors will need to chip in about $30 for a spare one. Alternatively, product manager Theodore Sean (whom we had the pleasure to interview at CES) pointed out a unique and handy feature that sort of bypasses this problem: you can still use the Zik as a pair of passive headphones using the included 3.5mm audio cable, but without any battery juice left, you obviously won't be able to enjoy the noise cancellation function (on a plane, for instance) or even make phone calls.
Parrot Zik launching globally in July with iOS app, Android to follow in August
Theodore was also finally able to show us the Zik's complimentary app on iOS, in which you can disable the noise cancellation (it's enabled out of the box), try the various concert hall effects and tinker with the equalizer. You can already download the app for your iPhone and iPod touch, whereas the iPad version is slated for next week, while the Android version is expected to come out in three weeks -- just in time for the global launch, and by then the iOS app will also have Chinese support.
Before the Parrot crew headed out for more shopping, we grilled them with some concerns raised by our readers after our CES coverage. Most notably, there's no apt-X support to complement the Broadcom Bluetooth radio on the Zik, but the company explained that this codec's simply not popular enough to justify the license cost, though it doesn't rule out the possibility of adding this back in a future firmware update. As to why the Zik's still running Bluetooth 2.1, Theodore said it's good enough to achieve the great audio quality which, from what we heard during our brief ears-on, seems to be the truth.
We were told that no app's required for the Zik's NFC-Bluetooth pairing, though we couldn't get our Galaxy S III to hook up to an engineering unit at the event. Parrot blamed it on a out-of-date firmware, and we were assured that it's collaborated with Samsung to ensure compatibility. Additionally, the Zik's also been tested on the Nokia N9, but Parrot has no plan to release a MeeGo app for the headphones, and likewise with Windows Phone plus Symbian for obvious reasons. If this hasn't deterred you from getting hold of a Zik, then stay tuned for our in-depth review in the near future. After all, we've yet to test its bone conduction technology for receiving the user's voice, but if it's anything like that featured on the Jawbone Icon then there should be nothing to worry about.