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Those of you who've followed my posts as San Jose Gadgets Examiner know that I like to keep track of several area gadget makers, including Santa Cruz-based Plantronics. Today it introduced a new Bluetooth headset called the M50, which is modestly price at $49.99 but delivers more than just voice calls to your ear. The M50 is one of three headsets Plantronics has launched this fall that support its year-old Vocalyst service. It lets users dictate e-mails and other messages through their phone headsets to a cloud-based virtual assistant and runs on multiple Plantronics headsets besides these three.

The M50 supports stereo Bluetooth audio for listening to music -- streaming or native to your phone -- as well as podcasts or GPS navigation directions. At first glance, "stereo" on one earpiece sounds counterintuitive, but a Plantronics spokeswoman said by that they mean it supports the A2DP audio standard. That stands for Advanced Audio Distribution Profile, a Bluetooth spec for streaming audio from the phone to the headset, which means both channels come through the one earpiece, but it's not monaural.

The M50 joins the Marque M155, which was introduced in September, in the lineup. The Marque lists for $59.99 and also includes the stereo Bluetooth capability. It also enables voice recognition to answer or ignore calls on smartphones running Apple's iOS or Google's Android operating systems. Another option, called MyHeadset, is an application you can download from Apple's App Store or Google's sol republic headphones Android Market, that adds other features. One of them is InstantMeeting, which I've written about before, that lets you join conference calls through your Bluetooth. MyHeadset also allows you to download updates to your headset.

Plantronics also added a new model to its Voyager line, the Voyager Pro HD ($99.99), which is a smart headset that knows if it's in your ear or not. I wrote about this feature when it was introduced in the Voyager Pro UC in January. If you're wearing it, the call is routed to the earpiece. If not, you can answer through the phone itself. It's happened to me more than a few times that a call comes in and I have the phone in my hand but the Bluetooth is temporarily out of reach. I yell pointlessly into the phone while the caller hears my voice in the distance through the headset. If "I Love Lucy" were on today, Lucy would do a scene about that.

All three headsets work with the Vocalyst service, which allows you to dictate e-mails, convert incoming text messages to speech and even dictate updates to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. And you thought you spend too much time already on social media.

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