Bluetooth: Technology FAIL?
Created by Ericsson in 1994, bluetooth tech has reached ubitquity in consumer technology. Even while being integrated into nearly every cell phone today, bluetooth just never seems to reach its tipping point. Over the years, a number of devices and application have been released to take advantage of the capabilities of bluetooth. Like alot of technology, bluetooth claims to do it all, yet is good at nothing. With profiles for data transfer, wireless voice, remote control, and more; the recently announced bluetooth 3.0 spec even touts high bandwidth video transfers. After finally getting a mobile phone with full bluetooth support, I decided a pick up a couple of the currently available bluetooth devices. My impressions are below:
Blackberry Media Gateway: Also known as the “Blackberry Remote Stereo Bluetooth Gateway”, this device is a simple bluetooth to auxiliary adapter. Pair your audio device with the gateway using bluetooth, and connect the auxilary out from the gateway, into any device of your choosing. I currently using this device to connect both my phone and laptop to my home theater wirelessly. This allows me to watch youtube with my laptop on the couch, and pipe the audio through my surround speakers, or play podcasts from my cell phone while i wash dishes. As a single purpose device, the Blackberry Media Gateway does its job well. Score: 9/10
Kensington Luquid Aux: Among the myriad of poorly conceived ipod accessories, this is perhaps one of the most useful. For those of us without integrated bluetooth in our cars, the liquid aux is a godsend. Functioning similarly to the Blackberry gateway, the Liquid Aux takes bluetooth in, and pipes audio out to your cars aux input jack. Unlike the Blackberry gateway, the Liquid Aux has a build in mic, so it also allows you to take calls from the unit. From the time it takes me to lock the door and walk to my car, the Liquid Aux had plenty time to automatically reconnect to my phone without any manual pairing nonsense. Retailing at $99 at any Apple Store, the Liquid Aux can be had for as little as $30 on Amazon, and is the cheapest, and easiest way to add full bluetooth phone integration into your aux equipped vehicle. Score: 9/10
Insignia NS-BT400: The BT400 is a small bluetooth speaker sold by Best Buy under thier house brand “Insignia”. The most notable component of this device is its price. Launched at $39, the BT400 was cheap for a bluetooth speaker, it was even cheap for an ipod speaker. The cheap price netted you an 2.1 setup, meaning two small drivers and a small subwoofer. The sound output from the speaker was mediocre at best, but for $39, the unit was steal! The unit is very much a throw away model, its low retail price meant that anyone with a bluetooth device could pick the unit up as an impulse buy. But alas, a recent trip to Best Buy revealed that the unit had been discontinued. Even at the rock bottom price, the unit was not popular explained one Best Buy salesman. The BT400 is a perfect example of the awkward place of bluetooth in the market. Like many, bluetooth device, the BT400 was not terribly easy to pair, I could not recommend this device to my grandmother, or sister for that matter. Score: 6/10
Rocketfish Bluetooth Stereo Headphones: Another Best Buy house product, these Rocketfish headphones, also known as the RF-MAB2 are simple headphones, that connect over bluetooth. Much like a popular bluetooth earpiece; there is not much to see here. The Rocketfish units, sound pleasing, with good bass, not audiofile quality, but good considering high fidelity and bluetooth dont mix. The unit included track controls and also an answer/end call key. While I cant imagine many people using the headphones for taking calls, they do employ a workout friendly behind head design, and integrate 4 sound profiles for extra bass or audio clarity. The most mainstream of bluetooth devices, the BT400 is what most people think of when they think bluetooth. Score: 7/10