Category: Mobile Phone Accessories

Microsoft Hardware now offers a Bluetooth keyboard that works with all mobile platforms

Article

Microsoft’s Universal Keyboard has an Android home button, no Windows logo in sight  | Android Authority

From the horse’s mouth

Microsoft Hardware

Universal Mobile Keyboard Product Page

Press Release

Video clip

My Comments

Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard press image courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard

Microsoft have designed a Bluetooth keyboard that is intended for use with smartphones and tablets that run on the three main mobile platforms: Android, iOS and Windows 8. This is to cater for a reality where people may operate different computer devices on different platforms.

Microsoft have achieved a universal layout with platform-specific keys for Android and iOS, like the Command (snowflake) key that the Apple platforms need. The Windows or Android modes could work with devices like games consoles or Smart TVs that implement Bluetooth Human Interface Device Profile in the context of a full keyboard for text entry. What could this mean for using your smart TV’s social-network or content-search functionality without “hunt-and-peck” operation.

But you can select between the different operating systems and keyboard layouts using a three-position hardware switch. As well, the keyboard remembers Bluetooth pairings with 3 devices of the different platforms.There is even a rest for your tablet or smartphone so you can see what you are typing and this works as a lid for the keyboard.

Of course, it can run from its own battery for 6 months but can allow you to quickly charge the keyboard to gain 8 hours extra runtime.

But most of us who use keyboards with tablets typically head for those keyboards that are integrated in a case for the tablet and Microsoft could do better to offer this as a case for most 10” tablets.

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Product Review–Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth Headphone Adaptor

Introduction

I had decided to upgrade my Bluetooth headphone adaptor which was the Nokia BH-111 to the Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth Headphone adaptor, with a view to head towards some newer capabilities that these devices have. This is also to benefit from various improvements like multipoint operation, aptX audio codec for high-quality music and HD Voice codecs for improved mobile telephony services.

Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth headphone adaptor with headphones

Price

RRP: AUD$159.95

Specifications

Connections
Headphones 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
Power MicroUSB charging socket
Sources
Bluetooth audio Bluetooth A2DP with aptX
Analog Radio FM
Communications
Handsfree Bluetooth HandsFree Profile to integrated speaker and microphone
Multi-Device Yes – two devices
Pairing One-button pairing,
NFC “touch-to-pair”
Bluetooth
Standard 3.0
Profiles Hands-Free Profile 1.6
A2DP Audio Profile 1.2
AVRCP Audio Control Profile 1.4

 

The Bluetooth adaptor itself

The Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth headphone adaptor comes with a pair of in-ear earphones but can be used with any headphones that you wish such as your good Bose, B&O, Sennheiser or Skullcandy “cans” or a set of noise-cancelling headphones for that flight or train trip. It also works as a Bluetooth handset or speakerphone which would come in handy with a computer that is running a softphone application.

Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth headphone adaptor NFC tie clip

Touch your NFC-capable phone on the clip to pair it with the headphone adaptor

For setup, you can pair up an Android or Windows device with the Sony headphone adaptor using NFC “touch-and-go” pairing by touching the device to the headphone adaptor’s tie clip. But you would have to hold down the POWER button at the end to make it discoverable if you were to pair it with a device that doesn’t support this kind of pairing like all of the Apple devices.

It presents itself to the host device as a Bluetooth Hands Free Profile device and a Bluetooth A2DP audio device with support for aptX high-quality sound for music and HD Voice codecs for communications. It also works to the AVRCP 1.4 device-control standard with the ability to show the title and artist of the currently-playing song when used with a device that supports this level of functionality.

You can even pair this Bluetooth headphone adaptor with two devices and set them up in “Multipoint” mode so you can run them at once. For example, you could pair with two smartphones such as your work phone and your personal phone and answer calls on either of them using its handset button. Similarly, you could pair it with you desktop or laptop computer running a “virtual-extension” softphone app or a Bluetooth-enabled desk phone alongside a smartphone and manage calls from both these devices.

The SBH-52 as an FM RDS radio

The SBH-52 as an FM RDS radio

As well, the device serves as an RDS-equipped FM stereo radio but you will need to use it with your headphones because the headphone cable serves as its FM aerial.

But the Sony SBH-52 shows its real capabilities when you use it with your Android smartphone because of a Sony “Smart Connect” app, something I see as Sony’s “love-letter” to the open-frame Android mobile-device platform. This works as a “go-between” for messaging, Facebook, GMail and some other services through the use of downloadable “extensions” that you pick up from Google Play. It also becomes a watch showing the current time when you have it switched on and connected with the Android smartphone running this app.

Operational Experience

The Sony SBH-52 as a digital clock for your Android phone.

The Sony SBH-52 as a digital clock for your Android phone.

I have found that the Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth headphone adaptor clips to your shirt or tie without any issues whereas the older Nokia BH-111 had difficulties with clipping to thicker materials present in winter clothing or premium ties. This is due to the use of a clip that works in a similar manner to the old clothes-peg or the clip on an old-fashioned clipboard.

One issue that I have noticed at times is for the Sony SBH-52 to lose its connection with the phone if there is a period of inactivity. It can also manifest in the form of the on-screen data being out-of-sync with what is playing or whether the music is playing at all. This can be rectified by you powering the Bluetooth adaptor off and on or pairing again with the host device and may be a problem with the particular Android Bluetooth software in the Samsung smartphone.

The call-log function wasn’t all that consistent – it was able to show the caller’s name or number for whoever rang in or whoever I rang, but I couldn’t ring that caller back from the Bluetooth audio adaptor. Here, I would see the option to call back on the screen, with the “Yes” or “No” options, but couldn’t action these options using the Play/Pause key. This may be an issue if you haven’t set a particular call handler to be your default call handler on your Android phone.

A problem that can also happen with this headset and other Bluetooth headsets or hands-free devices is if you run a VoIP client like Viber or Skype on your Android phone, you can’t answer the VoIP client’s calls using the headset’s call-control button. This can be awkward in those situations where hands-free operation is desireable or paramount such as driving, walking or cycling. It is something I had found to my chagrin that I couldn’t answer an incoming Viber call using the SBH-52’s call button and had to use the Viber user interface on my Samsung phone to take that call.

The sound from your phone’s media player comes across as good as what the phone and headphones allow. Of course, you may notice a sense of clarity in the sound that it yields.This occurs with both the Bluetooth music and phone calls along with the radio. Of course, it will exhibit the limitations of the FM band which are similar to what is expected of Walkman-style FM radios, such as inconsistent FM reception in hilly or forest areas or city-centre areas with many tall buildings. But it was able to stay locked on to whatever I tuned it to without drifting.

The SBH-52 headset works properly with my Windows 8 computer, even providing elementary AVRCP-level control of media players using its media-control buttons. As well, when used in the Multipoint mode, each of the two devices is treated as a “source” in context with music and audio-content playback.

As for battery runtime, I was able to obtain one and a half days of music-streaming with a few phone calls out of this device before it needed to be recharged. As well, it was able to come from being empty to a full charge overnight once hooked up to an ordinary USB charger. Here, I could use any old microUSB-USB charge/data cable to connect the SBH-52 to a computer or charger when the time comes to charge it up.

Limitations And Points Of Improvement

The software for the Sony SBH-52 headset adaptor could be worked on better such as to allow the connection between it and a previously-paired Android host device to be properly healed when you switch it on and press the “play/pause” button. It could also make sure that it intercepts all incoming-call events from other Android VoIP apps so you can take calls on the headset.

The FM radio leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to functionality. One important function that is sorely missing is the ability to have preset stations. Similarly, the RDS aspect could be improved on, such as to have the PS station-identifier information shown in lieu of the frequency like what happens with automotive implementations. Even implementing the AF “follow-me” functionality that is used in Europe to automatically tune between different transmitters for a network station could earn its keep with travellers who use this while travelling across a country or region.

Sony could sell a variant of these headphone adaptors which is equipped with a DAB+ radio tuner for Europe, Australia and other countries where DAB or DAB+ digital-radio service is operational. It is more important with those markets like Australia where the AM radio stations which carry information-based radio content also appear on DAB+ digital radio while also underscoring DAB+ digital radio’s robustness for portable use.

Sony could extend their Bluetooth headset adaptors’ functionality by providing native support for the Bluetooth MAP messaging profile so that all text and other messages that come in show up on the adaptor’s display. As well, they could implement the full Bluetooth Handsfree profile with its call-control features in the headset adaptor natively without the need to run extra software. This means support for call-log abilities and access to platform-based “voice-assist” functionality irrespective of the phone’s platform. Some functions like a “call-log” ability could also require implementation of the Phone Book Access Profile.

Conclusion

I see that the Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth headset adaptor can work effectively as a Bluetooth headset adaptor when you have a smartphone that is your music player or run a separate Bluetooth-capable music-player device such as a tablet alongside your smartphone. It is also worth its salt if you also value having access to FM radio as another content source while on the go.

As well, Sony is stepping in the right direction by offering Bluetooth headset adaptors like this one that suit the needs of current smartphones and mobile telephony services.

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Should you worry about your USB charger’s current output for your gadgets?

Article

Pay Attention To Charger Amperage To Juice Up Your Gadgets Quickly | Lifehacker

My Comments

AC USB charger

You shouldn’t have to worry about the current output from your USB mobile-device chargers anymore.

Most AC and car-powered USB chargers and USB external battery packs are being available at different current-output levels, typically 500mA, 1A or 2.1A . In most cases, if a charger comes with a particular device, it typically comes with one that is rated to the device’s needs such as a tablet coming with a 2.1A charger.

Connecting a device to a more powerful charger will typically speed up its charging time whereas a less-powerful charger will cause the device to take longer to charge. The classic example is one connecting a smartphone to a high-power 2.1 amp charger that comes with a tablet or an additional 2.1 amp 2-USB charger and finding that this device charges up more quickly than with the charger that comes with the smartphone.

But this kind of connection used to affect older devices which had batteries that couldn’t accept higher charge currents without adverse effects. The recently-designed batteries and device-side charging circuits are now designed to handle higher currents and permit quicker charging. With external battery packs, the amount of power drawn by a device can affect the number of times you can charge the device’s own battery off that pack or the run-time available for your device with that pack if you are using the pack to extend your device’s run-time.

It is also worth noting that if a charger has the standard USB Type-A socket on it, you can use a USB charge/data cable that has the device’s connection (microUSB, Apple legacy 30-pin Dock or Apple Lightning) on it so you don’t need to have chargers for different device types. An increasing number of 2.1A chargers are equipped with two or more USB sockets mainly to allow you to charge two devices at once and the current budget that these chargers put up is shared amongst the devices connected to it. This would typically allow for two smartphones to be charged at a normal rate.

So you can really get by with using higher-powered chargers to charge up your gadgets quickly especially as today’s models are more tolerant of the higher current. Similarly, the use of the 2-USB 2.1A chargers can go a long way with saving on power outlets for charging multiple smartphones.

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A Bluetooth audio adaptor with NFC available in different colours from Sony

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Sony

Stereo Bluetooth Headset SBH20 | Wireless Stereo Headset – Sony Smartphones (Global UK English)

My Comments

Sony has raised the stakes with the SBH20 Bluetooth headset audio adaptor in many ways. Firstly, unlike other devices of this class which typically come in any colour you like as long as it is black or perhaps white, you can have a choice of different colours to complement your mood.

The Bluetooth adaptor also exploits the NFC “touch-and-go” standard so you can touch your Android phone to this adaptor to pair up with or immediately connect to it. How quickly amazing and foolproof this setup is.

It also supports the HD Voice standard which would complement good-quality headphones and the HD Voice codecs for mobile and VoIP telephony making your caller come through as clearly as an announcer on your favourite FM radio station. This will benefit those of us who communicate with people that have a distinct accent or are in a noisy environment.

For those of you who have a “work” phone and a “personal” phone or are a traveller who runs a phone on a local prepaid SIM card while having another on your regular home-country plan, you can manage both these phones from this audio adaptor. Here, it is just about pressing the same button to answer or hang up that call no matter the phone.

I am not sure whether this headset adaptor has the aptX high-quality music codec but this would come in handy if you use this device with good headphones and a media player that explots this codec.

This is definitely about Sony raising high hopes for this kind of Bluetooth headset audio adaptor so you can use the supplied earphones or a nice set of “cans” of your choice with your smartphone.

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A Bluetooth audio adaptor that can run for 8 hours courtesy of LG

Article

LG outs diminutive Bluetooth headset with 8 hours of battery life

My Comments

I use the previously-reviewed Nokia BH-111 Bluetooth headphone audio adaptor with my Samsung Galaxy Note II Android smartphone so I can use a pair of ordinary headphones as a Bluetooth headset for that phone.

With this device, I can be able to get effectively a few hours of door-to-door music listening and perhaps a half-hour phone conversation out of this adaptor before it says it is out of battery life. But LG have upped the ante on these Bluetooth headphone audio adaptors by just releasing one that can have a net runtime of 8 hours before it needs charging. Like the Nokia BH-111, these will come with a pair of earphones but you could use any headphones, active speakers, line-level connection or cassette adaptor with them to convert the headphones to a Bluetooth headset or make a Bluetooth handsfree setup out of the active speakers or home / car music system.

Here, this could allow for service as an add-on in-vehicle handsfree that connects to a car stereo but can survive a long road trip, or to work with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to entertain you through a long-haul flight. Even just spending the day out and about on the bike, walking long distances or making heavy use of public transport and having your smartphone play music through this device won’t have you worry about the device complaining of low batteries before you get home.

The same situation also extends to using the LG Bluetooth audio adaptor to work with TVs, home-theatre systems, games consoles and the like for a long viewing or gaming time without the fear of the audio adaptor or headset “giving out” in the midst of a game or movie. Of course, this device would work to the best with Bluetooth 3.0 setups and implement the aptX audio codec for best results with devices that support that codec.

It is also an example of the effort being put in to Bluetooth and other wireless technologies to have a device like this run for a long time in an interactive manner before it needs charging.

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Product Review–Sony SRS-BTV5 Bluetooth Speaker

Introduction

I am reviewing the Sony SRS-BTV5 which is the second of the Bluetooth speakers that Sony have released lately. This unit is the same size and shape as an egg and even comes in an egg-crate package with three coloured eggs to demonstrate its small size.

Sony SRS-BTV5 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Price

The unit itself:

RRP including tax: AUD$79

Connections

Input Count as for a device
Audio Line Input
(connect a tape deck, CD player, etc)
1 x 3.5mm stereo
Digital Audio Input Bluetooth wireless

Speakers

Output Power Watts (RMS, FTC or other honest standard) per channel Stereo
Speaker Layout 1

The unit itself

The Sony SRS-BTV5 isn’t like a lot of Bluetooth speakers due to its small size, thus it operates on an internal rechargeable battery. Here, you charge this using a charging setup that uses a microUSB connection, which is becoming the way to go.

Useability

Sony SRS-BTV5 Portable Bluetooth Speaker control switch for pairing

A very confusing switch that is used for instigating standard device pairing.

There is a switch on the underside of the Sony SRS-BTV5 which selects between NFC-disabled, NFC-enabled and pairing but it is easy to confuse for a power switch.  The NFC-based pairing routine didn’t take long between when I touched my Samsung Android smartphone to it and when it was ready to use.

If I wanted to have the Bluetooth speaker shut down so as to conserve battery runtime, I would need to “disconnect” the Bluetooth host device from the speaker using its Bluetooth device menu. This can be annoying for users who want better control over their speakers.

Like the Sony SRS-BTM8 and most other recent Bluetooth speakers, this speaker can work as a hands-free speakerphone for your mobile phone/ As well, you can connect it to your cassette / radio Walkman, Discman or music-filled iPod using a 3.5mm phone jack on the side of the speaker. This jack, along with the microUSB charging socket, is hidden behind a cover that you pull away easily so as to keep dust out of the device.

Sound quality

There is not enough sound-output volume put out by the Sony SRS-BTV5 for use other than close-listening applications. It is on a par to most of the larger smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note II that I own. As well, the sound quality is very similar to a small transistor radio with not enough bass.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Personally, I would like Sony to equip the SRS-BTV5 Bluetooth speaker with a power switch so you can have proper control over the battery runtime. Other than that, there isn’t nothing much to fault it for a speaker of its size and application class.

As well, Windows and Android could have native support for NFC-assisted Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct setup so there isn’t a need to download applications to set up these devices using Near Field Communication pairing.

Conclusion

The Sony SRS-BTV5 Bluetooth speaker appeals more to those who value the novelty factor due to its egg size and shape. But it can go well as a small personal speaker for “close-listening” needs especially if you use an MP3 player, Walkman, Discman or small smartphone.

It can appeal more as a “stocking-stuffer” gift for most occasions where the recipient may value a small speaker for close-up personal listening.

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Product Review–Sony SRS-BTM8 Portable Bluetooth speaker

Introduction

I am reviewing the Sony SRS-BTM8 Bluetooth speaker which is one of the newer Bluetooth speakers optimised for that music-filled smartphone, tablet or Ultrabook. Here, it allows you to use your NFC-equipped Android smartphone or tablet to facilitate “touch-and-go” setup for that device as well as an easy-to-access pair-up button for other Bluetooth devices.

Sony SRS-BTM8 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Price

The unit itself:

RRP including tax: AUD$129

Connections

Input Count as for a device
Audio Line Input
(connect a tape deck, CD player, etc)
1 x 3.5mm stereo
Digital Audio Input Bluetooth wireless

Speakers

Output Power 2W RMS Stereo
Speaker Layout 1 2″ (50mm) full range speaker

The unit itself

The Sony SRS-BTM8 Bluetooth speaker system can work on 4 AA batteries which are installed underneath the unit, or the supplied AC adaptor. Here, it supports orthodox power arrangement for portable audio equipment where the AC power is more about avoiding the need to compromise battery runtime or allow the unit to run with batteries. The fact that this unit can run on regular batteries can mean that you can safely use it in the bathroom or by the pool.

Useability

Sony SRS-BTM8 Portable Bluetooth speaker controls

Controls located across the top of the Bluetooth speaker. Also where you touch your NFC-capable Android phone when you set it up with the speaker.

The near-field-communication setup routine works as expected with the Sony NFC setup ap. But you have to hold the phone or other device to the speaker until the connection procedure is finished, which is indicated by a blue light that glows steadily.

Here, it paired up quickly with my Samsung Galaxy Note II phone. I also tried to pair it up with an iPhone using the standard pairing routine and this was very simple, thanks to the “pairing” button.

As well, I wanted to find out whether this speaker can be reinstated to an existing device without you needing to pair up the device again, a problem I have noticed with some Bluetooth speakers, car stereos and other devices that I have had to help people out with. Here, it didn’t take long for the Sony speaker to reinstate itself with my phone once I used the “connect” function on my phone’s Android user interface.

Like with most Bluetooth speaker systems, you can press this Sony unit in to service as a handsfree speakerphone for your smartphone or Skype-equipped computer. Here, this can come in handy for group calls or if you just want the ability to answer that call while you are undertaking another activity.

There is also a 3.5mm line-input jack that you can use to connect that Discman, DAB portable radio, cassette Walkman or music-full iPod Classic to keep those tunes flowing.

Of course, all the controls are located across the top for volume adjustment and control of Bluetooth devices, including call management when serving as a speakerphone. This makes it easier to locate all the controls when using the speaker such as in a bathroom.

Sound quality

The Sony SRS-BTM8 speaker sound like a small radio yet is able to provide some bass in to the sound mix. It also provides a sound that is more room-filling than the speakers that are typically integrated in a smartphone, tablet or small laptop.

Other usage notes

A teenager who lives with us tried the speaker with his music-filled iPhone and found that it worked well for bedroom or bathroom use and was impressed with the sound for the product’s class.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

Sony could have this as the base product for a variant that has a built-in broadcast radio tuner i.e. as a Bluetooth-equipped portable radio.

As well, Windows and Android could have native support for NFC-assisted Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct setup so there isn’t a need to download applications to set up these devices using Near Field Communication pairing.

Conclusion

I would recommend this as an alternative to a small boombox when you want to use it to amplify the sound from a smartphone, tablet or Ultrabook. As I mentioned before, it would come in handy with use by the pool, in the bathroom or in the kitchen due to the fact that it runs on batteries.

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NFC Touch and go is now the way to set up Sony Bluetooth devices

Article – From the horse’s mouth

Sony Corporation

Be moved with one-touch Sony’s new range of NFC products make sharing content easier than ever! : Consumer Products Press Releases : Sony Australia

My Comments

There are steps taking place to make pairing and connecting Bluetooth accessories to smartphones and tablets much easier. Initially the pairing routine was very convoluted with us having to remember pairing passwords or routines. Now most of the devices use a three-click pair routine where you hold down the Bluetooth button on the peripheral then place your smartphone in Bluetooth scanning mode to show up the device, whereupon you click on the name of the device.

But Sony have taken this further with speaker systems and headphones that you just touch to the NFC-capable smartphone, tablet or laptop to set them up. The Sony XPeria and VAIO tablets and laptops will have the integrated set-up software as part of the deal but those of you with Android devices made by other names will need to pick up NFC Easy Connect from the Google Play app store. Of course, these devices will pair up and connect with other Bluetooth hosts using the conventional method. On the other hand, I would love to be sure that this “touch-and-go” pairing can work with Windows 8 / RT equipment like the HP Envy X2 that I previously reviewed.

This will also simplify the connection of a previously-paired Bluetooth host to the speaker, which with some Bluetooth hosts and speaker docks cam be come a real pain as I have seen for myself with a Bluetooth speaker dock that was paired with an iPhone full of music in an “ad-hoc” manner even though it was normally paired with an iPad. At times, this required the iPad to he “re-connected” when the guest device was finished with. This touch-and-go routine could simplify the reconnection phase for “resident” Bluetooth hosts with the speakers or headphones.

This will also be an improvement as far as automotive setups and hi-fi equipment is concerned because it could cut down the time required to pair-up your device to the car or the home-theatre receiver, thus allowing you to get going with the music.

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Now a device that converts a classic iPhone speaker dock to a Bluetooth speaker

Article

Auris turns any 30-pin music dock into a Bluetooth speaker | iPhone Atlas – CNET Reviews

From the horse’s mouth

Auris

Product Site

Where to buy

BiteMyApple.co

My Comments

There are situations where you want to play music from your smartphone or tablet to someone but they have a radio or speaker dock that has the orthodox 30-pin “iPhone” connector and no auxiliary-input jack. This makes the device very useless in that context and is more so as the Apple devices move away from the orthodox connector and more of us move away from the Apple portable-device platforms. Similarly those of us who use the “feature phones” that have mobile-phone functionality, music playback and, in some cases, navigation may want to use the speaker dock to share their music.

Now Auris have premiered a device that answers this problem. It is in the form of a battery-operated Bluetooth module that plugs in to the iPod / iPhone connector on these speaker docks or radios. This device also has a line-out connection for those speaker docks that don’t accept the audio through the 30-pin connection from anything other than an Apple device; as well as being a Bluetooth adaptor for powered speakers or equipment that has an auxiliary input of some sort. When used along with a cassette adaptor, this device can enable any old car cassette player or 80s-era “ghetto blaster” for Bluetooth audio.

As well the Auris is equipped with a microphone and functionality to turn the speaker dock or similar device in to a hands-free speakerphone for your smartphone or Skype-enabled laptop. Think of those situations where you need to have multiple people listen in to a call or you want to make or take a call in a hands-free manner.

It is one of those few Kickstarter ideas that have manifested in a real device that answers most questions and situations compared to the the situation where most such ideas end up as quick money-making ideas with useless products. Personally, I would also like to see a wholesale purchase opportunity through the Auris site so that “brick and mortar” and online retailers cam purchase quantities of this device to sell on to others. This would certainly appeal to the likes of the catalogue retailers like Sharper Image and Hammacher Schlemmer; or the mobile phone dealers and mobile networks who want to add this to their accessories line.

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Wirelessly playing music held on your mobile device through other equipment

You may have your music held on a smartphone or tablet but you want it coming through better and louder speakers. Similarly, you have packed out your laptop computer or an external hard disk which you connect to your laptop with music. But you still want the flexibility of moving around your space with your phone or positioning your laptop wherever you want it.

Devices you can use

Primarily you could use a wireless media adaptor that is connected to existing audio equipment or speakers. This function may be integrated in some audio devices like Internet radios or music systems. On the other hand, you could purchase a wireless-enabled speaker system such as a speaker dock which integrates the wireless media adaptor with the speakers.

Methods

Bluetooth

Creative Labs Sound BlasterAxx PS-SBX20 Bluetooth wireless speaker (Image courtesy: Creative Labs)

Creative Labs Sound BlasterAxx PS-SBX20 Bluetooth wireless speaker system for the smartphone, tablet or laptop

A common method would be to use a Bluetooth link. This is supported by every smartphone and tablet but would only work with a Bluetooth audio adaptor or Bluetooth speaker system.

Here, the Bluetooth audio device must work to the Bluetooth A2DP audio profile for music playback and AVRCP audio control profile if you want to control the phone from the device’s controls.

To set up your wireless link, you would have to “pair” you mobile device with the Bluetooth audio device. Here, you place the device in “discoverable” mode and then use the mobile device’s “add Bluetooth device” function to discover the audio device. Most recent devices go in to “discoverable” mode when they are first plugged in but with a device that is already connected to power, you may have to hold down a “setup” or “Bluetooth” button. Here, an indicator light may flash in a certain manner to show that the device is in “pairing” or “discoverable” mode.

Bluetooth audio setup with a laptop

Bluetooth audio setup with a laptop and a Bluetooth audio adaptor

When you go to your mobile device and use the “add Bluetooth device” function, there will be a list of devices you had already “paired” with your phone as well as a new device name, typically representing the audio device’s brand or model name. Select this device and the pairing process will take place. If your mobile device shows a “password” or “PIN” request as part of this setup, enter 0000 in response to this request.

In this situation, you will likely have your mobile device connecting to your Bluetooth speakers or adaptor. On the other hand, if you already paired your phone or tablet to the Bluetooth audio device and your device and mobile device are on, you would have to go to the Bluetooth menu to select the “Connect” option to establish the connection.

If you subsequently use the same Bluetooth audio device, you may have to “connect” to that device to have it play its music through the audio device. This may require you to enable Bluetooth and, in some cases, select the device’s name to connect it.

Laptop users would then find that the Bluetooth A2DP and Hands Free Profile will present themselves as “sound devices” through the use of class drivers implemented by Windows 7 and MacOS X. You may have to set the Bluetooth virtual sound cards as default sound devices if you are using applications that don’t allow you to determine the sound device for that application. I have covered this issue in further detail in an article about using laptops with Bluetooth devices.

Wi-Fi wireless

Another wireless connection method is to use a Wi-Fi wireless network. This uses a choice of two protocols: Apple Airplay and the open-standard DLNA protocol.

Network setup

These setups require that the mobile device and the wireless network media player are linked through a network that has a Wi-Fi segment and are seen as the same logical network.

In some cases, the network media player can be connected to an Ethernet or HomePlug segment as long as that segment is accessible to the Wi-Fi wireless segment.

Denon Cocoon 500 Wi-Fi wireless speaker (Image courtesy: Denon Marantz Group)

Denon Cocoon 500 Wi-Fi wireless speaker that works with DLNA or AirPlay setups

These setups can work with network media players and wireless speakers that implement Wi-Fi Direct thus avoiding the need to use a wireless router like a MiFi to create a wireless-network segment. Similarly, some Wi-Fi Direct “master-device” implementations like the Intel implementation used in Windows laptops can allow the device to be a host for a Wi-Fi Direct segment and a client to an existing Wi-Fi network, thus bridging the connections. This can come in handy with public wireless hotspots due to client isolation and, in most cases, Web-based login being established on them; features which could impede the establishment of a Wi-Fi wireless music network.

But you can gain better results with a dedicated WiFi router or access point like one of the portable “MiFi” routers.

Infact most of these setups implement WPS one-push setup for Android mobile devices, Windows 7 computers and most current-issue Internet audio equipment. On the other hand, they will have a pre-determined device-unique WPA-PSK device passphrase for use with Apple devices.

Sony SA-NS410 wireless speaker

Sony SA-NS410 Wireless Network Speaker

It is also worth knowing that some speakers like the Sony SA-NS310, SA-NS410 and SA-NS510 also have access to advanced functions through the use of a dedicated smartphone app. In the case of these speakers, they have direct access to online music services or Internet radio with this software but you may find that they would work better with a regular small-network setup with a router serving a dedicated Internet connection. Again a “MiFi” may come in handy here when you use them at a hotel or serviced apartment with the existing public-acces Wi-Fi network.

Apple AirPlay

This method works best with iOS devices like the iPhone or with computers that are running iTunes. Here, you have to use the AirPlay functionality within iTunes or the music player in your iOS device to “push” your music to your AirPlay-capable device.

Rogue Amoeba have provided the AirFoil program for MacOS X and Windows platforms which turn your AirPlay-capable devices in to a virtual soundcard for your computer. I have helped a friend with purchasing and installing this program on their Windows 7 computer so they can pipe Spotify through an Apple AirPort Express device connected to their home stereo. This program sells for US$29 per computer.

DLNA

The UPnP AV / DLNA-based media setup is a highly-flexible network media playback setup which is more open-frame in nature. I have covered this setup previously due to this ability and the ability for many hardware manufacturers and software developers to support it.

If the idea is to have your music device such as your laptop or smartphone control the music, you will need to make sure that the device can work as a “MediaRenderer”. Devices like the Sony CMT-MX750Ni music system, the WD TV Live network media adaptors or the Pioneer XW-SMA3 wireless speakers will work with this function out of the box but some devices that support this function may require you to visit their setup menu to enable “DLNA Remote Control” or similar functions.

A DLNA-based setup requires a media server to be installed on your computer or mobile device. Windows-based computers will perform this function using Windows Media Player but you can use other third-party players like TwonkyMedia. Here you would have to point these programs to your music library.

Android phones and tablets can work from one of many different DLNA media server-controller apps like TwonkyMedia or AllShare, which is set up to share the content on your device or the SD card.

Depending on the media-client device, a DLNA setup can be managed from the media client device’s control surface or from your computer or mobile device. For example, Windows Media Player that comes with Windows 7 or 8 offers a “Play To” function which allows you to have your content “pushed to” devices that support this kind of control.

DLNA can work as a virtual sound card for Windows computers if you use the Jamcast virtual-sound-card software on your computer, which costs US$29.99. This can be useful for setups like the streaming music services like MOG, Pandora or Spotify which rely on a Web page or client program for them to work.

On the other hand, you could use the DLNA setup to have a laptop play music from your smartphone or tablet. This can be achieved with TwonkyMedia Manager for all platforms or with Windows Media Player 12 (Windows 7 and 8). In the case of Windows Media Player 12, you would select “Stream” – “Allow remote control of my player” to have this option work.

Worth knowing

Sometimes if one of the wireless speakers doesn’t work properly such as failing to reinstate with the device or network or a Wi-Fi speaker failing to connect to another wireless network segment, you may have to reset the speaker. This is a procedure that is dependent on the speaker but may involve you pressing a “RESET” button in a certain way  Then you may have to pair your audio device to the speaker again or configure it to the network you want it to join.

If the idea is to operate that Bluetooth or Wi-Fi speaker at a pool party, avoid the temptation to think that you can operate the iPhone that’s containing the music from the pool or spa. This is where a lot of portable devices become damaged due to the water. Here, it would be better to have the device containing the music, as well as the speaker located as far back from the water as you can, such as near a wall or safety fence.

Conclusion

Once you have your smartphone, tablet or laptop working with a wireless-audio link such as a Bluetooth link, you can be able to have a chance to hear better sound out of these devices while allowing yourself to move the smartphone or similar device around freely.

Update Note

This article, originally published on October 2012, has been updated to make reference to Rogue Amoeba’s AirFoil virtual-sound-card software for Apple AirPlay and to update new pricing details for Jamcast. As well, I have provided direct links to the software developers’ Web pages. I have also created links to the product reviews for the Sony SA-NS410 and SA-NS510 speakers which I had reviewed since the article was first published.

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