Category Archives: Bluetooth

Oasis at 2016 CES



OasisScott Ertz interviews Phil Diamond about the Oasis customizable noise-cancelling Bluetooth headset from Audasis. The concept behind the Oasis Bluetooth headset is that it takes any conventional user-provided ear buds and converts them into a noise-cancelling Bluetooth headset. The consumer plugs their conventional earbuds into the Oasis, and then pairs up the Oasis to their Bluetooth playback device. The Oasis also includes a Bluetooth dongle with the headset to enable the user to convert any device that has a conventional 1/8th inch headphone jack, say an old CD player or a 1/8th inch headphone jack on a plane to Bluetooth to be used with the Oasis. The Oasis includes a wireless charging stand and up to approximately 30 hours worth of audio playback depending on the impedance efficiency of the earbuds and the loudness of the music.

Audasis hopes to ship the Oasis Bluetooth headset in Q4 of 2016 in time for the Christmas holiday season. The target selling price is $150.

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Helix Cuff at CES



Helix CuffDaniele Mendez interviews Rachel Schroath, Communications Manager for Helix Cuff. Helix Cuff is the world’s first wearable bracelet that conveniently stores Bluetooth earbuds for use whenever and wherever you need them. Pair the Helix Cuff earbuds with your smartphone, tablet, or other Bluetooth-enabled device to get tangle-free, high quality Bluetooth audio.

The Helix Cuff begins shipping in March of 2016. The black and white versions of Helix Cuff are priced at $199, and a special 24k gold and red version is priced at $299.

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Wistiki Tracking Tags by Philippe Stark



Wistiki LogoBluetooth tracking devices are fairly common but when the tags have been designed by Philippe Starck as “connected jewels”, it’s definitely worth taking a look. Lisa Despeyroux, Wistiki’s Communications and PR manager connects with Jamie and Daniel to tell them more about Hopla!, Voila! and Aha!

French outfit Wistiki have partnered with the famous designer, Philippe Starck, to create three shapes of tracking device (or Wistikis) in four colours. Hopla! is credit card shaped for wallets and purses, Voila! is rectangular for keychans and the oval Aha! dangles for pets or gear. Colour-wise, the choice is yellow, blue, orange and pink. It all adds up to Gallic flair!

As with most tracking systems, the Wistiki connects to an app on the smartphone and there’s a fairly standard set of features including ring, reverse ring and leash. There’s an additional neat feature where if someone finds a lost Wistiki, they can message the original owner to arrange return. And the ringtone is cool too.

The new range is launching on Indiegogo now with expected delivery in late 2016. Current perks offer six Wistikis for US$149.

Jamie Davis is the host of Health Tech Weekly at HTWeekly.com. He is a nurse, paramedic and health journalist.
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Dog and Bone LockSmart Padlock



Dog and Bone logoDog and Bone are more usually known for their protective range of Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy smartphone cases, though here it’s a smartphone-controlled Bluetooth padlock that’s going to provided the protection. Jamie and Daniel find out more from Maria.

Dog and Bone’s LockSmart keyless Bluetooth padlock is exactly what it says: a padlock that uses Bluetooth communication from an app on a smartphone to unlock it. While that alone might be handy in some circumstances, the real trick is that with the app the owner can give unlocking privileges to other people. Say your bike’s padlocked to a railing in town and you want a friend to pick it up for you. You can give him (or her) the unlock permissions for the LockSmart, let him get the bike and once it’s returned, you can revoke the permissions. Definitely much handier than sharing keys or combinations. In addition, the app can manage multiple locks and receive notifications when locks are opened. Both iOS and Android devices are supported.

There’s a choice of two LockSmarts: on sale now is the larger version at US$89.95 with a mini version expected soon for US$69.95.

Jamie Davis is the host of Health Tech Weekly at HTWeekly.com. He is a nurse, paramedic and health journalist.
Daniel J Lewis dares you to get started in podcasting with The Audacity to Podcast.

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Fonebud Smartphone Companion at CES



Fonebud_CC_3_grandeDon Baine and Dix Chew, Co Founder, look over the the latest iterations of the Fonebud at CES. A minimal secondary handset for your smartphone that combines a Bluetooth headset with a USB charger and flashlight, the Fonebud goes in the hand while the expensive smartphone stays in the pocket.

For long calls, the Fonebud works like a Bluetooth headset to reduce RF exposure but as it’s a handset, you don’t look too nerdy holding it to your ear. In high crime areas, it reduces your loss if a thief tries to snatch the handset from your grasp. For additional safety, there’s a variant with a built-in panic alarm.

Three new versions are coming to market with price points from US$76 to US$99. The current Fonebud Essential Plus is available now from US$51 at Fonebud’s online shop.

Don Baine is the Gadget Professor and he holds classes at TheGadgetProfessor.com.

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Cassia Networks Unveiled Cassia Hub at CES 2016



Cassia HubCassia Hub has unveiled the Cassia Hub at CES 2016. Cassia Hub is the world’s first Bluetooth router which uses a new enabling technology that redefines what’s possible with Bluetooth.

Capable of networking and controlling up to 22 Bluetooth devices, the Cassia Hub also extends the range of Bluetooth communications to 1,000 feet in open space – more than 30 times the standard operating range. The hub also comes with the Cassia mobile app which integrates and automates control of all connected Bluetooth devices both inside and outside the home.

Using Cassia’s new proprietary and patented technology, the Cassia Hub can not only connect up to 22 devices at once, but it can also communicate and relay messages for Bluetooth devices up to 1,000 feet away (open space) or through three interior walls. This means no longer being tethered to your Bluetooth speaker or losing a signal when you enter another room.

The Cassia Hub is compatible with Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE and Classic) and does not require any modification or configuration of devices. This means, previously purchased Bluetooth enabled devices such as smartphones, speakers, fitness trackers, headphones, lights, locks and countless other Bluetooth devices should readily and seamlessly connect to the Cassia Hub.

With the Cassia Hub, users can stream music wirelessly from popular streaming services as well as local content on their phone throughout the house using Bluetooth speakers they already own.

The Cassia Hub connects to the internet via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, which enables users to control their Bluetooth devices outside of the home. By using their internet-enabled smartphone or tablet to access the Cassia App, users will have access and control of their devices from virtually anywhere within internet access, something not possible with current Bluetooth technology.

The Cassia Hub is priced at $99.99, is available for pre-orders, and will begin shipping in Q1 of 2016.

Visit Cassia Networks at CES 2016 at booth # 70564.


LG Tone Infinim Headset Updated for CES



LG logoLG Electronics (LG) will unveil the latest iteration of the LG Tone Infinim at CES 2016 this year. For those who haven’t seen the Tone Infinim before, this style of Bluetooth headset is in a contemporary design and is worn around the neck. It certainly looks very different from the usual style of in-ear headset while still being convenient to use.

Tone Infinum

As an upgraded successor of the popular HBS-900, the new Tone Infinim (HBS-910) inherits the previous model’s main strengths such as metallic body, wire retractable earbuds, long-lasting battery and Harmon/Kardon audio quality. With its upgraded Quad-Layer Speaker Technology, the new Tone Infinim delivers a great audio experience with better balance across all sound ranges and enhancing the frequency response ratio for richer bass and crisper high notes. Dealing with noisy environments such as crowded subways or city streets are an easy challenge for the new Tone Infinim with dual noise-cancelling microphones.

The original Tone Infinim set a new standard for wireless headset design,” said Chung Sue-hyun, Vice President of Innovative Personal Devices at LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company. “We delivered an audio solution that offered days of battery life, a comfortable fit that didn’t fall off the neck when unused and most importantly, fantastic sound. It’s no wonder the LG Tone Infinim series is the most copied design in this product category.

LG Tone Infinim Bluetooth Headset

The new Tone Infinim will be available in the United States from February with other parts of Asia and Europe to follow soon after. Pricing is not available at the moment.


Mpow Cheetah Bluetooth Headphones



Mpow Logo

I’ve been looking at a few Mpow gadgets recently and so far, they’ve all done well, giving great performance for not much money. Next in line are the Mpow Cheetah Bluetooth 4.1 Sports Headphones to give them their full title. These are sport-oriented headphones, with a neckband to keep them in place. Let’s see if these are worth putting on the Christmas list for the January fitness programme.

Mpow Cheetah BoxThe Cheetah comes in a small grey box that has a curious soft touch finish to it. While it feels pleasant, it’s actually quite hard to see what’s inside the box as black headphones on a grey background doesn’t work well. Getting into the box is another matter too: there’s a hidden magnetic flap which will keep you guessing for a few minutes.

Once inside, the Cheetah headphones are coiled neatly on top. These are the boring black ones though they are available with yellow, pink, blue and green highlights. Taking them out and removing the tray reveals a small instruction booklet, USB charging cable and three sets of silicon earbuds (small, medium and large). Looking at the left and right ear pods, the features are not unexpectedly sparse and the leftside one has nothing. The right pod has all the controls, including volume rocket, multifunction button, mic, indicator light and microUSB charge port. Unlike the Swift, the door over the charge port has a small flap which makes in much easier to get your fingernail under.

Mpow Cheetah In BoxCharging is straightforward and takes about two and half hours from flat. There’s a red light on during charging which changes to green when the battery full. Similarly, the Bluetooth pairing is simple: hold down the multifunction button for five seconds until the Cheetah enters pairing mode and do the usual on the smartphone. Job done.

To get the headphones on, you untwirl them and put them round your neck before popping the earbuds in. To start with, I found the Cheetah headphones very uncomfortable – the earbuds just didn’t fit right. Then I realised I was wearing them the wrong way round. Twit. Once the headphones are in the correct ears, they’re much more comfortable. The neckband is sufficiently strong to keep them in place short of being physically ripped from your head, but it never feels like your head is in a vice. The neckband also keeps them round your neck if you need to take the headphones out for a few moments.

Mpow Cheetah ReversePressing the multifunction button powers up the headphones. A voice announces “Power on” and “Your headset is connected” but doesn’t give battery time. The volume rocker works as expected for sound levels, and long pressing the volume buttons is supposed to skip forwards and backwards. On my phone, it skipped forwards ok, but skipping backwards didn’t work properly – it would only go to the beginning of the track, not the previous track. The multifunction button played and paused the track.

For calls, the Cheetah has various tricks, including double pressing the multifunction button for last number redial, and long pressing the – volume rocker to mute calls. In use, callers came through clearly and people said that they could hear me well. As with the Swift, the Cheetah announces the phone number of the caller.

Mpow Cheetah ControlIn terms of audio quality, Mpow has again proved that it can deliver great sound at low cost. As with the Swift headphones, I listened to a selection of tracks using a OnePlus 2 smartphone playing from a range of music services, some streamed, some downloaded. There was good presence and clarity, with reasonable high frequency reproduction and effective bass. I did feel that the Cheetah needed a bit of volume to perform at its best but even with that, these are good headphones. Perhaps not as good as the Swift but considering these are aimed at the sporting activity, they’re outstanding value priced at around US$25 or GB£19.

If you are looking for headphones to wear when working out, running or cycling, the Cheetah headphones are perfect. Sound quality is good, they aren’t going to fall off and at the price, you aren’t going to be too bothered if they get trashed by accident. Just make sure that you put them on the right way round.

Thanks to Mpow and Patuoxun for the review Cheetah Bluetooth 4.1 sport headphones.


Mpow Swift Bluetooth Headphones Review



Mpow LogoWhen it comes to headphones, I’m a firm believer in that you get what you pay for. Undoubtedly there are diminishing returns above a certain price point but the bundled headphones that used to come with mobile phones were complete rubbish in terms of both their build quality and audio characteristics. Fortunately, those days are past and most respectable manufacturers provide usable headphones.

On review here are the Mpow Swift Bluetooth 4.0 wireless headphones which are marketed as “sweatproof, jogger, running, sport…earbuds…with AptX mic hands-free calling”. With an RRP of GB£30, they are often found for sale at about half that, say GB£15, which is a fantastic price for Bluetooth wireless earbuds….if they sound good. My daily listeners are Sennheiser CX300s, so the Swift’s have got their work cut out here. Let’s take a look and first up is a short unboxing video.

As can be seen from the video and the pictures, the Swift headphones are of the earbud type, with a loose ribbon cable connecting the two ‘buds. The cable doesn’t grip the neck like some models and the ribbon cable keeps tangles to a minimum. The headphones come in a good range of colours, with a choice of black or white for the body and then a selection of highlight colours, including blue, yellow, magenta, green and pink.

Mpow Swift EarbudsBeing Bluetooth headphones, the Swift earbuds are quite big on the outside of the ear containing the wireless electronics, rechargeable battery and the mic for hands-free calling. On the left headphone there’s a covered microUSB port for charging that comes with a personal warning that fingernails are required to get the port cover off. The coloured flash on this headphone doesn’t do anything, whereas over on the right, it acts as an action button, turning the headphones on and off, play / pausing music and taking calls. There’s also a volume rocker and microphone on the right side. When doing some activities with the action button, there’s a voice confirmation such as “Power on” or “Connected” which can be handy when trying to figure out what state the headphones are in.

Mpow Swift EarbudsWhile all the buttons worked, I disliked using the buttons, partly because I have big fingers and the buttons are small, but mostly because I don’t like the sensation of the earbud moving within the ear when I tried to press the buttons. YMMV, as they say.

Bluetooth pairing was so straightforward, it’s hardly worth mentioning…hold down action button, select Swift on phone in Bluetooth settings, job done.

Standard earbuds are notorious for falling out during the movement and with the extra weight on the headphones, one might think that the Swifts would drop out of the ear at the slightest twitch. Fortunately Mpow has this covered with a couple of retaining options.

Mpow Swift EarhooksFirst, the Swift headphones come with three sizes of earbud for small, medium and large earholes. Second there are three sizes of ear loops that catch on the inner part of the ear and finally there are hooks which lock into parts of the ear for a really firm hold. Both the loops and the hooks easily slip over a round section on the headphones. For retainability, the hooks are impressive, though you do need to spend a little time get them in the right place the first time. Once locked behind a suitable part of the outer ear, they easily keep the Swift headphones in place, even while running. Obviously they’re still going to come out if something catches on the lead (which is a good safety feature) but short of deliberately taking the Swifts out, they’re staying in. For extended listening, I did find the Swifts a little more tiring than other earbuds, possibly simply because of the extra weight.

Mpow Swift Earbud with hookFinally, it brings us to audio quality and Mpow may force me to re-evaluate my initial premise that you get what you pay for as the Swifts are really very good. I listened to a selection of tracks using a OnePlus 2 smartphone playing from a range of music services, some streamed, some downloaded. There was good presence and clarity, and while the high frequency wasn’t perfect the bass was effective without being overpowering. Seriously, the Swifts weren’t far off the Sennheiser CX300s, which surprised me.

There’s the additional benefit of being able to take phone calls with the Swifts too.  When a call comes in, the Swifts announce the incoming phone number which is a great feature for when the phone is in the bag or otherwise out of view. Callers generally said that they could hear me clearly but it was obvious that I was hands-free.

Overall, the Mpow Swift headphones are great value. They seem well made, sound great and stay in the ear, even when exercising. At GB£15, they’re not throwaway but you aren’t going cry too much if you damage or lose them during sport. Recommended if you are looking for Bluetooth sport headphones.

Thanks to Mpow and Patuoxun for the review Swift Bluetooth 4.0 wireless sport headphones.

 


Plantronics Calisto 620 Speakerphone Review



Plantronics Logo

On review here is the Plantronics Calisto 620 UC wireless Bluetooth speakerphone. It’s designed to pair with a smartphone or tablet for impromptu teleconferences and as the UC (Unified Communications) variant, the Calisto comes with a pre-paired USB Bluetooth transceiver, working well with IP-based telephony such as Microsoft’s Lync or Skype for Business.

In my experience, speakerphones fall into two categories; those that are normal phones with a speakerphone capability and those that are dedicated speakerphones and typically have no handset. The former usually sound rubbish with the feature added to tick a box, whereas the latter can provide clear communication into a meeting. Let’s take a look and see if the Calisto 620 also provides that much needed clear communication.

With the unboxing video out of the way, how well does the Calisto work in practice? It’s certainly very easy to use. Once paired with a smartphone, it can be treated as simple Bluetooth headset. The 620 doesn’t have voice dialling or voice commands, so calls have to be placed via the smartphone. I don’t see this as an issue given the expected usage of the Calisto 620 within an office environment. Incoming calls can be answered by pressing the call button on the unit.

Using the 620 with IP telephony was similarly easy. The pre-paired Bluetooth transceiver plugs into a spare USB port on the PC and the connection to the 620 is established automatically. For incoming calls, press the call button to take the call; for outbound calls, select the Calisto as the audio device in Lync and dial via the softphone.

The Calisto 620 supports A2DP meaning that music or video soundtrack can played through the speaker. Ok, it’s not hi-fi, but it’s a massive improvement on most smartphone speakers. The volume isn’t going to fill a lecture theatre but for a conference room or office, it’s perfectly adequate.

With regard to audio quality, it’s surprisingly good on both sides of the call. According to the Plantronics specification, the Calisto has “Bi-directional microphones (that) activate in the direction of speaker’s voice” and “Full duplex audio with 360° room coverage”. What that means is that 620 can pick out whoever is talking wherever they are in the room…

One of the biggest benefits is simply that the Calisto 620 is battery powered and can be located wherever is most convenient. Cabled (speaker)phones are still restricted to the length of the cord. Battery life is rated at seven hours talk time which I think is accurate as I got a working day of music out of the 620, with a few breaks here and there.

In summary, the Plantronics Calisto 620 wireless speakerphone is an ideal addition to the office arsenal of technology. Whether paired to a smartphone or IP telephony, the 620 provides portable voice-conferencing for small groups which can be up and running in seconds. At around GB£80, it’s competitively priced against its rivals, many of which don’t have the seamless integration with Microsoft Lync or other IP telephony systems.

Thanks to Plantronics for supplying the review Calisto 620 speakerphone. Feedback welcome from GNC readers on the unboxing video.