When Apple decided it was time to move away from the 3.5mm audio jack all hell seemed to have broken loose. Totally disregarding the fact that Motorola had preceded Apple and announced the Motorola X smartphone would not have this outdated port the kiddies threw their tantrums and stomped their feet, threw their teddy on the floor, followed by throwing themselves on the floor and screaming and flailing about.
Protagonists of the “no need for the 3.5mm port” have all pointed out that they can charge their phones and listen to music etc using a bluetooth headset. The response “the batteries within them don’t last long enough” or the “quality of the audio is not good enough”or “it cuts in and out”. Let’s take a look at these arguments.
“The Batteries in Bluetooth Headsets don’t last long enough”
Sure, if you use older versions of Bluetooth the batteries don’t very long, when I used a Bluetooth stereo headset back in 2009, the experience was awful. Playback quality was hit and miss, it cut out more than it played back! Trouble is if you are buying a set of bluetooth earphones if you are buying something based on Bluetooth 2.0 then you are your own worst enemy.
I don’t spend much on Bluetooth headsets that I use everyday. The current pair I have I specifically used them continuously from a full charge to the point that it warned that the battery was low, it warns when battery falls below 30%, so it was not a dead battery and I stopped when it made that first warning.
I used the headset from 3.45am and the warning came at about 11.25am, that was with continuous listening of an audio book. This is not an expensive headset, $33 from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B014DJE306/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 which was fairly inexpensive. They use Bluetooth 4.1. I charged for about 20-25 minutes from a battery back and then resumed for another 3 hours before I left the venue I was at and drove home, using Bluetooth to connect to my vehicle.
I’m going to test out a cheaper set and see how they do, my results may just be due to the particular earphone set and maybe not typical but they are small, very light and comfortable to wear and water resistant which means their fine for workouts of hiking.
[update Sept 16 2016] I planned to look at another ‘low end’ Bluetooth earphone solution and purchased a pair of fairly economic, half price on eBay at just $14.99, the Bluedio Bluetooth Headset (http://www.ebay.com/itm/171947923022 though this link may change if the seller runs low, we all know how eBay works) is fairly easy to set up, a little awkward putting on the assists to help hold them in your ears but once you get used to how they should be they become less noticeable and ultimately easier to wear if you are wearing sunglasses or spectacles.
I put my phone down at one end of my property playing music and walked until it started to cut out, it was far in excess of the 10 meter range of bluetooth. I walked around continuing to listen with the phone in my pocket, you normally get the phone cutting out at least once or twice under normal use simply because you block the signal. Not a problem, no cut out.
The only issue that I had was that the flexible cord between the two earbuds tend to send the movement up the earbud and you can ear the very slight noise as the earpiece moves very very slightly.
“The Quality of the Audio is not good enough”
I compared listening to bluetooth audio and through a headphone jack direct, sound quality was of no difference. It’s not like you are listening to high bit rate music and if you are listening to vocal audio the quality is indistinguishable between connected to a 3mm jack and through Bluetooth 4.1
Range is adequate, I can work in the kitchen while the phone is sitting in the next room and not have a problem with losing signal.
I suppose there are people out there that would notice. I don’t and others that have heard music playing over bluetooth noticed enough of a difference to say anything.
In fact in my vehicle I can connect to the sound system through a lightning port (well lightning to 36pin adapter) and there is not enough of a difference in the sound quality to be noticeable between it and bluetooth.
[Updated] The sound quality on the economical Bluedio earpods is as good as a wired headset, there is of course that vibration noise from movement but it is barely noticeable and for those that listen to loud music I doubt they would notice it, I only noticed it with an audio book. In fact I compared the quality with a $150 wired over the ear headphone and I preferre the bluetooth sound quality over the more expensive headset.
“It cuts in and out”
Well that is always going to be an issue with any bluetooth system that relies on a single tiny antenna. If you block the signal between the transmitter and your bluetooth receiver it will cut out, that is an issue with ANY RADIO SYSTEM. We are, as I’ve said before, water filled sacks and any submariner will tell you how difficult it is for a radio signal to travel through water.
During my test yesterday I walked around with the phone in my pocket. It did cut out but only three or four times during the whole time it was being used. It was my fault. The phone when I sat down got covered by my thigh and it blocked the signal. It happens.
[Updated] after testing more than one device, neither were high end devices, one was less than $40 while the best performing was only $15, I found that the slightly more expensive one only cut out a couple of times while the dirt cheap bluetooth 4.1 headset for $15 never cut out at all and has remarkably good range exceeding far more expensive hardware. I highly recommend the Bluedio ones, great for those wishing to try. I actually bought a second set.
Bluetooth sucks the battery life
Not true, when testing my iPhone 6S Plus was used with Bluetooth audio solely and the battery drain was barely noticeable, in fact including the Audible App used while testing it the battery life was fine. In fact after a whole day of use including all those hours of using bluetooth for the audio my phone still had more than half the charge available to it. As I keep pointing out, Bluetooth 4.1 is not the same power hungry monster that the old Bluetooth 2.0 standard was.
I’m sure there are a huge number of
morons journalists whining that have based their opinions on their experiences of 4, 5, 6 or more years ago, in fact I wonder if they have used Bluetooth since BT 2.0 was introduced. Bluetooth 4.1 is a marked improvement on the 2.0 standard and quality and 5.0 will give better performance and range when it is introduced and devices start to become available.
Of course they can use the supplied adapter and buy another adapter but for me, I’ll stick to using bluetooth, in fact, while they’re doing roadworks outside I am watching an Apple TV and using a bluetooth headset to listen and I can hear noises that through the TV’s own audio I cannot make out even with the sound set to high on the TV.
I guess I am in the Pro camp and I’ll stand with both Motorola and Apple and say that it’s time that the 3.5mm headphone jack and wired headphones became another piece of history that kids will say “What is that for?” while gramp’s sits telling them about the time that you had to have either a long wire connected to your sound system or sit inches away from it instead of being able to move freely around the room.
This piece was updated on September 16th 2016 to reflect further tests of a cheaper bluetooth device so that the experience of using a Bluetooth headset was not limited to using just a $30-$40 price range headset (still a cheap affordable unit) but included one that anyone could afford to purchase and not lose sleep over if it was lost or quit working — in fact cheaper than the Apple earpods).