We have been hearing about the wonderful potential of Bluetooth for a very long time. The success of the short range radio technology in mobile phone and automobile space has proved that if made simple, and sold at low enough prices, consumers will buy Bluetooth enabled devices. However, the technology has not been as big a hit in say desktop accessories or other peripherals because its price points don’t sync up with the cheap PC movement. However, I believe that the next big area of growth for bluetooth is going to be multimedia headsets. Back in November, In-Stat analyst Joyce Putscher worried about the high ticket price of bluetooth headphones. At that time prices were tipping around $250 a piece. But that issue might be put to rest, thanks to low cost but high quality offerings from Motorola and Toshiba, amongst others. Samsung is working on one as well, and thanks to a low cost chipset from Broadcom, bluetooth headphones could be everywhere soon.
Folks from Motorola stopped by at Business 2.0 offices and showed off a behind-the-ear-model, which is likely to go on sale in August 2005. It works not only with its mobile phones, but also with music devices and laptop computers that have version Bluetooth 1.2. I got a chance to play with it today and was suitably impressed. The embedded microphone to conduct phone conversations, the ability to auto mute and solid sound quality for around-or-shade-over-a-hundred bucks. It can play back music for 10 hours and can be used with a phone for about 12 hours. It has 100 hours of stand-by power! The best part is a little USB jack to charge it up from your PC and also a little connector port to turn this into a wired headphone/microphone combo. I did not care much for the super padding, but the concept clearly worked for me. Now only if iPod had bluetooth built in.
Toshiba is now selling a bluetooth headphone-only unit for $90, and it is clean, elegant and simple to use. Again it works with computers/PDAs that have the latest bluetooth 1.2 version that can support streaming audio. I got a chance to play with this, and it paired with Tiger-charged Powerbook in less than a minute and I was enjoying music being played back from my iTunes collection. I liked it enough, to think about using it all the time. I found that the bass was too heavy at times, but that can be tweaked. Now this is not a device for audiophiles, but it does have a certain wireless appeal. The company claims 8 hours of music playback, but I managed to get around 5 hours. Regardless, this needs a special USB adapter from Toshiba if you don’t have a new computer, and you need to upgrade the bluetooth software. (But that’s a problem for WinXP users, not for me!)