Bluetooth October 9, 2015

AAPL: 112.12

2.62
Stock Chart

Changes to Apple’s published tech specs for various products are rare, but when they happen, they’re typically interesting — and under-the-radar. At some point following the September 9th announcement of the 2015 iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPad Pro and iPad mini 4, Apple quietly modified the tech specs and comparison pages for 2014’s iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPad Air 2 to bump them all from Bluetooth 4.0 to Bluetooth 4.2, the latest version of the increasingly popular wireless standard. While the sixth-generation iPod touch shipped with Bluetooth 4.1, the original iPad Air, iPad mini 2, and iPhone 5s all remain on Bluetooth 4.0.

Bluetooth 4.2 notably promises up to 2.5x faster speeds and up to 10x greater data capacity over its predecessor, as well as improving privacy, security, and power efficiency. Apple is expected to release a new keyboard, Magic Mouse 2, and Magic Trackpad 2 featuring Bluetooth 4.2 technology…

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Bluetooth October 8, 2015

AAPL: 109.50

-1.28
Stock Chart

Bowers & Wilkins, maker of the iconic Zeppelin speaker and its AirPlay sequel Zeppelin Air, today announced an upgraded model with even more horsepower and features: Zeppelin Wireless ($700). The original $600 Zeppelin redefined “high-end iPod speakers” at a time when Bose and Klipsch had established a $300 to $400 price ceiling, successfully upping the ante in both sound quality and industrial design.

Zeppelin Wireless retains B&W’s classic elongated football shape and five-speaker concept, but now relies entirely on wireless streaming for audio, boasting Bluetooth aptX, AirPlay, and Spotify Connect support. Backed by 150 Watts of amplifier power, a new twice-as-powerful digital signal processor upsamples all inputs to 24-bit/192kHz resolution, promising to deliver greater accuracy, lower noise, and enhanced dynamic range through an audiophile-quality DAC. The speakers and enclosure have been upgraded, as well…

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Bluetooth September 15, 2015

AAPL: 116.28

0.97
Stock Chart

I’ve been interested in iBeacons — proximity-based wireless transmitters — ever since they were first announced by Apple alongside iOS 7 at WWDC in 2013. The idea of walking into a store, restaurant, or other public space and receiving (opt-in) wireless notifications based on proximity to a Bluetooth sensor struck me as a potentially compelling next step forward for both retailers and smartphone users. Even more exciting was the opportunity to receive incentives, such as coupons or free apps, just for being in proximity to the store. iBeacons have been added to Apple Stores, Macy’s, MLB baseball parks, and even bars, offering giveaways of free apps and magazines, as well as everything from locations of products to seating directions.

In a twist, iBeacons aren’t being sold directly by Apple. The name is being used across a variety of third-party products that meet an Apple specification, and sold by different companies throughout the world. When I heard that a European developer named Beaconic was dropping its prices on iBeacons to levels any small retailer could afford — around $107 for two “Power” beacons or $141 for four “Retail” beacons, each with an unlimited software license — I reached out to the company so I could see what the retailer and customer experience was like. Here’s what I learned…

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9to5toys 

One of my absolute favorite Bluetooth speakers got a huge update today. The UE Boom 2 is an upgraded version of the iconic portable Bluetooth speaker from Logitech’s Ultimate Ears division. Originally released in 2013, the Boom set a new standard for Portable Bluetooth speakers with its “cupholder friendly” and colorful design, great acoustics, and iOS/Android apps.

In recent months UE has released a much bigger, more expensive MegaBoom and a much smaller, cheaper UE Roll. Both are waterproof and extremely rugged and if you’d had to have guessed, you’d be right in assuming the Boom would get these same features.

And it has. IPX 7 waterproofing means you can not only take it with you into the shower but you can drop the Boom 2 in the pool or bathtub without damage. It is also more powerful with a 100-foot wireless range, 15 hour battery life, and 25% louder and better sound than its predecessor. The UE Boom 2 also now includes a new tap control that allows you to start, pause and skip songs, without needing to have your phone in-hand.

I’ve been using the UE Boom 2 for the past week and I think this speaker is a big deal… expand full story

Bluetooth August 31, 2015

AAPL: 112.76

-0.53
Stock Chart

New Apple TV will look similar, but thicker (image via Michael Steeber)

Although iOS devices and the App Store have transformed the handheld gaming market, the first three Apple TV generations did not attempt to challenge Microsoft’s XboxNintendo’s Wii, or Sony’s PlayStation game consoles for complete control of living room TVs. According to sources with knowledge of the product, the fourth-generation Apple TV will actively compete for TV gamers with updated hardware, software, and peripherals that will debut at Apple’s September 9 event in San Francisco.

One of the next Apple TV’s tentpole features will be near-universal Siri control, a feature hinted at in Apple’s invitation to the event. But the other will be deep support for gaming, representing Apple’s largest-ever effort to lure players from traditional consoles. In addition to the convenience of downloading games directly from the Apple TV’s built-in App Store, and controlling many of them via a new bundled remote control, Apple will also support more complex, console-style Bluetooth game controllers with the pressure-sensitive buttons and joysticks previously introduced for iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches…

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Bluetooth August 26, 2015

AAPL: 109.69

5.95
Stock Chart

I love AirPlay. It’s simple and elegant. It also means that my elderly but much-loved B&O Ouverture hifi system (with BeoLab 6000 speakers) – which is actually so old that it has a cassette deck – needed only a low-cost WiFi audio receiver to allow it to wirelessly stream music from my MacBook Pro. One $40 add-on and a 20-year-old hifi became bang up to date in its capabilities.

With my particular setup, AirPlay does exactly what we expect of Apple products: It Just Works. I open iTunes, select ‘B&O’ from the speaker output menu, and anything I play in iTunes – whether from my own music library or streamed from Apple Music – plays through the hifi, while system sounds continue to play through the Mac speakers. My partner can stream her own music from her iPad or iPhone just as readily.

I’d previously tried a Bluetooth audio receiver, and the difference between that and AirPlay is night and day. No pairing. No worries about distance. No interference when someone walks between the Mac and hifi. No system sounds emerging at deafening volumes though my hifi speakers.

But despite my own happy experience of it, AirPlay is not without its problems …  expand full story

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