Next year’s must have feature in personal audio is set to be a Bluetooth wireless headset. With Bluetooth users will be able to listen to music even if their player is in their pocket or several feet away in a bag.
The race is on to become the first manufacturer to make a product that includes Bluetooth and our money is on either Philips or Creative Labs. Philips’s next version of its HD1000 MP3 jukebox which will go on sale in late summer 2004 is certain to include Bluetooth as is its debut personal video player due at around the same time.
Creative is rumoured to have been experimenting with a technology from a company called Infinite Range, and may beat Philips to the market.
However, the first MP3 jukebox to use Bluetooth is likely to be our old friend the iPod.
iPod vendor XtremeMac is promising to deliver a Bluetooth add-on early next year that uses Infinite Range’s technology and circuit boards. We have no idea on price, or whether the gadget will be available in the UK.
While Bluetooth is a killer feature for personal audio players there are several key considerations for manufacturers. Firstly the quality of the performance. The only Bluetooth headset for music we have listened to so far was from French company Naf Naf Electronique, who paraded its Bluetooth personal audio CD player at the IFA show in Berlin in August.
While the sound quality wasn’t bad, the connection kept dropping, and this was with the CD player and headset virtually sitting on top of each other.
The other major deal is price. MP3 hard disk based jukeboxes are now dropping to mass market prices. The Philips HDD100 can be picked up now for £250 on Amazon – £100 cheaper than its initial launch price. Ministry of Sound and I-Clef’s jukeboxes are even cheaper. Adding Bluetooth will certai9nyl add around n£100 to the price. In a very competitive market with a hero product (the iPod) that seems almost untouchable Philips, Creative and anyone else might end up pricing themselves out of the market.
Lastly we are intrigued to see what the Bluetooth headsets will look like. It will certainly mean the end of in ear phones which is good as they sound awful, but bad because a Bluetooth headset will take up more space ion your jacket/pocket.
Perhaps Apple has taken the best route by enabling a third party to develop an add-on product.
Whatever we really can’t wait to get our hands on a headset.