Tech Talk: The beauty of Bluetooth

GETTING a bigger sound from your iPhone or iPod is easy: you just plug it into one of the hundreds of docking pods available. Not only do they fill the room with music; they charge your device while they’re at it.

These Pioneer Bluetooth speakers can turn your phone into a home hi-fi
These Pioneer Bluetooth speakers can turn your phone into a home hi-fi

This is possible because iPhones are made only by Apple, and they all conform to the same one-size-fits-all specification, with a universal docking connector on the bottom. True, the latest iPhone 5 has a different connector, but an adapter is readily available.

But other phones and MP3 players come in different shapes and sizes with a variety of ports and sockets on the left or right side, or on the bottom. That’s why there’s no range of non-Apple docking stations on the market.

So if you want to connect your Android, Windows or Blackberry device to an external speaker you usually have to run a cable from one to the other. It’s a solution that’s as inelegant as it is impractical, since it’s a toss-up which will fade out first – the music or your battery.

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    But there is a better solution. Bluetooth can stream music wirelessly from your device to a suitably-equipped speaker elsewhere in the room. You can continue to carry your phone in your pocket or pop it on the table, plugged into its charger.

    And depending on the equipment you choose, you can control the music from either the phone or the speaker. Connecting the two is just a matter of going into your phone’s Bluetooth menu and letting it “find” the signal emitted by the speaker. It should remember it for next time.

    Portable Bluetooth speakers can be had for as little as £12 at Argos, but of course you get what you pay for.

    Pioneer is among those offering something closer to a true hi-fi experience, with a couple of units comprising high-end loudspeakers and, in one case, a wooden cabinet for enhanced resonance. Prices are £70 or £100 for a unit that also has an iPod dock.

    Further up the audiophiles’ table, Bose has a range of battery and mains Bluetooth speakers which may well cost more than your phone. That sounds like a big investment until you consider that one of these units could easily replace your home hi-fi, if your music collection is digital. What’s more, your phone-and-speaker combination can stream high quality music and radio over the internet, via services like Spotify and YouTube.

    All of which means that even if your phone isn’t an Apple, it could now render your conventional music system something of a lemon.