Saturday, September 17, 2016

Apple’s new phone calls for earpods - September 16, 2016

Apple’s announcement of the latest iPhone and a new Apple Watch was overshadowed by one feature of the new phone. Or rather, a feature removed from the phone.
Gone is the headphone jack.  Instead, iPhone 7 will come with earpods that connect through the phone’s lightning connector.

Removing the old connector, which provided a hole into the body of the phone, improves the water resistance of the phone. Anyone who has ever dropped a phone into the sink (or worse!)  will appreciate that feature.

What really upsets long time iPhone users though is this renders their huge collection of earbuds, headphones, remote speakers and such harder to use. Apple is including a dongle with the iPhone 7 that permits previous devices to work, but the dongle is an ugly appendage hanging off the phone, likely to break or get lost.  And replacement earbuds from Apple cost $29, the same as the old wired earbuds with the 3.5 mm plug that is now gone.  What is not certain is if third parties can produce earpods with the lightning connector as inexpensively as they did earbuds with the 3.5mm plug.

This brouhaha shows how much phones have become part of an entire ecosystem. The devices we connect to our phones are important to us and often make the phones work better.

Apple announced wireless Airpods to use with the iPhone 7.  While initially unclear about the technology they use, they use Bluetooth technology to send sound to the Airbuds and send sound from its microphone to the iPhone.

They operate for about five hours, and can be recharged inside its case even when the case is not attached to a power source. The case has its own battery in it that can charge the smaller battery in the Airbuds.

That is not a new technology. I have used the Plantronics Voyager Legend for some time. It is a larger device, that is not as discreet as the Airbuds. It too recharges in its case.  I use it primarily for listening to podcasts in the car, and also for taking phone calls.
It works with my PC too, and I’ve found myself wearing it to watch Netflix without disturbing others in the room.

The latest rage in earpieces is those that fit entirely in the ear.  There also earpieces that measure your pulse.  The Jabra Sport Pulse also does VO2 Max tracking. They describe it as “maximum rate of oxygen that your body consumes during exercise, and helps determine your endurance level.”

Earpieces are now more than simple audio accessories. They are body monitors too, measuring pulse, and perhaps in the future body temperature, blood pressure, balance and other measurements.

A podcast I was listening to the other day mentioned a phone, I do not recall which one, that has a listening test built in. Once it understands the range of your hearing, it can modify the sounds it outputs to optimize your listening.

The Millennials may never have to confront the day when they have to begin wearing hearing aids. Instead, they might simply turn on a feature in the earbuds they normally wear to amplify the sounds around them.

More and more, our phone experience is about the peripherals we use with them.  And it’s not only earbuds, but also cars. New cars almost always come with Bluetooth interfaces so you can play music from your phone through the car speakers, as well as make and receive phone calls.

With features like Siri and Google Now, phones can be commanded by voice, letting you more safely use navigation and messaging apps while driving.

My phone has an infrared controller so I can use it as a TV remote control. While most phones do not have that, a Harmony controller can sit by your TV and other devices and receive commands via WiFi from your phone to control your devices.
With home automation your phone can turn on lights, open and close blinds or your garage door, and more. With the Ring video doorbell, you can see the person at your door, and talk with them, even if you are halfway across the planet.

WiFi enabled devices let you see, hear, talk to and even play with your pet while you are away at work.

Current high-end hearing aids can interfere with your phone, letting you control the device, and also feeding phone output to the hearing aid.

If you are only using your phone for calls and texts, you are missing much of its potential.

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