Posted in Reviews, tagged AirPlay, apple, Bluetooth, ios, ipad, iphone, itunes, music, SoundWave, Stitcher Radio, Wireless on July 12, 2012 |
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As you may have surmised by my previous posts, I love the multimedia that my iOS devices provide access to. Be it content synced from iTunes or streaming from various sources, whether I’m at work or lounging about the house I tend to have some form of media playing. While wired or Bluetooth headphones work best when jogging or mowing the lawn, I would rather have my ears free when possible (especially when using my iPad). The single speaker built into the iPad produces acceptable sound for video, but it’s not optimal for music. The iPhone’s speaker may be audible, but it’s obvious that it just wasn’t designed for much more than providing audio for handsfree phone conversations. So what’s a music lover to do when they’d like to enjoy their tunes sans the white earbuds?
Thanks to Apple’s AirPlay, there are plenty of options. You can bounce your audio to any of a number of AirPlay-compatible devices, from a high-end boom box like the Jawbone Jambox to simple speakers attached to an AirPort Extreme. Sadly, those that either can’t afford the pricey audiophile-esque Jambox or need something more portable than the speaker/AirPort Extreme combination don’t have nearly as many options.
My friends at MobileFun.co.UK have one for you to consider- the SoundWave. This diminutive accessory doesn’t look like much; the device is small enough to fit into a palm and looks more like an art-deco paperweight than a multimedia accessory. To be honest, I didn’t expect much from it when I opened the package. I’ve used wired mini speakers for the iPhone and iPad before and have been uniformly underwhelmed by the volume and sound quality. Even when powered by an internal battery these inexpensive options are rarely better than the iOS device’s internal speaker.
The SoundWave quickly proved my initial impression to be wrong. It feels sturdy- the unit is heavier than it looks, and perches on nonskid feet that hold it quite steady. The SoundWave pairs with your device via Bluetooth; the sync process took all of two minutes (including the time spent perusing the instruction booklet). Just hold down the multifunction button for a few seconds, then select the SoundWave on your device’s Bluetooth menu.
I tested the SoundWave on a fairly wide selection of sources and media, and was somewhat taken aback by how good the sound quality was. Bear in mind, it’s not going to unseat something like the Jawbone Jambox in either volume or fidelity, but the SoundWave actually has some audio presence. Midrange was well represented without being muddy, the high range was crisp and clear, and bass reproduction was respectable. While it is a mono speaker, it easily filled my work office with music, be it instrumental, blues rock, rap, or pop. It handled both internal content and streaming from Pandora and Stitcher Radio equally. The Bluetooth connection to my iPad was also strong; the sound was steady over 20 feet away and only started to sputter when a wall came between the iPad and unit.
The SoundWave speaker has even more functionality when paired with an iPhone. The multifunction button can be used along with an internal microphone making the unit a speakerphone: press once to answer a call and once again to end. Coupled with the SoundWave’s small footprint it makes for an excellent desktop accessory when space is at a premium.
The device’s internal battery is rated for about three hours of use, and is recharged via an included miniUSB cable. For those that need a small, inexpensive, and portable means of enjoying audio from their iOS device (or other Bluetooth-enabled device) you can’t go wrong with the SoundWave. In just an afternoon’s worth of testing it’s already earned a place beside my iPad at work.
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Posted in Advice, News, tagged app store, apple, ios, ipad, iphone, ipod, iTune, itunes, Podcast, Stitcher Radio on June 30, 2012 |
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One of the features I’ve enjoyed the most from the combination of iOS and the iTunes store has been their huge library of podcasts. No matter what your interests may be, there’s likely more than one podcast out there covering it. Entertaining, educational, informative; podcasts are an unheralded gem of iTunes- and best of all, the content is free (so far).
Apple made a strategic error in their recent versions of iOS, muddying one of their stated strategic missions of providing the best possible user experience. The iPod app that once encompassed all media on the iPhone was split to mimic the iPad into Music and Video apps. While the change was logical, the deployment of the Music app made enjoyment of podcasts more arduous. To get to your content you had to open the Music app, then tap the ellipse icon to access them as podcasts were no longer listed as a default selection. Drilling down through an app to find what you’d like to listen to hardly embodies the ‘magical’ experience iOS devices were touted to provide. I eventually turned to Stitcher Radio, a third party app that allows streaming access to your subscribed apps as well as other audio content and listening suggestions. While Stitcher is a very good app, it hasn’t been exactly what I was looking for. Power is typically inversely proportional to the need for interaction, and many times I just want to listen to my subscribed podcasts without having to pick specific episodes from a favorites lineup (not to mention the other functionality of Stitcher that I simply wasn’t taking advantage of).
Apple recently revealed that the next version of iOS would correct their oversight by providing a standalone Podcast app. This welcome move was further compounded by the announcement that the release of the Podcast app was moved up, and was to be available as of this June 26th. I quickly installed the app when I read the news, and have had a few days of testing to evaluate it. I’m happy to say that Apple exceeded my expectations as the new Podcast app has more than corrected the clumsy way of provides accessing to your synced podcasts.
The new standalone Podcast app includes streamlined access to iTune‘s podcast section, allowing easy browsing of selections tailored to iOS’ touch interface. Syncing is no longer the only way to enjoy content- streaming is now supported for quick access to new episodes as you find them. The app also provides bilateral sync support with your Mac or PC; meaning that as you listen to content your episodes will be automatically ‘bookmarked’ on your computer for seamless transition between platforms. Both audio and video podcasts are featured, broken down into a wide range of categories displayed in a horizontal Coverflow-like manner. Browsing within a category is elegantly done by just scrolling the podcast tiles vertically. A new Top Stations feature is provided to suggest new podcasts you may enjoy.
I’ve found that I will rely on my podcast subscriptions more than my music collection when commuting to and from work or on longer trips. They make a great break from Pandora when my playlist has become a bit repetitive as well. While Stitcher is still installed on both my iPad and iPhone, I’ve been happily using the new Podcast app instead the past few days. If haven’t explored what the iTunes Podcast library has to offer I urge you to give it a look. If you have, check out the new app- I think you’ll be glad you did.
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