October 9, 2016

421 words 2 mins read

Bluetooth is terrible in the real world

Bluetooth is amazingly convenient; Bluetooth is frustrating. Bluetooth is extremely useful; Bluetooth doesn’t work. I could go on like this for quite a spell, but I think everyone gets the idea. For every wonderful thing that Bluetooth gives us, there are just as many downsides. Not that there is any expectation of perfection, but it surprises me how pervasive Bluetooth has become even though it has so many flaws.

Let’s take this mornings example. One of the “great” features of Bluetooth is the ability to pair multiple host devices (phones and computers) to a single Bluetooth audio player. In my home it is a Jawbone Big Jambox in the Bathroom which my girlfriend loves to use to listen to podcasts like Serial. Once in a while I like to turn on TWIT for the latest in tech commentary. I start playing my podcast and life is great, until about 5 seconds later when my girlfriend (in the living room) gets a text. Since her phone is paired to the Jambox, my show stops playing. Since I was in the shower, that was it for my show.

Then let’s talk about range. Since I occupy a modest apartment in San Francisco, a phone in the living room pinging the Jambox in the bathroom isn’t an amazing feat. However, its by no means a trivial accomplishment either. Normally this sort of range would be a wonderful thing… except that seems to be the exception to the rule. Everyday I listen to music or podcasts on my way to/from work on my Anker Soundbuds. If I put my phone in my pants pocket, it’s almost guaranteed I’ll spend as much time listening to silence, as my audio of choice. So I use the breast pocket in my vest which works mostly. Note I say “mostly”: sometimes it’ll still cut out even though there isn’t morethan 8” between my phone and the earbuds. Maybe it’s because they are “cheap” Bluetooth earbuds, but I spoke with a coworker who regularly uses fancy Bluetooth headphones and he complains about random drops outs as well.

Maybe it’s just bad luck, maybe it’s just me. However I’ve found most people suffer from a plague of Bluetooth issues. They love it, but they also have to fight with it. This is, of course, not even getting into the contentious issue of audio quality. For a technology so widespread, it seems to be as much pain as its free-er of wires. Maybe it’s time to either fix it, or replace it.