The modest Bluetooth standard never tried to be as sexy as Wi-Fi. At just a fraction of the speed (a couple megabits per second), it’s wholly inadequate for connecting laptops to the Web.
What it’s really good at, though, is quickly and simply pairing devices together. Mice and keyboards can interact wirelessly with a computer, and the Bluetooth headset for mobile phones are so intimately tied to the standard that a lot of people just refer to them as “Bluetooths” themselves.
Especially with the lack of USB ports on phones and tablets, Bluetooth can be used as a connectivity technology for a lot more than dorky ear accessories and basic input devices. Like what, you ask?
Heart Rate Monitors: Since every smartphone owner is also a fitness nut, you all need to monitor your heart rates during your intense workouts. There’s the Wahoo Blue HR and Scosche MyTrek for iPhone; Sports Tracker for Android and Symbian; and the Zephyr HxM for Android and BlackBerry. (Bluetooth is fairly universal, but the apps that go with them are not.) Fine-tune your exercise routine for optimum weight loss, endurance building or whatever goal you have. They all retail for around $80.
Speakers: Headsets are just really tiny speakers with microphones attached, so powered speakers to play your music are a cinch for Bluetooth. Audio quality is pristine because it’s a digital connection; the only limitation is the quality of the original audio. You have tons of choices, from battery-powered models in the $30 range to brand-name and boutique systems costing hundreds of dollars. Like any speakers, small unfortunately often means lackluster sound, so you’ll have to choose a balance between portability and fidelity. On the plus side, Bluetooth speakers don’t care what operating system or device you have, as long as it streams audio over an A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) connection, which any modern Bluetooth device is capable of.
Game Controllers: Tapping and swiping is fine, but some games really play better with physical buttons. The best controllers are made to hold your phone too, such as the iControlPad for iOS and Android or the iCade Mobile for iPhone or iPod Touch. They do cost around $70, so they’re for serious mobile gamers.
Grill Thermometers: There’s really only one of these, the iGrill. It sits next to your grill and you jab a temperature probe into your meat so you get real-time thermal readouts while it’s cooking. There’s a display right on the $80 device, but the iPhone app (sorry, no Android love) also gives you tips on what temperature your food should be to be safe and enjoyable. It claims to operate up to 200 feet away, so you can … wander off, I guess? Is that OK, just letting your grill burn with no supervision?
Ball-Shaped Remote-Controlled Thingy: There’s this toy/robot called Sphero, and you control it with your smartphone. It bobbles around and can change color, even follow preset programs that you create. There’s a number of different “games” you can download (all of them for iOS, most of them for Android), but even the company itself seems to acknowledge that the best use for the thing is freaking out pets. Is that worth $129? You be the judge.
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