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Bluetooth… what is it good for?

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My experience with Bluetooth up until now has left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand I have always been quite excited by the promise of Bluetooth. On the other hand, I have had very different experiences with the two Bluetooth implementations I’ve experienced. Two experiences, 180 degrees apart:

  • I got a Jabra FreeSpeak for my Nokia 6310i. It was horrible. Bad reception, lost bindings between it and the phone, random functionality from the buttons on the unit. Generally a case of suffering as an “early adopter” (‘tho as a rampant consumer I am a bit disappointed how long it takes until one isn’t an “early adopter” for things like Bluetooth).
  • My Apple Powerbook 12″ comes with built-in Bluetooth, but it doesn’t (currently) support wireless headsets (which is sort of too bad, as that would make for a pretty compelling VOIP solution, assuming the affordable headsets didn’t suck, which they do, but I digress). I figured that Bluetooth was just another cutesy Apple feature. I was wrong. The combination of Bluetooth and Rendezvous mean that if I want to work with Scott at Starbucks in Hydra, there’s almost no setup. When I’m at work and want to send a configuration file over to one of my Powerbook using brethren I simply use Bluetooth File Exchange (this is both much faster than mounting a share and never mounting network drives avoids the dreaded Interruption of Windows (and in my experience other Macs) Connection Can Cause Computer to Stop Responding problem).
  • Basically it comes down to this. The FreeSpeak promised to make my cell phone more usable, but sacrificed much of the user-experience while not materially delivering on the wireless headset promise. My Powerbook (on the other hand) uses Bluetooth as an enabling technology without sacrificing anything from a usability perspective. Apple continues to impress me with it’s ability to integrate “new” technologies such that they improve the overall experience without making you constantly aware than you’re doing something technically complicated.

    I am looking forward to two developments on the Bluetooth front:

  • 1) The new Treo 600 will support an SD slot (which in turn is supposed to support the SDIO protocol). This means that (for a price) it will also support Bluetooth headsets. I will probably invest in one of the new generation of Bluetooth headsets and see if/how they’ve improved.
  • 2) The new Prius will (supposedly) support Bluetooth in several ways. Most interesting (to me) in the idea that the “key” is simply a Bluetooth transmitter that you carry with you. When you walk up to the car it unlocks, you press the Start button, you drive away. That would be very cool! In addition, the car is supposed to be able to bond with your Bluetooth cell phone. Properly implemented, this could also be (almost as) cool!
  • Written by jthurber

    August 4th, 2003 at 11:40 am

    Posted in review-lite