Bluetooth branches out
Bluetooth is becoming more common in keyboards, in notebooks, in handheld computers, and especially in mobile phones, providing users a wireless way to transmit small amounts of data over short distances. Now, increasingly creative applications for the technology are cropping up. Looking beyond the typical, utilitarian gear, we tried out four intriguing (yet quirky) accessories for Bluetooth phones.
Part MP3 music player and part hands-free phone headset, the compact, very lightweight Sony Ericsson HBM-30 (???) is a cute little gadget that lets you take calls with minimal interruption of your music. It automatically pauses music for an incoming call, and you speak into its built-in microphone (the HBM-30 is meant to be worn around your neck or clipped to your clothes) and listen to the caller through the stereo headphones. While it offers good-quality sound for both music and phone calls, and it paired easily with a test Sony Ericsson Bluetooth phone, we would definitely replace the headphones with a more comfortable set. In addition, the battery chamber cover was extremely difficult to remove. In short: cool concept, lukewarm execution.
With Nokia’s SU-1B Digital Pen (???), we doodled and made handwritten notes in ink on a special notepad and transmitted them from the pen to my Bluetooth phone. We then sent our scribbles from the phone to friends via MMS. As an alternative to typing on a mobile phone keypad, this pen is a handy – though pricey – tool for MMS addicts. The pen can transfer drawings and notes to a PC, too, but only through a USB connection. (You can save your jottings in formats like BMP and JPEG, but you can’t easily convert them to text.)
Want to make a slide show out of your camera phone photos the next time your friends visit? Nokia’s SU-2 Image Viewer (???) lets you display the shots on a TV or projector. Hook this square grey thingamajig to your TV’s input via the built-in cable, beam the pictures wirelessly to the SU-2 from your Bluetooth-enabled phone, and let the photo fest begin. The unit is easy to set up and use, but it displays resolutions only up to 640 by 480 dots per inch; if you have a newer phone that takes higher-resolution photos, you won’t be able to use this device. And 640-by-480dpi photos will look blocky on a TV screen, no matter what. If your phone can send batches of photos, you can create a slide show; Nokia says you also can use sequentially beamed shots.
UWB: Better than Bluetooth?
The Bluetooth standard is now facing competition from a new wireless technology. Called Ultra Wideband (UWB), it promises data-transfer rates up to 480 megabits per second, while most current Bluetooth devices transfer data at up to 721 kilobits per second. Does this mean Bluetooth is long in the tooth? Not necessarily. Bluetooth devices are unlikely to disappear anytime soon, and UWB has its own pitfalls: Its fastest transfer rates work only within 3 feet; there is no single UWB specification; and many countries haven’t approved UWB yet. This is expected to happen before the middle of this year.