isn't Bluetooth soup yet?

I listen to music on my iPhone all the time. I ride a bus about twelve hours a week, much of which is spent with Spotify or iPod or something else keeping my ears entertained. I also use it for phone calls or, more often, voice commanded web searches. I’d been using my iPhone headset for this, but it’s not very durable, and gets tangled up in other stuff.

I also run an online D&D game (well, actually it’s M&M), and we use voice chat. Originally, I wanted to use a headset that had two ⅛” audio jacks, but then I learned that the input port on my old laptop was line in, not microphone in. I bought a USB audio widget so I could plug the headset into that, and that into my laptop. It didn’t work very well. I ended up using the laptop’s built-in microphone. Unfortunately, Mumble never seemed able to cope if I used a mic that could hear the speaker, so I ended up wearing headphones, too. Oh, and because I was using the laptop’s internal mic, I couldn’t close the lid and dock the laptop, because it would close off the microphone.

I decided I’d get one headset for all occasions. My requirements were:

  • has to be comfortable and small enough to wear while walking around
  • can’t look completely ridiculous if I’m just listening to music on a walk
  • needs controls like those on the iPhone headphones for play, pause, answer, etc.

I didn’t care whether it was wired or wireless, but I ended up finding a pretty decent bluetooth headset, the LG Tone HBS-700. They look weird, but they’re really comfortable and the controls work well and the battery lasts long enough and so on.

Re: headset

Sometimes they cut out for a fraction of a second. It’s rare, and I don’t care, because sometimes my wired headset would pop loose. Whatever.

I’ve used them to make phone calls and I’ve used them to listen to music and I’ve used them to interact with Siri. They work well. I’ve used them with Mumble for running my game, and that worked pretty well, too.

The problem is that switching whether they talk to my computer or my laptop is a complete pain. I thought I’d be able to just tell my laptop, “you take over now,” and it would tell my headset to switch. Not so. Instead, it seems that once the device has paired to one device, I have to tell that device to stop using it first. This is especially annoying on the iPhone, where I have to dig through several layers of menu to get to the Bluetooth menu… and where I can’t pick “disconnect,” but must instead “forget” the device, meaning I’ll have to re-pair later.

Getting the headset to work properly with the laptop is a pain, too. I have to connect via the Bluetooth menu, then muddle with stuff in preferences, then sometimes play some actual audio to force the connection to really happen. Argh!

If there was a wire jack on my headset, I would use it to connect to my laptop just to sort out all this nonsense. Last time we had our game, I ended up using my old headphones and the laptop’s mic because this was turning into such a hassle. When is Bluetooth going to be easy enough to use one accessory with two devices?

I’d love to consider replacements for the Bluetooth headset (even though I really do like it) if I could find a decent headset with a TRRS connector matching my needs, but so far no luck.

Written on August 30, 2012
hardware