Wireless Devices Deserve Wireless SpeakersSeptember 6, 2012 By John R. Quain
No one wants to be tied down when they’re using a smart phone or tablet, even when they’re playing music on it. But there’s no reason for your customers to worry, thanks to a growing roster of wireless speakers on the market that will help them cut the cables.
Ranging from low-end $30 portable speakers to $800 designs, there’s a model to suit nearly every type of shopper. Less expensive models are generally aimed at listeners who don’t want to use headphones and simply want a little more volume out of their iPads or mobile phones. But for those who want better sound, wireless models in the $200 to $500 range represent the sweet spot in sales. There are portable models for travelers, sleek tabletop models for the living room, and multifunction models aimed at computer users.
Unfortunately, there is no de facto wireless standard yet for speakers. Sales associates need to be able to explain the differences between Bluetooth, AirPlay and other wireless options. There are least four different ways to make the wireless connection:
Bluetooth: It has the advantage of being nearly universal on smartphones, making it easy for nearly any handset to connect or pair to a speaker without requiring a Wi-Fi network. Early versions of the streaming standard suffered from limited sound quality due to poor digital compression. The latest Bluetooth models, however, have seen much improvement in this area.
Airplay: Apple’s proprietary streaming media format means wireless audio sources are limited to Apple products, such as an iPad or iPhone. It also requires a Wi-Fi network; it can’t be used in most outdoor settings. But AirPlay’s strength is that it allows music to be beamed in an uncompressed stream, offering potentially better sound quality than Bluetooth.
Wi-Fi: Some speakers can be set up to play music from another device using formats like DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) over a common Wi-Fi network. The audio quality can be as good as anything over AirPlay, but making the initial wireless connection can be an arduous, confusing process.
HTC Connect: Intended to compete with Apple’s AirPlay in terms of sound quality and ease of setup, HTC Connect is the newest streaming media standard. It only works with a few models of HTC phones at this time and only one wireless speaker line from Pioneer. But since the company has become a major player in the smartphone arena, it may find a growing number of followers later this year.