Does Apple’s Resistance to BlueTooth Playback Have More to do with Marketing Than Technology?

earpiece 011_Small One of the things I find absolutely frustrating about the iPhone is the lack of a BlueTooth solution to allow for music playback and voice or speech input. I have ranted and raved about that incessantly. I find it hard to believe that a company like Apple can’t come up with a workable solution for this when it has existed on other devices for, well longer than the iPhone has been in existence. I’ve often thought that Apple’s inability to deliver this had something to do with the ridiculous jungle of restrictions placed on them by content providers (that nasty acronym DRM perhaps), but I’m beginning to think something else might be at play.

earpiece 010_Small Last night my wife and my schedules went completely kooky. After the matinee performance of Southern Crossroads at Wayside Theatre she had some business to take care of and I had to drop off some information at a board member’s house. Her plan was to head by the grocery store on the way home but she was worried we would get a late start on dinner. I volunteered to do the grocery shopping. I’m listening to an audio book that I really enjoy and on the trip to the store was piping it into the car. (I wasn’t using a BlueTooth solution for this, but one of iTrip’s plug it in solutions.)   When I got to the store, I wanted to continue listening so I pulled out my earbuds and plugged them in. No big deal right?

Well, as I was strolling the aisles and doing the shopping I saw a number of folks all wearing the same and easily recognizable earbuds indicating that they were listening to something through one of Apple’s players. The thought struck me that perhaps this was by design on Apple’s part. Now, go anywhere and you see quite a few BlueTooth headset solutions just about anywhere these days, but nothing about them indicates whether they wearer is listening to music on an MP3 player or merely wearing it in anticipation of a call on a phone. Of course there are those who despise BlueTooth headsets for their ungainly look.

So, I’m just wondering if Apple (always design and brand conscious) wants to keep us all from enjoying music, audio books, etc over a BlueTooth headset in order to continue to push its image? Every set of white earbuds sends a message.

I remember fondly using a BlueTooth headset on Windows Mobile devices to listen to podcasts while driving, and being able to continue to do so when I’d head into a store or other location. Incoming calls would interrupt what was playing and all would be fine. Too bad, Apple can’t seem to figure this one out. Or maybe they have and they are just being stubborn.

12 Comments

  1. Fred

    03/02/2009 at 11:49 am

    Considering they sell this:
    http://store.apple.com/us/product/MB536LL/A?mco=MTIyNzA
    I’d say it’s a mixture of stubbornness mixed with issues about battery life management.

    Reply

  2. Warner Crocker

    03/02/2009 at 12:36 pm

    That is pretty much regarded as a lousy headset from what I hear, and it still doesn’t allow you to listen to music, podcasts, etc.. as far as I know.

    Reply

  3. Sumocat

    03/02/2009 at 12:44 pm

    I partially agree. The music labels do exercise some control over Apple’s ability to transmit music, as seen by the recent lift on download over 3G. But I think the fact Apple doesn’t offer their own BT stereo headset is the big deal-breaker. Once Apple offers their own, then they’ll lift the restriction.

    Of course, the question then is why haven’t they done it already? Maybe it’s not worthwhile without BT in the majority their iPods. Let’s see what the next generation of iPods bring.

    Reply

  4. Sumocat

    03/02/2009 at 12:50 pm

    Yes, the iPhone BT headset is for phone only, but I like it a lot. I don’t listen to music on headphones much anymore, and when I do, I don’t have much need for that and a phone headset. Sync is automatic. One charger for both iPhone and headset. Audio is clear, but I get mixed reactions on the mic.

    Reply

  5. turn.self.off

    03/02/2009 at 1:06 pm

    indeed, the white wires are part of the brand.

    didnt the police warn people about it making them more of a mugging target back at the peak of ipod craze?

    and it should not be to hard for apple to make a stereo variant of the headset linked to. both jabra and plantronics have made variants that can act as either, and i own the jabra one.

    still, the audiophiles will probably remark that a2dp is worse then wired, no matter the headset used.

    not that those white defaults of apple’s are highly regardard by that part of the population anyways…

    just another reason to stay of the apple juice, i say…

    Reply

  6. Toby

    03/02/2009 at 4:58 pm

    Interesting conspiracy theory, but you may well be correct Warner! Previously they haven’t adopted other technology (or delayed) for spurious reasons e.g. 3G!

    I have never been sold on bluetooth headphones, until I received these babies a few days ago. Great sound inc bass, and the most amazing size. Next generation stuff indeed (just needs a slightly longer battery but can’t complain when they are this tiny)
    Sony Ericsson HBH-IS800 Bluetooth stereo headphones, http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/11/07/review_bluetooth_headphones_sony_ericsson_hbh_is800/

    Reply

  7. Xavier

    03/02/2009 at 5:08 pm

    It’s ridiculous that Apple hasn’t enabled Bluetooth playback yet. I generally only carry one headset with me at a time- either the Jawbone or earbuds w/mic.

    Wish I could go completely wireless.

    Reply

  8. Ben

    03/02/2009 at 6:59 pm

    It took you this long to figure out that little bit of marketing?

    Reply

  9. Benz145

    03/02/2009 at 7:45 pm

    Hmm interesting point. Apple has made the white earbuds a sign of their product. Before the iPod, earbuds were definitely not cool. Apple made them cool. I’d be really mad if they were keeping BT audio support from us because of that factor.

    Reply

  10. HG

    03/02/2009 at 10:18 pm

    I agree that Apple should make the iPhone be able to play any audio through BT. I do this every day using my Blackberry Storm. I play music videos, music, and actually download some podcast using Opera and saving to my storage card and then playing back. The best part is I have a Sony Car Stereo Deck and play all this through the car and sounds great. I’m also able to control Play, Pause, forward, rewind, from the Sony Deck. :)

    Reply

  11. 4DThinker

    03/03/2009 at 9:14 pm

    What I like about Apple is that they leave room for competition. They are resting on their iPod success, and also leaving themselves features they can add one-at-a-time to each new generation of iPhone. You(iPod fanatics) will have to (want to) upgrade each year for that new and better product. If the iPhone or any other Apple product had been perfect the first time out, no one would need the new model each year.

    The 2nd gen iPod Touch got a couple things people wanted, left a couple things for the next model, and one-more-thing: the built-in Nike shoe app/hardware (bluetooth chip). This year I predict they’ll add one more thing users want, and throw in one-more-thing that is unique to Apple

    Reply

  12. Ben2

    03/05/2009 at 4:18 pm

    You’re probably right. I do notice the white ear buds easily. However, whenever I see someone walking around with those in their ears, no matter the color, I always think “oh, there’s another person tuned out to the world around them.”

    Reply

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