Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Motorola S705 Soundpilot and Getting the Beat out of the Nokia E71

The Problem


Since the Nokia E71 has a 2.5 mm headphone jack instead of the 3.5 mm (1/8") one, I had to figure out a way to hook up proper headphones into it. The E71 came with a set of earbuds that also do hands free, and while not bad, they're what you'd expect to get for free.
I had purchased a 16 GB microSDHC hard to go with the phone, so it now has more than four times the memory of my iPod. My hope was to start using it in lieu of the Apple product for portable music, and save carrying one more device.
In addition to the desire to get more comfortable headphones to go with the Nokia, I wanted to hook it up to my car stereo. It has USB and AUX connectivity; while I could use USB and have the phone appear as a mass storage device, that would prevent me from using playlists or other phone-native features. AUX, once more, runs into the problem of the missing millimeter in the connector.
To add insult to injury, the sleeve the phone comes with doesn't have an opening where the headphone jack is, and adding any of the 2.5 to 3.5 mm adapters would prevent me from putting the phone into its protective little shell.
A lot of the cheap adapters online also seem to have negative feedback, claiming that the phone is finicky with them.

The Solution


It was pretty obvious to me that bluetooth was to be the answer. There are any number of bluetooth headphones out there, for a pretty reasonable price these days. I have friends who use them and are happy with them. For me, however, they were still not what I was looking for. I wanted to listen to the phone while working out, and sweating on headphones that are sophisticated would be bad, not to mention that the necessity of having electronics and batteries built-in adds undesirable heft. There are similarly bluetooth speakerphones, some with FM modulators or cable outputs, which seem to be a pretty slick way of dealing with the car problem.
What I wanted, though, was a little pendant or gizmo that I could plug my headphones into. A little research online reveals that such products exist, from several manufacturers, no less. I chose the Motorola S705 Soundpilot because it seemed to have the best mix of features, size and appearance I could find, and because it could be had for under $30 online.
I have now used the little thing for a few days, and I'm generally happy. Sound quality over bluetooth could be better, but isn't bad enough for me to really notice. I wouldn't plug it into my home stereo or Sennheisers, however. The menu is slow, and there's a bit of lag between operating the controls on the Soundpilot, the phone getting the command, and the audio reflecting the change. Also, while the S705 is supposed to automatically connect to your phone once it wakes up, this doesn't seem to work with the E71: I have to tell the Soundpilot to attach. Once attached, though, there are no problems.
The S705 is surprisingly packed with features. It has a built-in FM radio that tunes in real 0.1 MHz increments (so can tune to stations outside of the US as well), and has RDS. It can pair to eight devices, so you can use it with your phone, laptop, iPod Touch and so forth; by default it wants to reattach to the last device it was connected to, but you can simply select a device you want to connect to from the menu.
It comes with a mini-USB charger, shirt clip (the manual even tells you not to wear it on your belt), carry pouch, manuals, and a neck lanyard, which with my intellect could not be adjusted to hold the device where the manual instructed.
It has two buttons and a four-way joystick; with these you can make a call, answer a call, reject a call, switch between multiple active calls, mute, redial, skip forward and backward tracks, adjust volume, pause and play, lock the keys, reset the unit, use the radio and navigate the menu. The display obviously shows you caller ID, but at least with the E71 does not show you media information, such as the song or artist name. Still, pretty good for a $30 little pendant.
The Soundpilot is a Bluetooth class 1 device, which means that it has a range of up to 300' -- presumably when paired with another class 1 device, and with kissing it's promised 8 hour playback time goodbye. I just have a regular cell phone, but when I forgot to take the phone with me and walked a few rooms away, the music never stopped. When pairing, you can either make it discoverable, or use it to discover other devices.

Conclusion


I've been very happy to see that bluetooth is, a decade after it's entry into consumer devices, living up to its promise. It's brought us cheap, useful, reliable ways to escape unnecessary cables and make life easier. If your device supports the bluetooth profiles needed (most notably A2DP which is used for streaming music), I can readily recommend this little gadget.