What to Expect: Stereo Bluetooth & iPhone 3G with iPhone OS 3.0
Though a number of competing mobile “musicphones” have offered Bluetooth wireless stereo audio streaming for years, the 2007 iPhone conspicuously left that feature out, as did the 2008 iPhone 3G—surprising given Apple’s music-heavy marketing focus, and both iPhones’ inclusion of Bluetooth 2.0 hardware that could be used for monaural wireless handsfree phone calls. Some thought the company was planning its own proprietary wireless music accessory standard for the iPhone; other possibilities included battery drain associated with streaming stereo Bluetooth audio, or problems getting the feature to work reliably given everything else the iPhone had to do in the foreground and background.
Yet whatever the issue or issues may have been, Apple seems to have mostly resolved them in iPhone OS 3.0—at least, for the iPhone 3G. While the original iPhone is stuck with monaural Bluetooth telephone calling support, the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3G S gain stereo Bluetooth streaming and control capabilities with A2DP, a widely used Bluetooth protocol that instantly expands the universe of wireless accessories that users can choose from.
But will they work properly? Or with limitations? We have the answers: here is what users can expect when using stereo Bluetooth accessories with the iPhone 3.0 software.
* Wide compatibility. Stereo-capable A2DP Bluetooth 2.0 accessories have been around for years, and though there will likely be some exceptions, the iPhone 3G appears to pair with and stream to virtually everything without complaint. Pairing is handled through the same buried Settings > General > Bluetooth menu as before, with no differentiation between monaural and stereo devices.
* Near-flawless stereo music and app audio streaming from an actively used iPhone. The iPhone 3G sends a properly separated left- and right-channel audio signal to accessories, with apparent audio quality more often constrained by the speakers or headphones than the signal. Do not expect lossless-quality audio, but rather, very listenable wireless sound. The iPhone 3G will continue to stream iPod mode music even when an app is running, or stream the app’s audio, which means that apps such as Slacker Radio can perform through wireless speakers and headphones. Streaming will continue even when transitions are made from iPod mode to in-app audio, and in-app audio can overlap iPod mode music, as well.
* Seemingly flawless switching between stereo and monaural modes when interrupting music or apps to take phone calls. As with prior accessories, the iPhone fades out its music or other audio to play the ringing sound and then the phone call, complete with microphone support for the phone call.
* Small audio hiccups when apps launch, and infrequently mid-run. Very brief, split-second interruptions can sometimes be heard in playback when audio is streaming while an app is loading; iPod audio continues to be almost perfect when running even device-taxing games, but there are occasionally similarly brief interruptions. This will depend on the app.
* Small audio hiccups when toggling between multiple stereo Bluetooth devices. As with virtually every past iPhone-compatible Bluetooth accessory, switching between two different devices results in a brief audio stutter, but ultimately a working connection to the new device. The iPhone pauses audio playback—when possible, even in apps—when the connection with the original device is cut off, and the new connection is stable from the point you press play.
* Greater potential for audio problems after the iPhone 3G turns off its screen. Bluetooth streaming continues for several minutes without any issues, but sometimes will start stuttering for unknown reasons—possibly just a bug, or the iPhone trying to enter power-conserving deep sleep despite the audio playback. This doesn’t always happen and may be an accessory-specific bug.
* Limited accessory control of music playback. Accessories can include a play-pause button that works to stop and start iPod music—surprisingly even controlling iPod music when an app has its own audio—but their track controls do not appear to work, and they must include their own volume controls for non-calling purposes. The iPhone’s volume controls are disabled in stereo Bluetooth streaming mode, but remain in monaural Bluetooth calling mode; the iPhone’s on-screen track controls remain in stereo Bluetooth mode.
* Odd conflicts between Wi-Fi and monaural Bluetooth functionality. For reasons that aren’t yet clear, iPhone 3G Wi-Fi signal strength drops to 2 of 3 bars when in stereo Bluetooth streaming mode and becomes unpredictable if not unusable for Wi-Fi gaming, and drops to 1 of 3 bars when in monaural Bluetooth phone mode, becoming unusable for web browsing in Wi-Fi mode. This is the most serious set of issues with the new Bluetooth functionality, and it is unclear whether these are just bugs that need to be worked out, or consequences of trying to use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities at the same time. Notably, switching the iPhone 3G off of Wi-Fi and into 3G restores web browsing capabilities to the device.
* Monaural stays monaural, stereo stays stereo. The iPhone 3G will not send music to monaural devices such as calling headsets, or enable the typical “handsfree car kit” to function as a music player. It will enable AD2P stereo devices to play music for sure, as well as handling monaural calls if they have the microphone hardware to do so.
iPhone 3G S performance will likely vary from the iPhone 3G due to differences in both processing capabilities and Bluetooth chips; the second-generation iPod touch will also gain stereo Bluetooth functionality for the first time. We’ll have more to share on this in the near future.
- CE Week 2015: IK Multimedia, Monowear’s Apple Watch bands + More
- Live From CE Week 2015: Brand New iPad, iPhone + Mac Accessories!
- Live From CE Week 2014: Brand New iPad, iPhone + Mac Accessories!
- iLounge’s 2014 CES Best of Show Awards: iPad, iPhone, iPod + Mac
- Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Apple’s 2013 iPad, Air + mini Lineup
- CE Week 2013: The iPad, iPhone, iPod + Mac Show Report
- Notes from Apple’s Q3 2016 earnings call
- Apple Q3 results: $42.4B revenue, 40M iPhones, 10M iPads sold
- Researchers expose security flaw in Osram smart bulbs
- Cops bust ‘criminal enterprise’ using stolen credit cards at Chicago-area Apple stores
- Update in iOS 10 allows for autoplay of silent videos in Safari
- WSJ: Apple brings in trusted executive Mansfield to head Apple Car project
- CarPlay to be available in all 2017 Ford models
- Rumors claim new iPhone will be released Sept. 16, could have ‘iPhone 6 SE’ name
- Photos claim to show alleged ‘iPad Pro 2’
- Apple to sell limited-edition Olympic Apple Watch bands exclusively in Brazil
- Moe Bull Stand for iPad Air 2 + 9.7” iPad Pro
- Netatmo Tags for Welcome Smart Home Camera
- iDevices Socket HomeKit-enabled Light Adapter
- Koogeek Wi-Fi SmartPlug for Apple HomeKit
- Marbotic Smart Letters for iPad
- Ecoxgear Sol Jam Bluetooth Speaker
- Gumdrop Cases DropTech Case + Hand Strap for 9.7” iPad Pro
- Braven BRV-1M Bluetooth Speaker
- Braven BRV-Blade Bluetooth Speaker
- Invoxia Voice Bridge
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Photos gets Advanced Computer Vision
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Music app delivers ‘clarity and simplicity’
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 Maps gets a major redesign
- Inside the betas: iOS 10 shakes up the user experience
- Inside the betas: watchOS 3 promises a real speed boost
- Inside the betas: A sneak peek at what’s new in tvOS 10
- Filling the Gap: A look at third-party HomeKit apps
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of tvOS 9.2
- Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.3
- Opinion: Why Apple needs a dedicated HomeKit app