So as a more-than-occasional traveler, I’m always looking for gadgets and gizmos to make hotel rooms a bit more comfortable. Until recently, I was carrying a Logitech mm28 Portable Speaker, which despite having mixed reviews, was more than adequate. Unfortunately mine haven’t aged well and it was time for a replacement.
I went looking for a Bluetooth solution, preferably with it’s own batteries and USB/5v rechargeable batteries as I have little desire to start carrying spare batteries on me and I ended up with a Jawbone JAMBOX. At $199 MSRP, they’re on the expensive end of “Hey, it’s just a speaker” but given the value of having a decent solution, I felt it was worth trying. At this point odds are better than 50/50 that it’s getting boxed up and returned.
Lets be clear: the sound is great! It could be a bit louder, but it’s probably loud enough to annoy a neighbour in a hotel with thin walls, and is just right for most hotels or single room use, which is pretty much the point. Better, it doubles as a speakerphone and the quality is far better than the iPhone’s built-in speaker, so that’s fantastic. The out-of-the-box-experience is fantastic too, it has a very satisfying rumble in your hand the first time you power it on.
The box is high quality, opens up easily, the speaker is well placed at the top with an accessory USB cable, charger and 3.5mm cable. Great, almost. The website says this is what’s in the box:
- 60″ micro USB charging cable
- 12.5″ micro USB charging cable
- 36″ 3.5mm stereo cable
- Carrying case
- A/C wall charger
- User guide
Mine had only one micro USB charging cable, not the two described. No big deal. The “Carrying case” is just a thick cardboard envelope folded up, it’s better than nothing, but it’s nothing to get excited about.
What is more of a pain, however, is the Bluetooth support, specifically the quasi-multipoint hack. It remembers up to 8 pairings at any one time and out of the box only connects to the most recently used device. I paired to my iPhone and iPad initially, planning on possibly pairing to another device later. Being late at night and having upcoming travel, I headed off to bed. I turned the speaker on and it helpfully paired with my iPad charging in another room and I couldn’t find any way to force it over to the iPhone pairing. A quick trip to Google didn’t help, but indicated that I could enable multi-point (to allow it to connect to multiple devices at once) via the web interface. Great, I connect up the USB cable, install drivers/software on my laptop, upgrade the firmware and turn on multi-point support, restart everything. It connects up to my phone, and boom, sound comes out the iPhone speaker. Fail.
A couple more tries and it turns out that although the JAMBOX technically can connect to two devices at once, only which one it decides is first gets speaker support, the other only gets the headset profile. Unfortunately there’s no way to predict which device will actually connect first; it tries to connect to the most recently connected result but in practice, it seems to hit either device randomly and the other, well, it’s audio doesn’t go to the speaker.
Oh and worse, so once I figure out that it’s talking to the wrong device, is it enough to disconnect from the device in question? Of course not, you have to disconnect from both devices, kill Bluetooth on one, then re-connect from the other.
A hobbled implementation is one thing, but an unpredictable/unreliable UI might just be too much of a pain; for $200, could we at least get the power/pairing switch to flip to the next paired device?