Bluetooth Blabbermouth

by Gareth Branwyn for Digital Living Today

By now, unless you’ve been living in Amish country, you’ve likely heard about Bluetooth. This short-range wireless technology, which began receiving lots of ink and electrons several years ago, is supposed to release all of our digital gadgets from the tyranny of wires. Bluetooth, we are told, will allow these gadgets to finally answer “yes” to the Rodney King challenge (“Can’t we all just get along?”). Everything will talk to everything else (your phone to your computer, your computer to your PDA) without your intervention. Gadgets will stay constantly updated on data entered into any one device (e.g., addresses, appointments, latest MP3 downloads, how many calories you consumed at lunch, etc.).

So, where the heck is all of this gadgetry goodness? Thanks to too much media hype, people are already sick of Bluetooth and it hasn’t even been available. Until now. Ericsson, one of the chief developers of the Bluetooth standard has just released its first product, the Bluetooth Headset HBH-10 (www.ericsson.com, $199). Right off the bat, this product demonstrates some of the revolutionary features of this wireless technology.

For a wireless headset the Ericsson is surprisingly small (and weighs less than an ounce). It’s a little bigger than most tethered sets, but being wireless, the extra bulk is worth it. Like all Bluetooth devices, this first generation model has a range of up to 30 feet. The amazing thing is you don’t even have to take your phone out of your pocket, briefcase, or glove box to start yammering away. You can use your phone’s voice command feature to dial the number, and then walk and talk unbound (as long as you stay within range).

The other component that comes with the headset is the phone adapter. It clips onto the bottom of the cell phone and becomes the wireless receiver for the headset. Right now, the HBH-10 only works with limited Ericsson phones (models T28, T28 World, R310, R320, and A2618), but future models will work with other Ericssons and phones by other manufacturers.

Bluetooth is an open standard, and eventually the hardware (even if it’s made by different manufacturers) is all supposed to work together. The phone adapter that ships with Ericsson’s headset will allegedly be able to communicate with future Bluetooth devices (at least Ericsson’s products), and the headset will be able to talk to your PC, PDA, and other information appliances. Whether the techno-utopia of gadget interoperability being promoted by Bluetooth developers will become a reality or not remains to be seen, but the Ericsson Bluetooth Headset offers a tantalizing glimpse of what may be in store.

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