By Werner Ruotsalainen on Sun, 09/19/2010
As you may well know, in the past, I've published several articles (last one, testing 3.1.2 on the 3G and 3G S, HERE; one of pre-4.1 full AVRCP emulation HERE) on Bluetooth headphones and A2DP, the standard for music transfer between a mobile device and a pair of stereo headphones.
With the release of iOS 4.1 for all at least second-generation iPhones and iPod Touch devices and, which is even more important for us iPad users, the first, but, apart from the connectivity problems that, at times, surface, already excellent, beta of the forthcoming 4.2 iOS for iPad, I've re-tested Bluetooth compatibility. The main reason for this is the introduction of real AVRCP; that is, now, you can not only pause / resume audio playback (on compatible headphones, that is), but also switch to the previous / next song with a button press on your headphones.
Below, I elaborate on the latest Apple operating systems' compatibility with the, in my opinion, some of the best Bluetooth headphones available (below $150, that is; this is why I don't list Sennheiser models – I don't want to purchase them for $400-$500 when I already have some excellent headphones like the Jabra Halo).
These are as follows:
Plantronics Pulsar 590: an old contender with some severe flaws (e.g., the blinking LED and the mechanical off/on switch easily developing contact errors) but is still one of the best headphones with excellent sound quality
Jabra Halo: a new (less than one-year-old) model: a pair of excellent headphones with a very robust construction I've been using since this year's MWC. It's practically unbreakable (unlike some of the headphones), has fully electronic (no mechanical buttons) controls (that is, it won't develop contact problems, unlike the Pulsar) and micro USB charger. Apart from the iPad incompatibility problem, I consider this the best headphones right now in the “low” price category (again, under $150), unless you dislike over-the-ears headphones.
Altec Lansing BackBeat 903/906: before getting the Jabra Halo, these pair of headphones was my favorite with, compared to the other in-ear headphones, very good audio quality. (Which, however, can't really match over-the-ear ones like the Pulsar 590 or the Jabra Halo).
I've also included some of the older but still popular headphones in the test too: Gear4 BluPhones and Motorola HT820 (model D).
Note that, this time, I can't present you the results of the Plantronics Voyager 855, probably the best in-ear headphones model. The reason for this is that I've forgotten to recharge it in, say, every month (I used it only as a compliance test headphones model, not as a daily model). Now, it just can't recharge – I've been kept it on a recharger for over a week, without any success. Hope I can have it repaired; then, I'll update the chart. I'll also update it when I get the iPhone 4 and find out it's different from 3G S in Bluetooth compliance; hope it'll happen next week.
The first six rows in the chart below elaborates on the A2DP compliance of the five tested headphones. I've tested OS 4.2 on the iPhone 3G S and, which is far more important, the iPad (3G 32GB model). As you can see, every headphones works with all Apple mobiles and operating systems, except the Jabra Halo's total incompatibility with both iPad models, and that of Altec Lansing BackBeat 903/906 with the new, 4.2 beta1 of the new iPad-specific OS. This means you won't want to use Jabra Halo with any iPad OS versions. (It didn't work with the initial version, 3.2.0, either.) In addition, you'll want to avoid upgrading to 4.2 on your iPad (but not on the iPhone, where it works just fine) if you plan to use your BackBeat.
Note that the Plantronics Pulsar 590 is generally incompatible with all (more) recent iOS versions (starting with 3.1.2 on the iPhone) – resuming audio playback doesn't work. If using Voice Control isn't a problem with you on compatible devices (at least third-generation iPod Touch and iPhone ones – but not iPads), you can use it for remote resuming.
The next few rows elaborate on call initiating / answering on two (3G and 3G S) handsets, the former running 3.1.3, the latter both the official, final 4.1 and the (current, beta1) 4.2. As you can see, the Jabra Halo seems to have some major problems with both answering and initiating calls under 4.1; this problem seems to be gone under 4.2. That is, if you want to use your Halo with your iPhone, you may want to go straight for 4.2 – even now, when it's still at beta.
Finally, the last two rows elaborates on Voice Control compatibility. As you can see, Jabra Halo is fully incompatible with it on both 4.1 and 4.2b (at least on the 3G S; will update this info when the iPhone 4 turns out to be different) and the Gear4 BluPhones also has some major problems with it.
The chart as an inline image (click THIS for the original HTML):