March 05, 2009

The Love/Hate Relationship With My Bluetooth Earpiece

With the state of California recently making it illegal to drive while using a cell phone that has not been equipped as hands-free, finding a bluetooth earpiece I was happy with was a must. A friend of mine passed along a top name-brand product, thanks to his having one too many. And while when it works, I have few complaints, just getting it to connect to my iPhone and stay connected is a multiple times a day struggle. Sometimes, it even seems like I spend more time getting the two products to talk than I do talking on them myself.

I don't want to throw the vendor under the bus, so I'll leave them out of it. But in my opinion, technologies should be able to auto-recognize one another, stay paired, and then work as expected. Instead, I find that the iPhone and the earpiece drop each other's connections any time I separate them by more than say, 10 feet, at any point, when I connect them they don't always stay paired, and I need to pair and unpair them multiple times a day.

The iPhone's setup for BlueTooth is relatively simple, I would think. Click on the Settings app, choose general, choose Bluetooth, make sure it's on, and then add a device to connect. Got it.

But what I'm finding is that the iPhone is a liar. It says it's connected, but if I try and make a call, it doesn't show the earpiece as an option. And on the flip side, if I pick up the iPhone to speak into it directly, it will flip the audio source to the earpiece without my asking. Grr.

The result is that I find myself charging the earpiece all day at work, overnight, and going through a multi-step process to keep them connected by brute force. Every time before I get into the car, I make sure I have both devices in close proximity. Then I clear whatever connection the iPhone thinks it has, I go back to the home menu and open up the preferences again. Then I force a new connection. And then, I still might find myself driving along the road, close to cursing, doing the dual device reconnection dance.

Given I often want my hands free at home as well - to type and take notes during an interview, or just to take care of the twins, getting the iPhone and earpiece to play well together is critical, and the flakiness is driving me nuts. When it works great, yay, but I'm not exactly set up to write an amazing testimonial.

What experiences have you found? Did I get a bum device? Does the iPhone just not take to Bluetooth all that well? Is it user error? I'm listening (as soon as I can get my earpiece in).