Poor audio quality and a single channel limited Bluetooth's utility to hands-free phone calls.
The Bluetooth of today is a different animal. Supporting voice transmission and high-fidelity music playback, it's becoming an alternative to wired music docks and hi-fi connections.
The popularity of the iPhone 5 might, paradoxically, drive people away from dedicated Apple docks or accessories and towards universal Bluetooth solutions. With Apple switching its 30-pin connector to a Lightning socket on the iPhone and – most likely – on the upcoming iPad mini, there's no longer a universal way to play music from an Apple gadget.
The benefits of Bluetooth are clear – as well as compatibility with all generations of iPhone, Bluetooth systems are also compatible with Android phones and tablets of all makes.
For in-car my top pick is the XCarLink solution (around £120). This system hooks up to the CD changer port found on most car stereos. The result is a hidden, wireless set-up that works seamlessly with existing dashboard or steering wheel controls while providing no visual cues to attract thieves.
Music, internet radio stations and satnav commands are streamed at perfect quality by XCarLink through the speakers. Incoming voice calls pause the music and route the caller's voice through the stereo, and you can mount a microphone on the dashboard, making calls loud and clear.
At home, Bluetooth options are nigh limitless. A range of sub-£50 adaptors add Bluetooth playback to most hi-fi systems while dedicated Bluetooth docks like the Bose SoundLink (£299) provide hi-fi playback without the clutter of a hi-fi system. For the kids' rooms, Jabra Solemate (£149, pictured) is a fun option. Styled to resemble a Dr Martens boot, Solemate's chunky build and thick rubber base give it a unique appearance. A built-in battery powers the speaker for up to eight hours, while a neatly integrated headphone-style cable allows connection to gadgets without Bluetooth. Sound quality is amazing for the size, and the only slight downside is the voice that says "Go ahead, connect me" and similar commands each time you turn on the Solemate.
There are Bluetooth gadgets for listening on the move too. The Jabra Halo 2 headphones (around £65) sound great and have nifty features like a touch-sensitive volume control and a folding mechanism that automatically switches the headphones off. I also tested the Jabra Clipper (around £35), a Bluetooth headset that is wired between its tie-clip mic and earphones. The only benefit is that it's wireless between chest and trouser pocket, but the downsides are it needs regular charging and it's bulkier than traditional wired headphones – one to miss, I'd say.
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