My history of mobile speakers has been a bit tangled. Tangled with wires that is. I have used and subsequently got rid of no end of pc speakers, odd little speakers that were like a concertina and most recently I have been running long audio cables through to my stereo. A lot of fuss in the pursuit of mobile music. I just want to be able to listen to my music wherever I was, with no cables and not a huge drop in sound quality and certainly not using headphones.
One thing that always makes me envious of Apple products is the wide range of third party accessories. There is a huge range of speaker docks, ranging from small travel sized things to a huge Beats Audio unit that is about £300. Android and Windows Phone do not have any of this excitement. Philips make some micro usb docks but they just didn’t appeal. Then I came across the Nokia Play speaker it certainly looked the part. The fact it had NFC as well intrigued me.
The speaker is a mix of metal, plastic, cloth and some of that nice grippy rubber stuff. The bottom of the speaker has a ring of grippy rubber around the edge to stop the speaker slipping or falling over.
Also on the bottom is the battery door, it is screwed down. But I imagine that you won’t often be swapping batteries around. Unless you are taking the speaker on a camping trip or something you should be ok.
There are a few buttons and sockets on the speaker. You get a Power button, Bluetooth button, Volume buttons, a 3.5mm audio in port and a micro usb port to charge it up.
The sides of the speaker are metal which gives the speaker a nice solid feel. There is no flex in the unit at all.
Pairing devices with the speaker is really easy. You just turn the Bluetooth on your phone on, turn the speaker on and the press and hold the Bluetooth button on the speaker. Search for devices on your phone, select the speaker, add the passcode and you’re done.
Some of my phones and tablets didn’t need to use the passcode they just paired up upon finding the speaker. Whereas my wifes aging Sony Ericsson W995 needed the code.
This stage is where the NFC bit comes in. If you have a phone with NFC if you tap the top of speaker with your phone it will turn it on and collect the tag details. It should then pair straight away.
My Samsung Galaxy Nexus has NFC, which I don’t think is working properly on the custom rom I’m currently using. So it picked up the tag and didn’t really do anything more. I will be reverting to a stock rom to test this out further. It paired over Bluetooth without a code after that.
You can connect the speaker to any device that has Bluetooth. So mp3 players, phones, tablets, laptops and even desktop computers. It really is a versatile speaker.
Upon pairing with the speaker my device basically sent all audio through to the speaker. This is a good thing and also a bad thing.
Whether you are listening to music or watching video the audio is sent to the speaker. It really made watching videos on my phone a lot better. Listening to music is where the speaker is really in it’s element. The volume on the speaker is great, you can control it on your device and on the speaker itself. I chose full volume on the speaker and adjusted the volume on my phone.
Listening to good quality mp3 or WAV files the sound from the speaker is great, nice and bassy. Turn the volume too high though and you would expect the sound to distort, it certainly loses some quality but it doesn’t distort.
Listening to radio with an online radio type app like Tunein the quality is not as good because the stream is only 128kbps. So the depth of sound just isn’t there. So this is down to the quality of the music and certainly not the speaker. But it still sounds better than the phones built in speaker.
I connected the speaker to a variety of phones, tablets and mp3 players and I found that devices with graphic equalizers, sounded better as you could boost the bass, treble and mid range to take advantage of the speakers capabilities. My Nokia Lumia 800 was a prime example. No graphic equalizer so the sound was only mediocre at low volumes. Whereas my Nexus sounded great at all volumes.
Strangely my Transformer Prime had the loudest sound output needing quite low volume on the device to avoid being deafened.
If you are lucky enough to have two of these speakers you can pair them up and create a stereo effect, with one speaker becoming the left channel and one becoming the right. You could easily create a nice wireless stereo sound for a laptop or mp3 player with these.
I mentioned earlier that having all audio sent to the speaker was sometimes a bad thing. Well I was listening to some music and I kept receiving Emails and Text Messages, the music would temporarily stop and play the alert noise through the speaker and then continue playing the music. With my Lumia this was made worse by the fact I had to turn the device volume up high to hear the music. This made the alert noise deafening.
For some this may not be a problem at all, I should have probably been using a device that wouldn’t keep receiving texts. But in the real world this is what people will do. Interestingly though calls are alerted through the speaker and then rerouted back to the phone.
Overall the Nokia speaker is great. The sound is a lot better than any mobile speakers I have previously used. But this is also the most expensive speaker I have ever used. Being totally wireless really makes the speaker very versatile, I could take it round the house wherever I went. The speaker comes with a carry bag, so you could easily pop it in a rucksack to take on holiday or to work even.
Another thing that comes in the box is a 3.5mm male to male audio cable. So you can easily connect older devices that do not have Bluetooth. The quality is just as good, you just have to worry about the wire then.
Being able to change the battery if needs be as well is a great idea.
I did come across a few problems with the Nokia speaker, mainly caused by my Galaxy Nexus, this only really lost me several seconds of time in the pairing process, which I can live with.
The odd handling of alert sounds is probably something that is down to Bluetooth profiles provided by Google and Microsoft in their operating systems. So again I can live with that.
I initially felt the price of the speaker was a little high. But upon using it I started to realise it was about right. Obviously compared to some of the super expensive iPhone docks the sound is going to be inferior, but this will be certainly a lot more versatile.
Some playback buttons on the speaker would be great. Although this is probably beyond the means of Bluetooth. Maybe one day we Android users will get a nice reasonably priced dock.
At the moment on Amazon you can get the black model cheaper than the white or blue models. They currently are £84, £117 and £119 see the links below.