Mavizen Blueye mobile phone adaptor for iPod
Auto-pause your music when you take a call
Exclusive Preview Nokia says we should all be playing music on our phones, but some of us like having a separate music player. But it's a problem is when a call comes in and we're left frantically trying to pause the player and pull out the phone before the caller rings off. Assuming, with earphones in, we've heard the mobile ringing in the first place. Fortunately, UK company Mavizen reckons it has the answer: Blueye, a bluetooth dongle that ties your iPod to your phone...
The Blueye is a 3.8 x 2.5 x 0.5cm white box with a spring-loaded, vertically aligned clip on the back. On its base is a mini USB port that takes the dock cable that connects to your iPod. At the top is a standard 3.5mm earphone socket and the unit's microphone hole. On the left-hand side sits a hold switch and a key to activate the device's integrated FM radio.
The front of the device sports an iPod Shuffle-like circular control - the central button does play and pause, while the wheel around it is a four-way switch for nudging the volume up and down, and skipping back and forth through the songs in your playlist.
Beneath the main control is a button with the familiar Bluetooth 'B' logo, used to connect the gadget to your phone, though you have to press and hold the play/pause control to initiate the pairing procedure. Pairing is easy, though - it's just like finding and associating your phone with any wireless headset, though this time round you're iPod's screen tells you what's going on.
The player's display is also used to show the number of whoever's calling you. When you receive a call, Blueye automatically pauses the current song and shows the number of who's ringing you. Pressing the Bluetooth or play/pause keys accepts the call, pushing either track skip button rejects it. Either way, when the call's done or booted, Blueye automatically starts up the song from where you left off.
Mavizen has managed to cram an FM radio into Blueye, so you're not limited to the songs stored on your iPod. I was genuinely impressed with the radio's reception and sound quality, but setting it up is a tedious process. The Blueye can store up to 15 station frequencies, but until you tune in and save them, you're stuck with the auto-scan mechanism. This neatly hops between stations but since you have to hold the track skip button down for a full two seconds to activate a jump, it can take a long time to move from up the dial, particularly in areas where the FM band is crowded, like London.
Once you've stored a station, the radio always starts at the one with the lowest frequency, but skipping between saved stations is very fast. Stations are remembered even when the Blueye's power supply - the iPod - is removed.
I tried the Blueye out with my iPod Nano and Nokia 6600 handset, and it worked entirely as advertised. There are flaws: the volume control will happily raise the audio level to the maximum but won't drop it to zero and the minimum volume level is still quite loud. With the iPod paused or simply not playing a song, you can hear noise as the Bluetooth radio attempts to connect to the paired phone.
On the plus side, simply powering up the Blueye is enough to initiate a connection attempt, so there's no need to contact the device from your phone as you have to with some Bluetooth headsets.
The Blueye's controls provide no way of selecting songs on your iPod, so you'll still need to cue up a playlist, album, artist or genre selection before using the gadget. And make sure the microphone's no further away from your mouth than mid-chest level - beyond that and its ability to pick up what you're saying falls of markedly. It's definitely one to clip to your shirt than leave dangling down at the end of the earphone cords. The presence of the 3.5mm socket means you can connect any pair of 'phones to the Blueye.
In case you're wondering why the Blueye has a USB port, it's to allow the gadget to be connected to a PC to update its firmware and to allow the bundled Phone Book app to talk to it. Phone Book lets you store three phone numbers - marked Home, Friend and Office - on the device itself for quick dialling by pushing play/pause or either of the two track skip buttons. As a Mac user, I couldn't try these for this preview, but I'll be doing so when we review the Blueye fully on its release.
The Blueye's due to ship in October, and I hope Mavizen irons out the few remaining bugs by then. The company also hopes to have definitive phone compatibility guide by then, by I didn't experience any problems using my old Nokia, so I wouldn't expect many more modern handsets not to appear on the list.
But even if Mavizen doesn't address its gadget's quirks, it's hard not to recommend the product. At an expected retail price of £35, it represents exceptionally good value, providing not only a remote control but also an FM radio - and the ability to make your iPod work seamlessly with your phone. Rival devices do some of these, but not all of them. ®