Gear4 BluEye iPod-phone adaptor
FM radio and player remote control too
Review When I previewed the BlyEye Bluetooth-based iPod-to-phone connector in August this year, I was impressed by its size, its functioanlity and its price. There were some glitches, of course, but the unit I looked at was a pre-production sample, and developer Mavizen had given itself two months to iron out the wrinkles...
You can read Reg Hardware's exclusive BluEye preview here, but a quick recap's in order. The BluEye is a tiny gadget that's slightly taller and fatter than an SD memory card - it's 3.8 x 2.5 x 0.5cm - that connects to your iPod's dock connector and provides a earphone socket for your usual 'phones. On the front is an iPod Shuffle-like control wheel and a Button marked with the Bluetooth logo. There's a shirt clip on the back, a Hold button on the side, just above the button that activates the BluEye's FM radio.
So what we have is a unit that provides the tuner absent from the iPod, allows you to control your music player while keeping it out of sight, and - here's the best bit - links up to your mobile phone so you can make and take calls without touching the handset.
Pairing the phone and the BluEye is easy - there's now visual feedback on the iPod - and the device automatically reconnects to your handset as soon as it's powered up by connecting it to the iPod, for which a cable is included. When someone calls you, whatever you're listening to is paused automatically and if your phone can tell what the number dialling you is, it'll be displayed on the iPod's screen for you to accept or reject. The BluEye has a microphone so you can take calls and use your phone's voice-command system if it has one. When you're done, playback starts again.
Call quality is good, though you'll need to watch where you clip the BluEye as top-mounted microphone is easily muffled. It's best if you talk at it - just leave it dangling down and your caller is likely to wonder where you've gone.
Press and hold the BluEye's Bluetooth key for a moment and the device will interrogate your phone for the last nine numbers you dialled, which are then presented, one at a time, on your iPod's screen. When you've found the one you want, press Play to start the call. A glitch remains here: while asking for the recent call list pauses your music, ending the call doesn't automatically recommence playback.
There's a little lag in all of this, while the BluEye communicates with the phone, but it's no worse than some other Bluetooth headsets I've tried and it's probably due to the nature of Bluetooth itself.
The FM radio works well, with decent reception. I found tuning worked slightly better this time round, largely because I used the auto-search system, though in London's crowded FM band, it can still take an age to run from the first station to the last. My advice: make use of the 15 station pre-sets available, which the BluEye cycles through at the push of a button.
The dock connector cable plugs into a mini USB port on the BluEye. The unit comes with a mini-to-major USB adaptor in the box to allow you to hook up the BluEye to a computer and download and update the firmware at a future date.
Presumably, Mavizen will use this to fix the minor issues in the shipping unit. I've mentioned one - another is the way the iPod's backlight turns on by itself every so often when you're listening to the radio, presumably as it briefly talks to the phone. It's not a big problem, but it means the BluEye will drain the iPod's battery that bit more quickly.
The device draws its power from the player, but I didn't notice a significant increase in the rate at which the battery icon goes from green to red, but it clearly does drain more rapidly than it does when the BluEye isn't attached.
Incidentally, the BluEye works with all iPod Nanos, Minis and both 4G and 5G iPods. It's available in black and in white.
Has anything changed since August? To the basic functionality, no, but the device now ships without earphones - which makes sense when you think about it - and the Phone Book application, which allowed you to store three phone numbers - labelled Home, Office and Friend - on the BluEye to speed up dialling, has been dropped too. And the gadget is now being sold under the Gear4 brand, though Mavizen gets a mention on the box.
BluEye's developer has fixed the two major bugs I encountered before. The BluEye's volume controls now reduce the sound level right back, though curiously still not to zero - you can still hear it faintly if you're in a very quiet place. And there Bluetooth radio is now sufficiently shielded so it doesn't impinge upon what you're listening too, as was the case before.
But the biggest change, perhaps, is the price, raised from the £35 Mavizen originally suggested to £50. Yes, it's more expensive, reducing the gap between the BluEye and rival products, but it's still good value. Jabra's BT325s costs much the same, but lacks an FM tuner and iPod integration. Apple's iPod Radio Remote is cheaper - £35 - and has a better radio interface, but it lacks the phone connection.
The Gear4 BluEye is a great iPod accessory, providing three key features - FM radio, remote control and iPod-phone connectivity - that lifts it above rival products that offer only one or two of these. And it works seamlessly with the most popular music player out there. What's not to like? ®