Stuff. And things.

iPhone Cases and Bluetooth Headphones

Like most iPhone owners, I tend to use my phone for a lot of things. One of the primary uses is to keep track of my various attempts at fitness. I use software and services from Runkeeper and My Fitness Pal to keep track of my workouts and calorie consumption, along with a Wahoo Fitness Blue HR to keep track of my activity. I like the combination, although I would like to add a power meter for cycling, and maybe a smart scale. And that iPhone blood pressure monitor my doctor gave me, once I get an adapter.

Having all these electronics is nice, except for the small fact that I live in a place where it rains pretty much constantly for 8 months of the year. As a result, I’ve been looking into weatherproof cases, and have consulted a coworker of mine who sails and kayaks, and a friend who lives in a place with actual monsoons. They both recommended the same case: the LifeProof frÄ“. So I picked one up.

The Case

Overall, I’m quite impressed with the case. It doesn’t add too much bulk, given the protection it provides, and I haven’t had any issues using the touch screen, the home button, or any of the controls. The Gore-Tex screen protector works well, although it does occasionally stick to the screen itself, leaving a kind of rainbow pattern. It’s not too noticeable during normal usage, though. I did remove my Invisible Shield screen and body protector (hands down my favorite screen protector, I’ve used them since I had an original iPhone) because 1) it was recommended by Lifeproof and 2) I figured the full on protection of the Lifeproof would be enough, especially since I haven’t been removing it from the case. It keeps the rain off, and provides a lot of shock protection as well. Paired with the bike mount it’s basically ideal for my purposes. There is one small problem, although it’s not completely a problem with the case itself.

The problem

The problem comes with the provided connector for use with headphones, and the plug for when you’re not using headphones. The headphone connector is actually a pretty ingenious solution, in that it has a longer screw-in plug with a gasket, and a length of rubber cord into which you would plugin standard headphones. It’s clearly designed with protection first in mind,
and as a result it’s pretty unweildy. It also doesn’t appear to invoke the auto-pause feature of the phone when headphones are unplugged from the connector. When the connector is not in a use, a small, simple plug with a gasket is screwed into the case where the connector would normally be.

My primary concern regarding the connector and (moreso) the small plug is that I am almost inevitably going to lose one or both. The connector has a small rubber pouch into which the plug can be inserted, but it’s still on a matter of time before either the plug, or the connector gets lost. And while Lifeproof does sell replacements, they’re $19.99 a pop, and I would probably have to get one for the office, the car, and home in order to avoid losing any in the shuffle. The only effective solution to this is to keep the headphone connector in one place, and only unplug the small plug when it can be immediately placed into the rubber pouch on the connector. Even then, it’s all too easy to drop the plug into the nether regions of my car.

The Solution

The solution to this problem, then, is something that will let me listen music on the phone, without using the headphone jack. Which basically means wireless headphones. Luckily, since this is a smartphone, I can use bluetooth for my wireless.

The Headphones

After reading a bunch of reviews, I decided to get the bluetooth headphones recommended by The Wirecutter. What I actually ended up getting, however, was the most recent revision of that model, the LG TONE+ HBS 730. I found them at, of all places, Best Buy on sale for 60 bucks. I really, really love these headphones. They’re comfortable to wear for a full day in the office, and the weight is negligible. The flexible ring sits nicely on my neck, and I dont’ even notice it after a while. The neck ring also works while running, and I worry more about the sweat affecting the headphones than I do about the headphones themselves falling off. That said, I can’t image the headphones staying put in a less vertical workout: situps, bench press, or the like would probably not be great with this headset.

The battery life has been great thus far. The manual claims 10 hours of music and 15 hours of standby, and I believe it. No problems at all for eight or nine hours of near continuous usage. Curiously, in spite of the fact that the charging port is a Micro-USB port, the charging cable itself is actually a wall wart, rather than a standard USB cable. The unit does full charge in 2 hours, and I wonder if perhaps the use of a wall wart has something to do with it. I haven’t yet tried to charge the unit from a computer with a normal USB cable. The unit can’t be used while charging, which sort of makes sense given that it’s supposd to be a wireless headset.

The controls on the neck band are good, not great. There’s basically no tactile difference between any of the buttons, and you have to remember that the fast-forward/reverse buttons are on the right hand side, along with pause. The volume controls and call answer button are on the left side, and basically the exact same form factor as the other buttons. The on/off switch is also on this side, and is a little small for my tastes, but again, is serviceable. The neck band also contains a microphone for when the headphones are being used as a handsfree headset. The quality of the microphone is good, much better than the iPhone speaker phone mic, and the sound quality when being used as a headset is also very good.

The neck band also has magnetic cradles on the right and left side, which will hold the earbuds themselves when they are not in your ears, to keep them from dangling off to the side. This is a nice touch, and i think a good solution to the only thing I really worry about on this headset: the cables connecting the earbuds to the neck band. They feel much too flimsy for my liking, and I worry that they will fray/snap/otherwise break. Holding them in the magnetic cradle rather than having them dangle seems like it would reduce any potential wear and tear, but it’s still the biggest thing on my mind as far as points of failure for the headphones go. Time will tell how durable they end up being.

The headphones also support multipoint pairing, which is a feature I doubt I will ever use.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the lifeproof case with bluetooth headphones is a pretty killer combo. The phone is protected from the elements, I don’t have to worry about losing the tiny pieces that will keep it protected, and I get nice sound with no dangling cables. Next up: a bluetooth head unit so I can avoid the hassle of screwing/unscrewing the connector every time I get in or out of the car.