HOW TRULY WIRELESS HEADPHONES AND NEW AUDIO TECH ARE ENABLING ATHLETES

Jeremy Kaplan, editor-in-chief, Digital Trends takes us on a tour of the latest developments in the (very) mobile audio field.

Consumer electronics and sports go hand-in-hand: today’s tech can plot a course down the ski slopes, gauge the speed of your left hook, and measure your exertion level in real time. Yet innovation has sorely lacked around the one thing that fuels athletes the most – the beats that help us go the distance.

MOST GARMIN AND SAMSUNG DEVICES, THE APPLE WATCH, AND THE MIGHTY VIBE CAN ALL DOWNLOAD SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS AND PAIR DIRECTLY WITH ONE’S BLUETOOTH HEADPHONE

Apple introduced the iPod Shuffle in 2005, and it remained the gold standard for bikers, runners, and other athletes for years; Apple only stopped selling the darn thing in 2017. Today, most people simply carry a smartphone around; modern tech made your workout that much more cumbersome. But two recent innovations have finally allowed us to drop the phones and MP3 files, making it easier than ever to carry our audio with us. Chief among these changes is Spotify, which has left its smartphone prison and come directly to the wrist, thanks to the Spotify Connect API. With it, most Garmin and Samsung devices, the Apple Watch, and the Mighty Vibe can all download Spotify playlists and pair directly with one’s Bluetooth headphone – a simple act of untethering that any athlete will find liberating. Sure, the Apple Watch can do the same thing with iTunes, but there’s a whole world outside of the Apple ecosystem, and Spotify is the giant in this space.
The other big change is the rapid increase in truly wireless headphones. Pair some directly to your tness band and you’re off – unencumbered by the weight of that phone (not to mention the alerts that come with it). By reducing the power consumption of the Bluetooth chip, manufacturers are able to build tiny wireless devices that sit in our ears and last hours or even days. But radio signals live and die based on the strength of the signals that send them, as well as the energy the receiver invests in straining to pick them up. Dial the power down too far and sure, you’ve got battery life for days. You just can’t use the product.
Still it’s early days in audio, despite how far we are from audio cassettes and the Sony Walkman. Keep an ear out for advances in this space. If manufacturers keep moving the tech forward, we can all keep striving for the extra mile.



Photo: Jeremy Kaplan, Editor-in-chief, Digital Trends