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Hands on: Stereo Bluetooth and iPhone 3.0 update

By Dan Frakes, Macworld
June 19, 2009 08:51 AM ET

Macworld - One of the long-awaited features the iPhone 3.0 software update brings to the iPhone and iPod touch--specifically, the iPhone 3G and 3G S and the second-generation iPod touch--is Bluetooth's Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP). A2DP lets you stream stereo audio to other devices over Bluetooth; for example, so you can listen to music and other audio through wireless headphones or speakers or a Bluetooth-equipped car audio system without having to connect any cables. We briefly covered this new functionality in our review of the iPhone 3.0 software, but here's a more in-depth look.

I tested A2DP with an iPhone 3G and a second-generation iPod touch, connecting each to two different A2DP accessories: Altec Lansing's inMotion SoundBlade speaker system and BackBeat 903 stereo headset. Although neither device is officially Made For iPhone--no Bluetooth speakers or headphones are yet--both are standard A2DP accessories.

Pair and pair alike

You pair an A2DP accessory with your iPhone or iPod touch the same way you do a Bluetooth phone headset. One the iPhone or iPod, you launch the Settings app and go to General -> Bluetooth. Make sure Bluetooth is On, and you'll see the "searching" indicator next to Devices. Then you put your Bluetooth accessory into pairing mode; for most accessories, this involves holding down a connection button until an LED flashes blue and red. Tap on the accessory's name when it appears in the Devices list on your iPhone or iPod, and in a few seconds it should connect automatically. (Some accessories will require a passcode--usually 0000--when you connect; if so, a keypad will appear on the iPhone or iPod's screen.)

(Image Caption: Pairing an A2DP Bluetooth accessory with an iPhone)

Once the accessory is connected, all audio should automatically be sent to it. This includes audio from the iPod app, as well as sounds from games and other apps. If your iPhone or iPod is set to automatically check for e-mail, or you've enabled push or notifications, alert sounds are also played through the wireless audio accessory, with music fading out briefly when alerts sound.

If this doesn't happen automatically, you can make the switch manually using the iPod app: At the bottom of the Now Playing screen, tap the Bluetooth symbol to choose whether to send audio to the A2DP accessory or to play through the iPhone or iPod itself. (The latter option will be either Speaker, Headphones, or Dock Connector, depending on what accessories are physically connected to the player.)

Oddly, this audio-device screen is also the only way to switch audio back to the iPhone or iPod's own outputs apart from turning off the accessory or unpairing the two devices--not an issue if you're already listening to music, but a hassle if you're doing something else. I also occasionally experienced an issue where turning off an A2DP Bluetooth accessory before switching audio output back to the iPhone prevented me from restoring audio on the phone; I had to turn the accessory back on, wait for it to connect to the phone, switch audio routing back to the iPhone itself, and then turn off the accessory again.

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