I had written about true wireless earbuds in March this year – on how they advertise their features to make a marketing pitch.
The most common positioning seems to be built on the following features:
- fit (that it will stay!)
- touch-based features (pause, activate a voice-assistant etc.)
- battery life
- noise reduction
- live/real-time translation!
As a potential buyer of true wireless earbuds, I would take for granted things like the fit – it better stay, else, there’s not much point in the whole product anyway. But I do understand why most brands prioritize these fetaures – they could be the most commonly sought-after features given how new the true wireless category is.
The battery life better be decent enough and this is a very subjective phrase, but at a basic level, it should probably last a day’s intermittent usage, given all the work-from-home and many video calls.
Everything else would be secondary to me, in terms of features. So, I picked something that is relatively inexpensive and in sync with my phone brand – OnePlus 9: the OnePlus Buds Z.
It’s a fantastic buy, in my usage of almost a month. The battery life is really good (with my limited use and placing the buds back in the box), I charge it only once a week! The sound is very good – the mic probably is a bit poorer when I’m using it with my Mac for video calls; so I use the options in Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet or Webex (depending on which platform the client’s call is on) and select the Buds Z for sound and Mac’s in-built mic for the speaker. That combination works perfectly.
However, the mic has no issues when I’m using it with the phone.
I really like the seamless starting point – I just need to open the box and pick the buds out, and it connects to the last connected device instantly. I’m sure that would be the use-case for all true wireless buds. My earlier buds (neck-bands and wired-connected Bluetooth ear buds) worked differently – I need to manually switch them on and off, and every time I switch them on, they connect to the last connected device.
But the most interesting feature, and the very reason why I’m writing this post, is something I had no clue about, even after buying these buds!
When I tweeted last month that I had bought this pair, Rajat Ghai replied asking me if I had tried the long-press to switch device feature.
I had not read the instruction manual at all (assuming I knew all the basic features already – how wrong I was!) and I had no clue about this feature.
It’s a very simple feature – when I have the buds on the ear, I simply tap-and-hold a bud for 3 seconds. The buds then disconnect from the device they are connected to and connect to the previously connected device. So, if I’m listening to a YouTube video on my Mac, I do the tap-and-hold for 3 seconds, the buds connect to my phone.
Now, I have a very long history with Bluetooth headsets/earplugs and multi-device connections. I may have purchased and owned about 15+ Bluetooth headsets/earbuds in the last 6+ years, starting with the Motorola Buds SF500. This product did not connect to 2/multiple devices at the same time and I figured this out after buying it. There were other brands that prioritized this feature and I have since been looking for devices that do connect with 2 devices at the same time.
But when I did buy one such product (like the Jabra Halo Smart Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headphones), while it connected with 2 devices, the output was not exactly what I was looking for. I was looking for true seamlessness – that I pair and connect it to both my phone and Mac and that I can do whatever I want with either device: I listen to something on the Mac, a call comes in on the phone and I start talking without bothering to switch connections. In practice, from what I have tried, this level of seamless device switching doesn’t happen, or I have not purchased a device that supports it.
So I had given up on this seamless device switching feature.
When Rajat asked me that question, I explored the instruction manual and figured that only the OnePlus Buds Z has this unique feature – to the extent of what I have since read up on such devices (I may be wrong). This is the killer feature I have been waiting for and didn’t know this product even had it! Now, when I am connected to the laptop and listening to something, and there is a call on the phone, I just tap-and-hold for a mere 3 seconds to switch (instead of disconnecting from the laptop first and then picking my phone wherever it is, go to the Bluetooth setting, and clicking on ‘connect’) device and start speaking!
From what I know/have seen, OnePlus has not specifically advertised or marketed this feature. It is simply listed as ‘Intuitive Quick Switch’ and probably owing to my looking at the feature’s end-goal as ‘connect to 2 devices at the same time’ (the way this need is usually framed), I had a blindspot to this mention too!
So, imagine my shock-laden happiness to know about this feature and using it almost every single day since purchasing it! 🙂
I do not know if this is a much-needed feature, but considering OnePlus did think of this as a functionally beneficial alternative to ‘connect to 2 devices at the same time’, I presume there is adequate interest and need for this feature. That probably leads me to believe that they could use digital stories to showcase/demonstrate the practical use of such features, particularly when they are the only ones to invent them.
That brings me back to the earlier post on true wireless brands and what those brands are prioritizing to pitch in the marketing. Assuming that the basic necessities (sound quality, decent battery life, etc.) are taken care of, they could go to the more nuanced usage-based features that could make a big difference in increasing consideration among buyers!
PS: Compelling, related reading – What is Bluetooth multipoint, and why isn’t it more popular?