Although it was initially quite fiddly to work with, Bluetooth has established itself as the dominant form of inter-device wireless communication. The universality of the standard means Bluetooth devices can be used with laptops, tablets, smartphones and even desktop systems, making them excellent investments. That's why we've dedicated the next few pages to highlighting some of the most versatile and innovative Bluetooth accessories we can find.
EcoXBT Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
One of the benefits of Bluetooth technology is that things like speakers are freed from the constraints of wires, and their battery packs mean you can take them where there aren't usually sockets, such as outdoors, or in the bathroom. Of course, the problem you then have is that you're exposing your speakers to elements they aren't really built for. To solve this particular problem, some companies have developed waterproof speaker systems.
Note that 'waterproof' isn't the same as 'water resistant', The former effectively means you can submerge it in the bath without worry, while the latter means nothing more specific than 'it probably won't break if you take it out of your pocket while it's raining'. The EcoXBT is a waterproof speaker system with built-in speakerphone. It's available in black, red or orange, and in addition to keeping your music playing even in the wettest weather, it's got a built-in flotation device so you can even have it in the pool next to you (pool not included, sadly).
It has a battery life of 10 hours, and takes around two hours to fully charge from AC, but can also draw power from any USB source. The rugged casing ensures that it's perfect for outdoor use (in wet or dry conditions) and at £90, it's not even the most expensive Bluetooth speaker around!
Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse
For £44.50 you can get your hands on the ultimate in Bluetooth Mice: the Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse. We know it looks strange - it's not so much 'outside the box' as it is at least a couple of time zones away from the box, but the ultra-compact design, lightweight casing and simple, intuitive interface make it easy to pick up even if you've somehow never used a mouse before!
While it's designed specifically for Windows 8 and incorporates a four-way touchpad to help you navigate the operating system without having to move anything other than your fingers, it's also compatible with other operating systems. Unlike most wireless mice it doesn't require an additional USB receiver because it's entirely Bluetooth based, which means you can use it with tablets and phones as well (as long as the app you're using supports mouse input).
Although it is battery-powered, the Wedge will automatically hibernate whenever the system it's attached to is switched off, and enter what it calls 'Backpack Mode'. There's no need to switch it off because it senses automatically when it's being transported or stored, and when it's on a desk it switches back on, instantly ready to use.
Even for a Microsoft mouse it's not exactly cheap, and its radical design is bound to put some people off but if you get a chance to try it out, you might be surprised at how well it works. Don't write it off until you've tried it.
Sennheiser MM400-x Bluetooth Headphones
If you're not a massive audiophile, the idea of spending £ 175 on a single pair of headphones might sound like something akin to madness. Massive audiophiles, on the other hand, will happily tell you that you will get what you pay for. And here, you'd be paying for a lot.
Since they're made by Sennheiser, the MM400-x Bluetooth headphones obviously sound fantastic, but that's not the only reason they cost a lot. They have a variety of built-in controls, including one that lets you switch between calls and music, a microphone which is secreted inside the casing for maximum discretion and compactness, and that supports the latest compression standard (apt-X), which allows compatible devices (mostly Apple, Samsung and Creative hardware) to deliver CD-quality sound over a Bluetooth connection. What's more, if you prefer to use them conventionally, there's a detachable audio jack with an airline adaptor included in the package.
The headphones also have a number of impressive design features that go some way towards explaining the high cost. They can be folded into a small bundle for compact storage and travel, too. The internal battery can be charged over USB or replaced with a fresh one, and to cap it all off, they're hugely comfortable thanks to the thickly padded earcups. If you've got the money, you won't find better.
Bestek Soft Silicone Roll-up Keyboard
The problem with most portable keyboards is that they're either too big to count as portable or too small to feasibly type on. One gadget that solves this problem is the Bestek Soft Silicone Roll-up Keyboard, which is close to full size, but is constructed entirely out of silicon so that it can be rolled up into a ball or folded in half for easy portability. When you want to use it, all you have to do is spread it on any flat surface for an instant keyboard.
It's not completely flexible, admittedly there’s a plastic case on one side which houses the rechargeable battery as well as a USB connector from which to charge it. The battery life is 30 days on standby, or 48 hours of constant use, with a charge time of two hours.
One possible concern for buyers is that it's designed specifically for use with IOS devices, so some of the secondary functions may not be compatible with an Android/Windows tablet or a Windows/Linux desktop - but as long as you've got Bluetooth connectivity on your device, you can at least type on it.
It's also well-suited to portability, with a wipe-clean surface and lightweight design that befits being taken out into the big, wide, world. It's basically perfect for throwing in backpacks or even stuffing in a pocket so, while it may not be the best keyboard around, at £28 it's fairly priced considering its additional functionality!
Withings Wireless Scale WS 30
Bluetooth technology is now powering all sorts of fitness monitoring devices, and while we've covered the likes of the Nike Fuel Band and Fitbit Flex elsewhere in this special, we can't help but be drawn to the WS-30, a pair of Bluetooth weighing scales(for the bathroom, rather than kitchen). With a weight range of 5-180kg (9-396Ib) the scales have four sensors which compensate for your body position, meaning absolute accuracy every time you step on them. The digital display lights up so that you'll be able to read it even in low light or the dark, and its wireless connectivity (both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi) means it can interact with all kinds of apps and software to automatically record and monitor your weight, whether you're using IOS, Android or the web.
It's powered by 4 x AAA batteries with a year's use on average, and has its own internal memory so it can store up to 116 historical readings in case a wireless connection is unavailable, and you can create up to 8 user profiles for multiple users. At £90, you might argue that the only thing getting any lighter thanks to these scales is your wallet, but let's face it: there are worse ways of spending money than on something that can only make you healthier in the long-run!
LG Pocket Photo PD233
The switch to mobile devices and electronic communication has left the traditional concept of the printer sort of adrift. More and more, it seems like there's no reason to even own such a device. 'Wait! What about the LG Pocket Photo Printer?' we hear you cry. Well, we're glad you asked...
As it turns out, this printer is a rather interesting piece of tech, Its Bluetooth and NFC connectivity makes it suitable for a wide range of devices, and its pocket-sized design means you can keep it with you even when you're on the move. A companion app allows you to edit, filter and retouch photos before you print them, and a number of social functions makes sharing photos with your friends and family into a simple process, regardless of your preferred social platform. You can even add OR codes to pictures to embed time, date and location data, as well as a customized message!
Perhaps the most ingenious function is that it doesn't even require its own ink cartridges. Instead, you buy single-use photo sheets which have the necessarily inks included with them. Units are available in pink or silver, and it takes just 45 seconds to print a 7.6cm x 5cm picture, it’s available now, with an initial photo sheets pack included, for £125.
Moshi Moshi Curve Bluetooth Wireless Handset
It's fairly common to see people using Bluetooth headsets with their mobile phones when in the car or out and about these days but, even though there's no reason you couldn't use such technology. It’s much rarer to see a Bluetooth hand set when in the home or office. While there are several available, the undisputed king is the Moshi Moshi Curve, an incredibly stylish, lightweight and simple Bluetooth speaker which looks more like it's been brought back from the future than picked up on the high street.
Available in red, black or white, the set includes a handset, a weighted base and a protective mat on which to place it. It can pair with two different devices simultaneously, meaning you and your partner can both automatically funnel your mobile calls to it while you're at home. As you'd expect, it answers calls when you pick the handset up and ends them when you put it down, and you can even pair it with Skype or other compatible messaging programs.
Be warned that it does cost £79.99, so even if you replace your land-line completely it's going to be a while before you save money. A version with an integrated smartphone dock costs even more - but when a device is this good-looking and simply implemented, it feels almost worth the money.
J-TEK One Rainbow Bluetooth speaker
One obvious complaint you might have about Bluetooth devices is that they all have a certain sense of orthodoxy to their design. Most keyboards look the same, most speakers look the same. In most cases, they’re just trying to imitate whatever ruling the market at that particular time. 50 it's nice to be reminded, then, that not every Bluetooth speaker has to be a generic silver and black pod.
Designed by Jarre Technologies, the company founded by musical legend Jean Michel Jarre, the J-Tek One speakers look striking and deliver super-powerful high-definition sound. A linein support allows them to be hooked up to most music-playing devices, and their Bluetooth functionality takes care of many others. The unit contains two 5W 40mm stereo drivers and a 50mm bass driver. There's a built-in microphone so that you can use it as a speakerphone (or karaoke machine, or anything else you can think of l) and you can also update the firmware to improve compatibility thanks to a built-in mini-USB port.
A choice of nine colours means you shouldn't have any trouble finding the one that fits your decor and personality best, although a £150 price tag does mean you'd better make sure you like the idea before you commit to buying one. It helps that they're great, but remember that you're essentially paying £50 for the design alone!
Logitech K760 78-Key Solar Powered Keyboard
One of the most frustrating thing about any Bluetooth device is that even once you've gotten rid of any cables for communication, they still need to be powered, which means you've effectively swapped the inconvenience of wires for the inconvenience of swapping or charging batteries.
One device which feels like it's truly cracked the problem is Logitech's K760 Keyboard. As Bluetooth keyboards go, it's not especially impressive - it adheres to the minimalist Apple aesthetic, it's compatible with the standard range of devices, and it's not especially portable. It does have a multi device switcher, though, so you can pair it with multiple systems and swap between them in a single button press. While that's a particularly useful function, it's far from unique.
However, one area where it completely surpasses the competition is in the way it powers itself: it comes with its own built in solar panel, which allows it to generate electrically using noting but the light in a room. A full charge allows it to operate for three months even in total darkness, so it’s not likely to be a huge problem. The full price is £70 but if you shop around, you should be able to find it closer to £50, which makes it a little more attractive.