Monday, May 27, 2013

iPod Nano + Novero Rockaway bluetooth earbuds = a great combination (though let down by the earbud build quality)

As an avid listener to podcasts, for years I wore an Apple Nano iPod on a lanyard around my neck. The Nano would sit in my shirt pocket and the earpieces were never too far away to pop into my ears if I was walking somewhere and wanted to tune in.

Unfortunately the cable coming out of the Nano was prone to wear and tear. After six months use, one ear would stop working and from that point it was only a matter of time before the other ear would give up too.

After the second generation iPod, Apple abandoned the lanyards: I imagine they got fed up with warranty replacements. Some case manufacturers provided something similar for a while, but they were never as good.

When the latest iPod Nano – seventh generation – was released in 2012 I rejoiced that it had built-in Bluetooth. iPod sits in my shirt pocket. It’s small and light enough – and the pockets are deep enough – that it’s never bounced or fallen out.

Novero Rockaway earbuds were a good match. They’re very light, have a flat cable that sits in an unfussy way across your neck and came with a free set of Comply Foam tips that sit snugly in your ear. (They come in small, medium and large - recommended.)

The right hand earpiece seems to be the clever one. A flimsy plastic cap at the end screws off to reveal the Micro USB charging port. It takes a couple of hours to charge, and in my experience plays music for 7-8 hours and remains on standby for ever. The Rockaway can pair with your phone as well as a music device, swapping to it when a call comes in. While in theory the Rockaway keeps an internal list of up to eight devices that it can pair with, I’ve found that when swapping between Apple devices (iPod and iPad) I sometimes need to put the earbuds into discovery mode and re-pair.

After a month or so a crack appeared in the flimsy cap and eventually a piece broke off. And every few months since it seems to shrink in size.

But much more disturbing, this week I realised that one earpiece kept falling out of my ear and then noticed that it was because the thin plastic holding the right earpiece onto the cable had given way and was wobbling about.

Unfortunately the poor build quality doesn’t match the pretty solid technology in the Novero Rockaway earbuds. Exactly seven months old, used frequently – but never abused and thrown into the bottom of a bag – I'd expect earphones to be robust enough to still be in one piece.

The iPod Nano’s Bluetooth support improved in the most recent firmware upgrade and as long as the iPod Nano and the earbuds stay within range, they can both go into standby and not require a manual reconnection when you want to listen to something again.

Bluetooth earbuds paired with the iPod Nano turns out to be a very convenient way of listening. Now to navigate the warranty process – which I suspect will say this is normal wear and tear – and find some more robust earbuds to use.

Update - I was wrong. They've just replaced the headphones. Thank you Novero Customer Service!

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