CES Observations – Bluetooth Headset (F)Utility?

I know I am probably not the typical user of cell phones nor of MP3 players. My cell mobile phone (sorry, I’m a tech-term dinosaur, I guess) usage is limited to only when I’m away from my office or hotel room, and then used sparingly. I abhor ringing mobiles phones in public places, and with rare exceptions, my phone is on vibrate.

And I use my iPod only when in planes or airports, as my work commute consists of walking forty feet from my bedroom to my office, and by the time I have my iPod on, I’m in my office and can just listen to music on my PC (ripped CDs – legally owned – stored on my file server, incidentally) and its external speakers.

I just can’t fathom why someone would risk a lack of situational awareness by cranking music and drowning out their surroundings while walking alongside a busy street or on a sidewalk filled with strangers – I personally would like to be able to hear someone shout out a warning that a car has jumped the curb, or determine whether someone might be following me by the echo of footsteps behind me.

And that’s why the whole Bluetooth headphone/headset madness bewilders me. A good friend has a Bluetooth headset for his cell phone and looks like someone out of a Star Trek episode with that eerie blue light emanating from the right side of his head. And he can be looking right at you, yet speaking with someone else. Disconcerting, to say the least. Make the call and get it over with!

At CES, dozens of companies had Bluetooth headphones for listening to music on MP3-player devices, like the ubiquitous iPod. But why? Isn’t the whole point of a portable MP3 player that you can easily carry it around with you in the first place? One company suggest it would allow someone to put the iPod on a shelf and then sit on a couch across the room, with wires. Well, that’s also without any sort of control of the iPod too (without getting up, walking over to the shelf and doing the finger twirl thing iPod users do so well.

Wired headphones never run out of power, and you always know where the player is because you’re tethered to it.

But for me, the most important thing is that you can use wired headphones or earphones on a plane. Bluetooth headphone are strictly forbidden when in flight because they are transceivers.

I asked at a number of CES booths where Bluetooth headphones were being presented whether they had a wired option for those phones. They looked at me as if I was from another country (which, at least by virtue of my legal residence, I am). When I explained the plane issue and that that was where 95% of my iPod use occurred, I was told I needed to use a wired headphone. Duh.

I am sure there are people out there absolutely thrilled by Bluetooth head sets and don’t mind having to now have two extra devices to charge (the headphones and the transceiver that plugs into the MP3 player, but I’ll stick with my new Shure E4c earphones – wires and all (and no batteries).