A Bluetooth® earphone is a wireless earpiece that can be connected to a mobile phone, an mp3 player, a laptop or other Bluetooth®-enabled device for hands-free use. Bluetooth® earphones operate like headphones or headsets but without the constraints of a wire.
Bluetooth® earphones connect to devices using radio frequencies in the industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) band. To avoid interference with other devices using the same ISM band, such as microwaves and cordless phones, Bluetooth® devices divide the band into 79 one-megahertz channels and shuttle between them at a rate of 1,600 times per second.
The range of Bluetooth® earphones is generally about 30 feet (10 meters). Some Bluetooth® devices can deliver a range of up to 300 feet (100 meters) but those versions draw significantly more power. For most uses, a low-power Bluetooth® earphone will be sufficient.
Bluetooth® earphones come in a variety of styles to match their various uses. The smallest and lightest models are single-ear pieces weighing between 0.3 ounces (about 8.5 grams) and 0.6 ounces (about 17 grams) for use with mobile phones, home phones, or voice-over-Internet protocol (VOIP) services. These Bluetooth® earphones generally consist of an ear bud attached to a small speaker with a built-in microphone. Bluetooth® headphones are also available, from lightweight ear buds to larger ear-cupping headsets. These headphones are most often used with portable music players and laptop or desktop computers, eliminating the need for wires.
All Bluetooth® earphones operate using the same basic technology, and are distinguished primarily by speaker quality, ear piece design and battery life. Some higher-end models come with a variety of additional features, such as ambient noise blocking or automatic volume adjustment. Some earphones will allow the user to connect to various devices at once and switch between them as needed.
Bluetooth® technology was first developed by Ericsson but is now overseen by a trade association known as the Bluetooth® Special Interest Group, which consists of representatives from a wide range of communication and technology companies. A company must be a member of the association to develop Bluetooth® products. There’s no need to buy a Bluetooth® earphone made by the same manufacturer as the device you wish to connect it to, since Bluetooth® devices must be compatible with each other to carry the Bluetooth® logo.
Before purchasing a Bluetooth® earphone, however, it’s important to make sure the device you wish to connect is Bluetooth®-enabled. Most mobile phones are Bluetooth®-ready, as are many laptops and even some desktop computers, though connecting a Bluetooth® headset or earphone to an older model computer may require a transmitter plugged into the computer’s USB port.