On Chit Chat Across the Pond last week, Dave Hamilton and I talked about the repercussions if Apple removes the analog headphone jack. During this conversation we talked about Bluetooth and Dave mentioned a little device he uses called the Antec Smartbean. While I was recording with Dave, I bought my own Smartbean through Amazon for a grand total of $12 (with free Prime shipping).
Smartbean is a 1.25 x 1.25 x 0.5 inch device with a built-in clip that turns wired headphones and speakers into Bluetooth devices. It’s pretty close to the size of the old square iPod Nano, a little smaller but thicker.
I was especially interested in the Smartbean and in my conversation with Dave I mentioned how much trouble I have pairing Bluetooth devices and how I get audio dropouts with all of them. I figured the Smartbean wouldn’t be any different.
I went for a run with the Smartbean and my favorite standard headphones plugged into it. Not once did the sound cut out on me, no matter how I contorted myself. The sound was so much better than my Bluetooth headphones, it was a delight.
All this is well and good but how easy is it to pair with your devices? On the front of the Smartbean is a play/pause button in the middle of it, so using my vast knowledge of how stuff works, I pressed and held that button. I was rewarded with a blinking blue light and I heard “power on” in my headphones. I held it down again and this time the light blinked red, and I heard “power off.” Ok, pretty intuitive so far. What if I press and hold the button a bit longer? As I hoped, it said “power on” followed by “pairing.” Perfect! I looked for Smartbean in the Bluetooth section on my iPhone Settings and found it immediately and when selected, the Smartbean reported “paired’ into my headphones. PERFECT experience.
I turned them off again and did a normal power on, and this time I was rewarded with the words “connected”. I also noticed that the lights changed behavior again in a super intuitive way. If I play audio from my iPhone to the Smartbean, the light blinks blue every few seconds. But if I stop playback and forget to turn off the Smartbean, it changes to blinking red to indicate it’s in standby mode.
This is a good point to give you some specs. According to Antec, the Smartbean will give you 6 hours of “talk” time and 130 hours standby. That standby time might be the most useful thing. How often have you forgotten to turn off a Bluetooth device? If you have an iOS device you can swipe down from the top of the screen to reveal a battery section for all Bluetooth-connected devices, including the Smartbean. Smartbean comes with a microUSB cable for charging.
I mentioned that the square center button is play/pause which controlled my iPhone playback as expected, and it also has up/down volume buttons on either side of the center, and skip ahead/back buttons on the opposite two sides. Those buttons obeyed my podcatcher, where I have it set to 10 seconds back and 45 seconds forward. Even better, these buttons were all in logical position if I used the clip that’s part of the Smartbean to clip it to my clothes on my left side. So up volume was up and jump ahead was to my right.
I was so happy with the Smartbean and my headphones that Steve and I plugged it into all kinds of speakers around the house just to see how many of them we could make Bluetooth capable. We have a set of old analog computer speakers that Kyle just gave back to us and with no wires up our sleeves, we were able to play audio from a computer to those speakers.
Smartbean even comes with a double ended audio jack so you could plug this into a car stereo’s analog jack and suddenly, for the grand sum of $12, you’ve got audio to your car speakers over Bluetooth. How cool is that?
The Smartbean from Antec comes in a plethora of color options, all black, all white, white with black accents, silver, baby blue, and even pink if you’re of that persuasion. I put a link in the notes to the Smartbean on Amazon for $12. Be sure to use that link instead of buying direct from Antec because it’s $40 from their website. It’s worth $40 but at $12 you can sprinkle them around your life.
7 thoughts on “Smartbean Turns Any Headphones or Speakers into Bluetooth Devices”
This might fill a niche I need for my older stereo setup. As of now I plug my iPhone into the stereo with a reducer plug, but I have to control everything through the iPhone that is physically connected by a six inch cord. It appears that I can pair this and leave my phone anywhere within 10 meters of the unit and it will do its thing. Should also work nicely for my truck which is not Bluetooth enabled.
That sounds like two perfect uses for it Bob. I was hoping to use it in our cars but we don’t have an audio jack on our stereos. :-(.
Seems a lot like the BlueAnt Ribbon I reviewed in Nosillacast #515 last March.
Wow – shows you how good my memory is Steve, totally forgot about the BlueAnt Ribbon! I’m a fan of BlueAnt’s products and to be honest that’s way cooler looking than the Antec Smartbean. The Smartbean is half the price (unless you’re in Canada) and has fast fwd/reverse but this is so cool looking. Great to have alternatives!
thanks for the recommendation. Bought it and really am enjoying it. works great with Overcast on my Apple Watch.
Trouble is, when I try to turn off Smartbean, it telephones the last call I made on my IPhone. Any ideas on how to prevent this?
Same thing happens to me,Ann, if I don’t hold the button down long enough. Would like to disable this, or better yet have it activate Siri! Wish I had a better answer for you than “hold it down till you hear it sign off.”