GN ReSound introduces the Phone Clip+ Bluetooth streamer, the first “Made for iPhone” device on the market… And The Hearing Blog has the review, including the discovery of a bug in the companion v1.0.0 Control app (article updated 6:00pm CST 1/21/2013)
The folks at GN ReSound build very good wireless capable hearing aids, with the older Alera able to receive audio and remote control command signals in the 2.4 gHz band; and the new Verso adding inter-ear communications, providing coordination of microphone directional beam steering for 360 degree coverage, binaural noise reduction coordination, and binaural compression coordination, which is used to maintain left and right balancing of gain and sound, to further preserve directional cues. In addition, the Verso introduces a Music Mode feedback suppression algorithm, which will also be discussed in an upcoming report.
Both the Alera and Verso use the 2.4 gHz Unite wireless accessories for programming, control and audio streaming, as do their parallel Beltone private label models. These accessories are:
• Unite Mini Mic, which is a very powerful “spouse mic” that is a direct digital replacement for FM assistive devices. We at The Hearing Blog especially like this accessory, and strongly recommend it for all Alera and Verso owners;
• Unite Remote, which is their bidirectional remote control;
• Unite TV, which is their low-latency direct-to-hearing aid transmitter;
• Unite AirLink USB programmer transceiver, which can be used instead of a HiPro or NOAHlink programmer;
• Unite Phone Clip, which is their original Bluetooth streamer;
• Unite Phone Clip+ Bluetooth streamer and remote control, which is the subject of this review.
The original Phone Clip was, quite frankly a dog with cryptic flashing lights and button pushes. It had a poor quality 802.15.4 Bluetooth implementation, which caused all sorts of loss of pairing problems; and this was confirmed in our conversations with several GN ReSound insiders both in Minneapolis and Chicago. On the other end, when it came to the Phone Clip ↔ hearing aid connection, it also had a very poor antenna and weak transmitter, so that it had to be carefully oriented & within about 18” of the hearing aids for it to even work. These hardware problems have been fully addressed to our satisfaction in the Phone Clip+
The Phone Clip+ also took a page from the Widex M-Dex streamer/remote and incorporated much new functionality into this matchbox-sized device (continued past the jump):
• Program shift: You can switch among the four programs in the Alera and Verso;
• “Room Off” microphone muting;
• Initiating and terminating a call; and if the phone has voice dialing, not even needing to take it out of your pocket or purse;
• Control of the actual hearing aid volume at any time;
• When used with the Control app, independent control of streamed (Bluetooth, Mini Mic or TV) audio and environmental (hearing aid mic) audio;
• Ability to remain paired to more than one Bluetooth source, which we have verified.
Now, about that bug we uncovered…
There are two parts to ReSound hearing system ↔ iDevice connectivity:
• Basic Bluetooth 2.1 A2DP and headset connectivity;
• Status and programming communication from the Alera and Verso hearing aids to the Phone Clip+ which is then relayed on to the Control v.1.0.0 and Beltone SmartRemote v1.0.0 iDevice apps; and soon Android OS apps.
As it turns out, the coders and project managers didn’t quite do enough regression testing when they built the apps; and we spent an hour Sunday with Apple “Genius” Cathy Kennerck at their Naperville IL store chasing it down. Basically, the app works properly on iOS 6.0.1 running on the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPod Touch 5; and also runs properly on iOS 6.0.2 on the iPhone 5.
However, the Control app does not work properly on the iPod Touch 4/iOS 6.0.1, as the status and programming communications from the Phone Clip+ to the iPod Touch 4 is .NOT. properly detected and interpreted. When we discovered this flaw on Friday, we originally (and erroneously) attributed it to an iOS 6.0.1 bug that was fixed in the 6.0.2 release. However, Ms Kennerck did some checking, and the 6.0.1 → 6.0.2 update was only for the iPhone 5 to fix an AT&T connection issue. She also helped me eliminate whether my own iPod Touch 4 bought in August was the culprit, as she brought out a new iPod Touch 4 from stock, where we duplicated the problem. Thank you Cathy!
The situation with the iPod Touch 4 is getting “curiouser & curiouser:” Although we duplicated the problem on a virgin iPod Touch 4 at the Apple store, the people at GN ReSound couldn’t. When I suggested that it may have been a case of supposedly “identical” machines actually having extra libraries, parts of programs, and even kernel patches not uninstalled when doing testing (I’ve seen this happen before), they conducted additional tests on two virgin systems, and could not duplicate what we found.
Now, it gets even funkier: We conducted more tests on Wednesday, uninstalling and reinstalling the Control app… And suddenly it started working properly.
► Keep in mind that even with the Control app not working, the iPod Touch 4 always was able to properly use the Bluetooth headset profile for phone calls (on Skype) and A2DP stereo streaming for music; and that the program shift, muting and call initiate/terminate functions all worked properly ◄
On Friday (25 January) we conducted more testing: It was back to the Apple store for a complete wipe of our iPod Touch 4, and the Control app worked just fine. Then, we received two more Phone Clip+ units, so it was back again to the store with the two new devices, for two more system wipes. Each time, the Control app worked flawlessly with the two new devices, so we’re as puzzled as they are as to the gremlins we experienced. We are sending the original Phone Clip+ that experienced these gremlins to their lab for evaluation; but it appears that the issues we experienced were a one-off. We are now confident enough to start sending them to Alera and Verso users; but at least in the beginning we’ll be testing each one to assure they work properly before delivery.
This article will be continued in Part 2, which is in progress, where we will have a more thorough review of the Phone Clip+ and Verso system.
It’s been brought to our attention from several of our readers that they were having their comments rejected by the Akismet plug-in for WordPress as spam. This is unacceptable to us; and we are soliciting suggestions for a replacement. Unfortunately, we have to use something to screen for spam, as we were receiving over 100 spam comments per day at its’ peak. In the interim, to save retyping, we recommend selecting & copying all of your text to the clipboard: If your comment is accidentally rejected, simply paste it into an e-mail message, put “Rejected Comment” in the subject line, and send it to us at Dan@Snip.Net and we’ll manually post it for you~