The new SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II, which looks almost identical to the original model, includes new neodymium transducers and an updated digital signal processing algorithm that gives the speaker a slightly better sound. Those revisions, as well as a tweak to the design of the integrated protective cover/stand (it comes in leather or nylon) and the system’s ability to remember up to six devices, now for automatic pairing, are major updates. In short, Bose has made an excellent portable speaker a little better. But the landscape has changed, with competition in the high-end Bluetooth speaker arena now more fierce than ever, with products like the $300
As I said in my review of the original SoundLink wireless mobile, Bose seems to have taken some design cues from Apple: With the compact size and clean, elegant design, the unit is equipped with a magnetic protective joint cover and automatically Turns off the speaker when standing is off. Not surprisingly, if you want to make changes later, Bose is selling additional nylon and leather covers in a variety of colors for $30 and $50, respectively.
likeThe cover of the SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile II comes in two grades: nylon and leather. But you get the leather cover from the get-go only if you step up to the higher-end version of the speaker, which costs an extra $50 and has what the company calls “automotive-grade” chrome trim.
As I said, both versions of the cover have been slightly redesigned. The cover is now folded in half (it has a “bi-fold” design). Instead of flipping the entire cover back to turn it into a stand, you flip the cover back and fold it in half (you can also extend the entire cover without folding it over – it’ll also work fine as a stand in that configuration) does). I think Bose went with the new cover design so you can prop up the speaker in narrow spaces without having to stand those few extra inches. In any case, I liked the change and I think it gives you a little more flexibility as far as placement goes without sacrificing any stability.
Now on to the speaker itself. The first thing you notice about it when you pick it up is that it may be small, but it does weigh in at a somewhat svelte 2.78 pounds. It is 5 inches long, 9.5 inches wide and 1.9 inches thick.
That depth – or lack thereof – is really the most impressive part of the design. But while the SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile II speaker looks sleek, maybe even a bit, and appears more suitable for indoor listening, Bose has made it a point to point out how durable and rugged the unit is. The company says it has tested the product extensively, and also placed it in a chamber and exposed to simulated salt-air fog. So, yes, it is designed to be a portable, outdoor product.
Like its predecessor, the speaker has a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery that is rated for 3 to 4 hours of use at high volumes between charges and doubles at medium volume levels. (If the battery runs out, a replacement battery is available through Bose’s customer service department for $59.95).
Alas, Bose didn’t increase battery life in moving to the 2.0 version of the speaker—it’s still well below the Big Jambox’s rated battery life (15 hours). Bose’s battery life is on par with the portable Apple AirPlay speakers I reviewed — and yes, Bose now makes AirPlay units, too.
The Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II has a wireless range of about 30 feet (I managed over 40 feet) and works with any A2DP Bluetooth-enabled device, including almost all smartphones and most tablets, including the iPad. For example, you’ll get a standard 3.5mm audio input to connect (via an included cable) any other audio device that doesn’t offer Bluetooth, such as the iPod Classic.
I had no problem pairing the iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone and iPad mini with the speaker. You just hold down the Bluetooth button on top of the speaker and it goes into pairing mode. After selecting “Bose SoundLink Wireless” from the Bluetooth setup menu on your phone or other device, after a few seconds you should be wirelessly connected to the speaker and able to stream audio.
Overall, the connection was fairly stable, but I did have occasional hiccups. It was an instructive reminder that Bluetooth, like all wireless technology, does not have the 100 percent reliability of a wired connection.
Another note: The SoundLink Wireless Mobile doesn’t offer speakerphone capabilities the way the Jawbone Big Jambox does, for example. Could it someday offer that feature? Alas, no, considering there’s no built-in microphone that I’m aware of. However, there’s a micro-USB port labeled “Service” on the back of the speaker, which is for firmware upgrades; Bose says it will offer software upgrades to ensure that the speaker is compatible with future phones.
We should also mention that the SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker does not come with a remote. That’s because you shouldn’t need one because you’ll be able to control – and everything else – from your smartphone.