A Bluetooth speaker needs to do more than just play music if it’s to stand out from all the rest. But rather than meaningless “bells and whistles,” why not make the speaker itself more useful, especially outside of the home, like when taking a walk at dusk or out camping? That’s where iHome’s iBT91 – Dual Purpose Speaker + USB Power Bank shines or, to be more precise, lights up.
You carry the iBT91 around easily, due to its handle and simple vertical design. Put it down and don’t worry about forgetting its there — it lights up on command because there’s 5 illumination modes to choose from.: glow (slow fade), fast, color of your choice, pulsing to the music being played or following a preset pulse you’ve set beforehand. This is all app controlled and yeah, the app’s free.
The app also shows the battery level, which isn’t puny but all of 6 hours if you keep the light lit, or up to 13 without (the app takes care of other needs too, like the colors mentioned earlier). Other additions include a speakerphone with talk/end controls and a digital voice echo cancellation built-in to make talking more discernible (there’s Apple Audio ID too for iOS mobile devices), an AUX-in for audio devices to save on battery power and a USB socket with enough oomph for charging a smartphone. Plus a stereo mode where two of these can be wirelessly combined (but yeh, you do need to buy a second one for that).
Now it wouldn’t make sense not to have Bluetooth for wireless audio streaming — so it does — but a lot more comes along for the ride such as the hands-free control that comes from using the Melody personal voice powered feature on the app. This lets you play music from sources like Spotify, NPR, iHeartRadio and others. You can also tap the speaker directly and making commands — examples like turning up the volume or playing a playlist. All of this obviously tied in with the app and the smartphone running it.
The iBT91 – Dual Purpose Speaker + USB Power Bank is durable enough — what with it being splash proof and sweat proof and rainproof (IP5 specification). You wouldn’t need all that inside, but outside it makes perfect sense since why have all those lighting functions otherwise? It’s under 3 lbs so no biggie to carry. Retail price is no biggie either — being $99.99.