New Bluetooth Tech Could Make AirPod Clones Much Better

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Bluetooth is far from perfect, but it’s also increasingly vital as smartphones continue dropping the headphone jack. Apple has managed to wean people off wires with AirPods, but most other true wireless options are comparatively lacking. A company called Tempow hopes to change that with a new Bluetooth technology. It’s offering its Bluetooth technology for OEMs to use in a new generation of true wireless earbuds that could rival AirPods.

The Bluetooth standard was never intended for this era of multiple wireless audio devices. When you take away the wire connecting the left and right earpiece, you need to do some strange things to keep the audio in sync. Apple’s wireless buds use standard A2DP to connect to the phone, but that’s only good for one connection. Apple has its own Bluetooth stack and hardware that allows the second earbud to sniff the first connection and establish a link. Other companies use technologies like Near Field Magnetic Induction to bridge the two earbuds. This is expensive, and the results are often imperfect.

You might not be familiar with Tempow, but it’s been building to this announcement for years. Probably its most visible partnership was the Moto X4 last year. That phone included a feature called “Wireless Sound System.” Using Tempow’s custom Bluetooth stack, you could pair multiple Bluetooth devices to the phone to create a surround sound system. Now it’s offering to license the technology specifically for wireless earbuds, which it calls Tempow True Wireless.  Unlike Apple’s AirPod approach, Tempow’s multi-point Bluetooth tech uses standard chipsets — it’s just the software that changes. According to the company, Tempow True Wireless saves bandwidth because you don’t need to re-transmit sound between the earbuds. That means high-fidelity codecs like LDAC are within reach. It also says battery life could improve by up to 50 percent for the same reason.

The primary drawback is that you’d need earbuds and a phone that understands the Tempow-hacked Bluetooth stack. So, the phone knows it can stream the left channel to one earbud and the right to the other. Meanwhile, the earbuds know how to broadcast their identities and operate as separate audio targets. They’d be like tiny individual Bluetooth speakers in your ears.

Tempow is just announcing the availability of Tempow True Wireless — it doesn’t have any partners yet. The success or failure of this approach to true wireless will depend on Tempow’s ability to get device makers to adopt the technology.

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