Bluetooth vs Airplay

I've written a fair bit about how we are using technologies like Bluetooth and Airplay in our homes and cars to connect our tablets and phones to our cars and home entertainment systems.

I've thought Airplay was the winning model because Apple is pushing it hard and integrating it into their product line across the board. Plus Airplay supports higher bandwidth applications like video and covers greater distances.

But an experience I had this week makes me take pause on that assumption. Our newest car has excellent bluetooth audio capabilities. Everyone's phones are paired to it and anytime anyone wants to take control of the car audio with their phone (iPhone or Android), they can play any audio app they want on their phone and the music plays in our car. This is true of most of the cars coming off the factory floors these days.

My son is particularly fond of taking control of the audio in the car and DJing. Yesterday he asked me why he couldn't do the same thing with our home entertainment system, which is built on Sonos. We have an airport express in the line-in on the Sonos and we can Airplay from iTunes. But that doesn't support Android phones and not all third party mobile apps support Airplay. Airplay is not ubiquitous in the way that Bluetooth is.

So I just bought this logitech bluetooth audio adapter and am going to swap out the airport express for this bluetooth adapter and see how my family reacts to that. I am betting that by replicating the experience they have in the car in our home, they will take control of our home music system with their phones in the same way they do in our car.

This shows the power of an open protocol like Bluetooth vs a proprietary protocol like Airplay. Airplay is a superior technology but it's lack of ubiquity may mean that it doesn't win the market in the end. We will see.