The best portable Bluetooth speakers at every price point

Image Credit: AB

Are you after a $15 Bluetooth speaker to improve upon your phones built-in speaker or +$300 room-filling party speaker? With these and everything in between, we’ve got you covered.

We’ve compiled all of our ‘top 5 portable Bluetooth speaker’ posts into one handy guide to help you choose the best, whatever your budget.

If you’d like your music to be a little more personal, check out the best wireless headphones at every price point, or try the best true wireless earbuds at every price point.

Top 5 waterproof portable Bluetooth speakers under $100

The best small, battery-powered Bluetooth speakers under $100, that money can buy.

All of the below speakers can comfortably slip in a rucksack and withstand the elements, with some sort of waterproofing.

For the best portable Bluetooth speakers money can buy, check out the top 5 small Bluetooth speakers here.

For those with a tighter budget, find the best 5 Bluetooth speakers under $50 here.

1. JBL – Flip 5 – $99.95 (sale price)
  • Water-resistant design: Meets IPX7 standards.
  • Connect wirelessly from across the room: Pair this speaker with virtually any Bluetooth-enabled device, including phones, tablets and laptops.
  • Rechargeable Battery: Enjoy up to 12 hours of extended playback on a single charge.

2. Ultimate Ears – WONDERBOOM 2 – $66.99 (sale price)
  • Waterproof, dustproof and floats: Meets IP67 standards. Use it in the pool, the beach or as a shower speaker.
  • Portable and rugged: Dirt resistant and drop-proof – it’s ready for bikes and big adventures.
  • 360 degree big sound and Outdoor Boost: Enjoy surprisingly bigger sound and additional bass. Turn on Outdoor Boost for audio that’s specially tuned for the outdoors.
  • Double up, party louder: Pair two speakers together to party louder or for true wireless stereo.
  • Connect wirelessly from across the room: Compatible with smartphones, tablets and other devices that support Bluetooth and Bluetooth Smart wireless audio profile [Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP).
  • Rechargeable Battery: Enjoy up to 13 hours of extended playback on a single charge.
  • Easily control your music right from the speaker: Without having to reach for your phone.

3. Bose – SoundLink Micro – $99
  • Crisp, balanced sound and unmatched bass performance for its size.
  • Rugged, waterproof design – meets IPX7 standards.
  • Attach it to your backpack or cooler with the tear-resistant silicone strap, and bring it wherever you go.
  • Enjoy up to six hours of playtime from a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
  • Pair two speakers together for Stereo or Party Mode playback.
  • Built-in speakerphone for clear conference or personal calls and access to your phone’s Siri or your Google Assistant.
  • With Bose SimpleSync technology, listen to the same music in different rooms by grouping a Bose Home Speaker with a Bose SoundLink Bluetooth speaker and play them both in perfect sync.
  • Compatible Bose Smart Home speakers are Home Speaker 500, Home Speaker 300, and Portable Home Speaker. Compatible Bose Soundlink speakers are Soundlink Revolve, Revolve+, Mini, Mini II, Color, Color II, and Micro.
  • Hands-free voice control with Amazon Echo Dot.
  • Wireless Bluetooth pairing with voice prompts.
  • Multi-connect to two devices and swap which controls the music.
  • Easily manage Bluetooth connections, unlock features and access future updates with the Bose Connect app.
  • Easy charging via a Micro-B USB port.

4. Soundcore – Motion+ – $99.99
  • Media Acclaimed: Tech Radar says Motion+ has “Excellent audio performance” and Best Product says “It’s the best speaker $100 can buy”
  • Hi-Res Audio: Anker Soundcore Motion+ Bluetooth speaker is equipped with stunning Hi-Res audio which is further enhanced by Qualcomm aptX for lossless music reproduction when streaming via Bluetooth
  • Huge Sound with Intense Bass: Packed with two ultra-high frequency tweeters, two neodymium woofers, and two passive radiators to fill every corner of your room with 30W of rich sound. Low frequencies are enhanced in real-time by our exclusive BassUpTM technology
  • Exceptional Depth and Clarity: Anker Soundcore Motion+ Bluetooth speaker has an ultra-wide frequency range that stretches from 50 Hz to 40 kHz and is paired with an advanced DSP to ensure all the details and idiosyncrasies of a song are faithfully reproduced
  • IPX7 Waterproof: Fully-waterproof casing provides an impenetrable barrier against liquids
  • 12-Hour Playtime: Anker Soundcore Motion+ Bluetooth speaker has a built-in 6,700 mAh battery to let you effortlessly soundtrack wild weekends, cozy evenings, or long summer days outdoors

5. Sony – SRS-XB23 – $98
  • Feel power of EXTRA BASS: Dual passive radiators work together with full-range speakers to enhance low-end tones, giving bass a boost.
  • Party Connect: Lets you connect up to 100 compatible speakers with Bluetooth technology so the music and lights sync up and everyone dances to the same beat.
  • Speakerphone function: Offers a convenient way to talk hands-free, whether it’s a conference call for work or a chat with friends.
  • Waterproof, rustproof, dustproof and shockproof IP67 design: Allows flexible outdoor use so there is nothing to stop you from enjoying your music to the maximum, anywhere and everywhere.
  • Connect wirelessly from up to 98.4′ away: Pair this speaker with your smartphone, tablet, or other Bluetooth-enabled devices.
  • X-balanced speaker unit: Features a non-circular diaphragm to deliver high sound quality and powerful sound pressure for a richer, deeper listening experience.
  • Take this compact and lightweight speaker everywhere you want: Fits perfectly in the cupholder of your camping chair, and the convenient strap lets you hang your speaker in your tent or on the nearest tree.
  • Control beat with Sony Music Center app: Select your favorite playlists, cue the next song and sound modes.
  • USB Type-C port: Lets you charge your portable speaker.
  • Rechargeable battery: Play your favorite tunes for up to 12 hours on a full charge, and up to 10 hours in EXTRA BASS mode.

Amazon introduce Alexa Guard Plus, Energy Dashboard and Proactive Hunches in the US

Amazon have launched three new Alexa features in the US, aimed to help keep your home secure, energy efficient and smarter than ever.

Alexa Guard Plus is a subscription service on top of Alexa Guard. Alexa Guard is a free service available in the US on Echo devices such as 3rd and 4th generation Echo Dots, 4th generation Echos, Echo Studios and some Echo Show smart displays. Simply tell Alexa you’re leaving the house and you’ll receive mobile Smart Alerts when your Echo device detects sounds such as a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm or glass breaking. Tap the notification on your phone to hear what Echo heard and Drop In for live audio. While you’re away, Guard can switch connected lights on and off to give the appearance you’re still at home.

Unveiled in September and now officially launching in the US, Alexa Guard Plus provides an extra layer of security. Subscriptions are free for 30 days, then $4.99 per month or $49 per year. Guard Plus is included with Ring Protect Plus plans at no additional cost. Guard Plus works with smart security devices from Ring, ADT and Scout Alarm to arm systems simply by telling Alexa you’re leaving.

Guard Plus gives users more Smart Alerts, intruder deterrents and access to a 24/7 Emergency Helpline. Echo will recognise more sounds such as footsteps, talking or a closing door while you’re away. If Alexa detects any of these sounds, your Echo can play a siren, or if motion is detected on a camera, Echo can play a dog barking as a deterrent. Commands such as “Alexa, call for help” can call the Emergency Helpline who can request emergency responders.

Alexa Guard can be set up in the Alexa app under More, Settings, then Guard.

Other new Alexa features that debuted in the US alongside Guard Plus, include a new Energy Dashboard, that’ll tell you how much energy your Alexa-connected smart home devices consume such as smart lights, plugs, switches, water heaters, thermostats, TVs and Echo devices.

Proactive Hunches controls your smart devices in your home such as lights, thermostats and vacuums based on your daily habits. For example, tell Alexa you’re going to bed and she can either let you know a light is still on in the house, or automatically turn it off. If you usually leave a light on at night, Alexa will learn this sort of behaviour. Or perhaps turn on the vacuum, turn down the water heater and thermostat as you leave for work. Hunches are enabled by default and can be controlled in the Alexa app.

Instagram’s new Professional Dashboard brings together tools and educational content for businesses and creators

Image Credit: Instagram

Instagram introduce the new Professional Dashboard, a central hub designed to help Business and Creator accounts accomplish their goals.

Announced yesterday, the Professional Dashboard is “A new central destination to help you turn your passion into a living on Instagram”. Supporting entrepreneurial creators and small businesses, the hub is your central destination to track performance, access and discover professional tools, and explore educational information curated by Instagram.

During 2020, Instagram have helped many businesses thrive during the economic stress brought on by COVID-19, with tools to help users earn money on the platform, such as Badges and Instagram Shop. These tools and more were brought together into one central hub. Since launching in November last year, the Professional Resources hub has been visted by 82 million accounts, 37 million of which tapped on at least one item.

Now Instagram hopes to improve on this with the Professional Dashboard, providing a better experience, making these tools and more easier to discover and access the tools for them. The new hub has three key features:

1. Track Your Performance:

Discover insights and trends based on your accounts performance.

2. Grow Your Business:

Easily access tools you use to run your account more efficiently, discover new tools to help you build your business, and check monetization status and eligibility.

3. Stay Informed:

Learn how to make the most of Instagram through curated educational resources including tips, tricks, guidance, and inspiration.

While some of these features were already available on Instagram, the Professional Dashboard brings them together. Business and Creator accounts will find this by clicking View Professional Dashboard at the top of their profile. Instagram say they will add more tools here over time.

What is the new, exclusive Clubhouse app?

Image Credit: Jonathan Velasquez

The new social media audio app has secured further funding and invited celebrities to join.

Audio-only social media platform Clubhouse launched in March 2020 and now has two million users. However the app, sort of WhatsApp-meets-Twitter-via-Zoom, is still very much in the ‘this app isn’t for just anybody’ stage.

Built around gathering people to talk, the invite-only app connects people via audio, featuring live voice conversations. It’s very different from Twitter, for example – a more spontaneous social experience. It’s made up of rooms users can dip in and out of to hear people talking to each other, like joining endless Instagram Lives but audio only. If you ‘raise your hand’ the speakers might let you join in the conversation. Gigs, comedy shows, conferences, book clubs can be eavesdropped on, with no recording allowed. The idea is it’s like a house party or club, and you’re wandering from room-to-room catching snippets of conversations and jam sessions.

They’re pulling out all the stops to make the beta version of the app seem tantalisingly just out of reach. The app basically seems to tap into the human urge to snoop on other people’s conversations. It’s all live recording, but there’s nothing to stop users immediately dishing the dirt on other social media apps like YouTube, which is of course what the emerging app wants. Clubhouse is hyper-exclusive at the moment, with Silicon Valley techies, celebrities and journalists getting the invite. Notable sign ups include Drake, Estelle, Jared Leto and Oprah. Members have a limited number of invites to give out to friends to join the app.

Clubhouse offers the possibility of overhearing candid conversations with celebrities, and also the opportunity for exclusive music performances and the chance to hear your musical heroes reflect on their careers. Last month Diddy talked openly about his friendship with The Notorious B.I.G. in an exclusive Last Train To Paris 10 year anniversary celebration in an ‘Appreciation Room’ on the app.

There’s also huge scope for collaboration. One of the first events to go viral was in December, a live performance of The Lion King musical from a cast of 40, with orchestra and choir, with the user ‘pull-to-refresh’ing so accompanying imagery matched the action. There’s also been live auditions for the tour of the musical Dreamgirls and a Hamilton talent show.

The latest round of funding for Clubhouse, rumoured to value the company at over $1 billion, will be spent on expanding the iPhone-only app to Android, improving infrastructure and user safety and support. They’re also investing in ‘discovery’, algorithmically directing users to people, clubs and rooms they might like. Interestingly, Clubhouse is also ‘investing in creators’, so that people who attract a big audience when hosting conversations on the app can be paid through tipping, tickets or subscription.

There’s a waitlist to sign up to if lowly members of the public are eager to join in. It may be a little wait but it’ll be interesting to see if Clubhouse threatens the dominance of apps like TikTok, and how the music industry gets involved in the action.

Top 5 best active noise cancelling true wireless earbuds under $100 2021

Active noise cancelling in true wireless earbuds has come down massively in price over the last year or so. Here are the best true wireless earbuds we could find with ANC under $100.

Not too long ago, active noise cancelling in true wireless earbuds used to be a luxury, reserved for only the best and most expensive pairs. Now you can find some half decent options out there for under $100.

For more true wireless earbuds options at every price point, click here.

Skullcandy – Indy ANC Noise Canceling True Wireless – $99.99 (sale price)
  • Digital Active Noise Cancellation – Indy ANC is designed with Ambient Mode
  • Personal Sound via Skullcandy App – create a Personal Sound Profile that is stored on your headphones to optimize sound levels just for you.
  • Up to 32 Hours of Total Battery Life – Indy ANC engineered to deliver long battery life. Plus, with the rapid charge feature, you can get 2 hours of play from just a 10-minute charge
  • Wireless Charging Case – Features a wireless charging case. Just lay it down on a wireless charger (or check out our Fuelbase series of charging pads) and juice up your battery.
  • Find your Earbuds with Tile – Download Tile App and follow the simple in-app instructions to activate your headphones or earbuds.

JLab Audio – JBuds Air ANC True Wireless Earbuds – $59.99 (sale price)
  • Long Battery Life – 40+ hours total playtime (10+ hours in earbuds and 30+ additional hours from the charging case)
  • Noise Control and Smart ANC – Control how you hear outside noise with three noise control modes: ANC On, ANC Off and Be Aware (lets outside noises in). Four microphones work together to cancel out noise and provide uninterrupted audio – wherever you GO.
  • Movie Mode – Elevate your movie-watching experience. With this super low latency mode, reduce the audio lag so voices match up perfectly to the screen.
  • Custom EQ Sound Settings – Choose the sound that matches your personal preferences with 3 EQ soud settings: JLab Signature, Balanced and Bass Boost
  • JLab Air ANC App – With the new JLab Air ANC app, you’ll have control to customize the Active Noise Control settings, touch controls, and sound to your personal preference.
  • Dual Connect – Use either earbud independently or use both and experience a seamless connection. Both earbuds auto connect to your device so no need to worry about switching or missing a connection.
  • Comfort and durability – Find your ideal fit with 6 sets of tip options: Gel tips (small, medium and large); 1 set of Cush Fins; and Cloud Foam expand to fit the ear (medium).

AUKEY – EP-N5 – $64.99
  • Advanced Active Noise-Cancellation: With the hybrid ANC technology (combining external and internal noise-canceling microphone systems), these earbuds detect and cancel a maximum 35dB of ambient noise so you can focus on your music. The 8mm titanium dynamic drivers enhance bass and deliver incredible sound
  • Transparency Mode: Tune back into the world around you without needing to remove the earbuds. Have a quick conversation, catch an important announcement, or cross the street more safely
  • Clear Calls: Each earbud has two microphones for improved voice pickup and background-noise suppression, which ensures that you’re heard clearly without interference
  • IPX5 Water Resistance & USB-C Fast Charging: IPX5 water resistance protects against sweat and rain, making these earbuds ideal for intense workouts and runs. USB-C fast charging fully recharges the case in 2 hours for up to 25 hours of battery life on-the-go

Mpow – X3 ANC Wireless Earbuds – $59.99
  • Active noise cancelling: Mpow X3 active noise cancelling (ANC) wireless earbuds cancel the environmental low-frequency noises, so you can enjoy music in an immersive way without turning up the volume too high. You can also turn on the earbuds’ ANC without playing music to have a good sleep when traveling in the air
  • 4 Mics environmental noise cancellation: Each earbud has 2 microphones, one mic reduces the environmental noise and the other enhances the voice pick-up when you are having a phone call, so you can be heard loud and clear and enjoy a crystal-clear voice talk. Do not have to shout into your cellphone anymore even in a noisy place
  • Immersive sound with punchy bass: TWS headphones adopts 10mm fiber optic driver, ultra-thin elastic diaphragm and unique stereo design, supports SBC/AAC high-quality audio decoding, frequency response range reach 20-20khz, can provide you with immersive sound, let you feel crystal clarity and strong Bass
  • Fantastic 30h playtime: ANC Bluetooth headphones can provide 7 hours of music playback/talk time, with a charging box provides an additional 23 hours of playback time, and the reversible USB-C quick charging cable allows you to insert the connector in both ways. The earbuds can meet all your needs throughout the day.Beside, you could chack the battery level directly on the top right corner of the your device
  • One step paring & Smart touch control: The wireless earbuds allows you to achieve true unlimited freedom, just take them out of the charging case and they’ll automatically connect to your paired device. With just finger touch, you can control music/volume/ calls/ANC/voice assistant
  • IPX8 & Intimate earbuds design: With Nano coating, Mpow waterproof earbuds is an ideal choice for strenuous exercise and sweaty exercises. We provide typical and super soft eartips, and design 3 sizes of fitted silicone eartips to meet the needs of different ears! Unless they are removed, the wireless earbuds will not fall

AUKEY – EP-N7 – $50.99
  • Advanced Active Noise Cancelation: With the advanced ANC technology, these earbuds detect and cancel a maximum 28dB of ambient noise so you can focus on your music. The 10mm dynamic drivers enhance bass and deliver incredible sound
  • 35-Hour Playtime & USB-C Quick Charge: The earbuds offer 7 hours of music and calls on a single charge with ANC off (4.5 hours with ANC on), while the charging case extends that to 35 hours. USB-C Quick Charge fully charges the charging case in 120 minutes
  • Dual Microphones: Each earbud has two microphones for improved voice pickup and background-noise suppression, which ensures that you’re heard clearly without interference
  • One-Step Pairing & IPX5 Water Resistance: The true wireless earbuds are ready when you are– just take them out of the charging case and they’ll automatically connect to your paired device. IPX5 water resistance makes them ideal for intense workouts and runs

Tencent Music buys audiobook platform Lazy Audio

Image Credit: Aaron Burden

Chinese technology conglomerate Tencent Music Entertainment Group enters the audiobook industry.

Tencent Music, the Chinese music streaming leader has paid $416m to buy the Lazy Audio platform. This ties nicely into their long-term audio entertainment strategy for the future. Lazy Audio will continue to function independently, whilst having access to Tencent Music’s technology, expertise and promotional capabilities. Over the past year Tencent Music has seen continued growth within its services – by September 2020 51.7 million people were paying subscribers to the music streaming platform, growing by 46% compared to the same quarter in 2019. It is also continually growing in dominance with wider investments, spreading throughout the audio entertainment world with stakes in every section of the music industry. Interest in audiobooks is only the latest venture.

Mr. Cussion Pang, CEO of TME, said in a statement:

Lazy Audio’s catalog is set to expand our audio content library, and its recording capacity will significantly boost our production of audiobooks. We believe this partnership will help us cater to the increasingly nuanced needs of our customers, strengthen our brand recognition in this segment, generate considerable operational synergies, and accelerate our journey to become a leading audio entertainment platform in China.

Mr. Cussion Pang, Chief Executive Officer of Tencent Music

Lazy Audio was founded in 2012 – it’s one of the leading audio platforms used across China, providing audiobooks, podcasts, radio shows and Chinese comedy. It has different channels to access content including subscription payment and pay per title. Tencent Music Entertainment Group meanwhile is the leading online music entertainment platform in China. It aims to ‘elevate the role of music in people’s lives’ with online music and live streaming services over hugely popular streaming apps QQ Music, Kugou Music and Kuwo Music, and online karaoke app WeSing.

The announcement comes as Tencent Music cements partnerships with record label giants, such as Warner Music, for rights to distribute their music across its streaming platforms. They also own 10% of Universal Music Group.

The best of Google from CES and Galaxy Unpacked 2021

Image Credit: Google

With 2021’s virtual CES and Galaxy Unpacked wrapped up, Google run down their favourite pieces of new tech with their services built-in.

CES 2021 and Galaxy’s recent Unpacked virtual events saw many new tech products unveiled. Google brings their highlights of the technology shown off, with their software baked in.

When you’re on the go

Samsung’s Unpacked event saw the release of their new flagship smartphones Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra. With the latest version of Google’s operating system Android 11 loaded, there are a number of new features. You can now mirror Google Duo to your Samsung TV, letting you cast your video calls to the big screen. The updated messaging app now features Rich Communication Services (RCS), allowing users to chat over Wi-Fi. The new messages app will send read receipts, let you react to messages, send and receive high videos, as well as provide a dynamic communication experience with Smart Actions and a spam filter. From the home screen of Android, you can now swipe to access personalized content with Discover. Google’s new TalkBack screen reader will help blind users and those with difficulty seeing their displays, with spoken feedback and gestures to navigate the OS without looking at the screen.

Image Credit: Google

Google are also working with Samsung to make managing smart home products from Galaxy smartphones and tablets a breeze. Via the SmartThings app, users can now control Nest devices such as thermostats, cameras and doorbells. All connected devices can be viewed and controlled on one screen. Just head to Devices in the Quick Panel of your Galaxy S21. Google have also introduced SmartThings on Android Auto, letting you quickly switch off your kitchen lights from your car’s display as you’re pulling out of the driveway.

Image Credit: Google

Lenovo’s new Tab P11 is a great choice for parent that want to introduce their kids to a productive tablet to learn and have fun. Google’s Kids Space is a kids mode for the tablet, designed for children under 9 with recommended apps, books and videos.

Image Credit: Lenovo

The latest version of Google’s smartwatch system Wear OS, will help Android phone users in the US send texts and make calls on the new Fossil’s Gen 5 LTE Touchscreen Smartwatch without your phone. For a more fashionable smartwatch, Michael Kors’s new Access Gen 5E MKGO and Gen 5E Darci help wearers keep track of their health and wellness, while staying in touch with friends and family, as well as making payments directly from the watch.

New headphones and earbuds from JBL and Kenwood WS-A1G have Google Assistant built-in. Simply press the ear cup or earbud to send a message, access your calendar, change the song and so much more.

Hanging out at home

Google TV will be coming to a number of new smart TVs from Sony and TCL in 2021. Google TV brings movies, shows, live TV and more from apps and subscriptions into an organized layout for you to easily find something you’d enjoy. Don’t feel like scrolling, simply ask the Assistant to browse for you, “Hey Google, find action movies” or “Show me sci-fi adventure TV shows”. LG TVs (2019 and later) can now be controlled with your voice via a Google-enabled smart speaker. Google Assistant devices will soon also be able to control Verizon Fios set top boxes. The new Duo app on Samsung TVs lets you join group video calls directly on the TV.

Image Credit: Google

Connected lights from LIFX, Nanoleaf and Yeelight now work with Hey Google, and now support Seemless setup, letting you connect compatible smart home devices through the Google Home app and a Nest speaker or Smart Display without needing an additional hub or bridge.

Image Credit: Nanoleaf

For the ultimate futuristic home control, you can now ask Google to clean up the house for you. Simply say “Hey Google” to active Smart MEDION’s MD 19601 vacuum cleaner.

Image Credit: MEDION

Google are also making it easier for manufacturers to bring voice capabilities to their smart home devices. Google’s new Authorized Solution Provider program comes from certified partners Tuya and CoolKit to help manufacturers build smart home Actions for Google Assistant.

Games platform Roblox raises $520m funding from investors including Warner Music Group

Image Credit: Alex Haney

Warner Music Group have made an eight-figure investment in the popular gaming platform Roblox.

Roblox, the platform for millions of games built by a huge community of young players and professional developers, has announced surprise funding of $520m from investors. The backing was led by Altimeter Capital and Dragoneer Investment Group. It also included the Investment Group of Santa Barbara and, most interestingly, Warner Music Group.

The gaming platform is played by over half of US kids under 16. Reacting to the new funding, David Baszucki, CEO and co-founder of Roblox said: ‘We look forward to working with all of our new investors as we continue our mission to build a human co-experience platform that enables shared experience, from play to work, and learning among billions of users.’

Baszucki and Erik Cassel founded Roblox in 2004, encouraging everyone to make Lego-like characters and build simple games. Now Roblox has over seven billion users who play millions of user-created games for free, and make new games using the online tools provided. Last year the company announced it was delaying its stock market launch until 2021 so as not to ‘leave money on the table’.

So why has a massive music label invested in the games platform? Warner Music Group clearly thinks companies like Roblox hold promise for the music industry in the near future. It was one of the first labels to work with the gaming platform back in September 2020, when Roblox hosted an album launch party for singer Ava Max in its virtual realm. The event attracted 1.2 million users and saw Max performing in front of a dance floor and chatting about her album.

For artists, virtual concerts are a quickly organised alternative to real-life concerts, with none of the organisational logistics of performing in a stadium. Roblox is aiming for a complete immersive experience of virtual stage, virtual artist and virtual audience, unlike watching a stream. For concerts, that includes virtual merchandise sales from bands. By September 2020, 960,000 players had earned Robux, Roblox’s virtual cash – with 1,050 of those players earning more than $10,0000. Robux can be spent on extras for the game like clothes and pets for their avatars – and, potentially, virtual band merch.

Roblox has ambitious plans to change the way we play, work, learn and hang out together. Inspired by the worldbuilding of science fiction novels like Ready Player One, the platform’s ultimate aim is to launch its own version of the Metaverse, a universe of connected virtual worlds. And part of that plan includes a music strategy, led by its global head of music Jon Vlassopulos. Roblox aims to create Metaverse stars who will launch their careers in a similar way to breakout social-media influencers.

There were several interesting developments on the music front within the platform in 2020. May saw music startup Popgun add music-making app Splash to the platform, where players can customise a virtual stage and become a virtual DJ, which has now been used by 21 million people. As well as the Ava Max launch, in November Roblox virtually hosted Lil Nas X over two days and four shows, attracting 33 million views. In April, Roblox’s in-world livestream of the One World: Together at Home Covid-19 charity concert included a virtual concert venue where players could gather pre-show, watch the stream and a replay of it the next day, with free branded ‘Global Citizen’ items for avatars.

Roblox has also looked into licensing deals with record labels so players can add music to the games they create. Vlassopulos told Music Ally:

For things like virtual worlds, if an artist is going to come to the platform, they would bring the rights and everything associated with it… The smart labels and artists are going ‘this is a platform we should be on and embracing: if our music can be on the top game on Roblox and have 15 million people playing it, that’s got to be an opportunity worth looking at.’

Jon Vlassopulos, Roblox Global Head of Music

Roblox is not the only gaming platform looking to virtual concerts and fan interactions, with Fortnite’s Travis Scott ‘Astronomical’ event drawing 45.8 million viewers across five shows in April 2020. Gaming platforms are increasingly filling the current live music void. They clearly have confidence that their plans for the future have world-changing potential.

A new Apple patent shows an AirPods charging iPhone case

Image Credit: United States Patent and Trademark Office

Apple’s newly granted patent describes a concept iPhone case that can charge AirPods and other external devices using the phones battery.

In 2018, Apple added the ability to charge an Apple Pencil by magnetically attaching the accessory to the side of the iPad Pro. Spotted by William Gallagher from AppleInsider, it seems Apple are experimenting with adding similar functionality to the iPhone via cases and covers. The cases are designed to protect your device, while adding some method of charging external devices using the iPhone’s battery as a power source.

The patent is titled “Cases and folios for carrying and charging accessories”, and opens “This application relates to a case for retaining a portable electronic device and an accessory.” The application states, “the case can further include a first terminal, a second terminal, and a battery. The first terminal can receive electrical energy from the portable electronic device to charge the battery. And the electrical energy stored in the battery can be transferred to the accessory through the second terminal.” Continuing, “the case can further include a slotted compartment to store money and credit cards.”

Apple describes the issue as, “oftentimes end users only find out their electronic accessory is out of power when they use the accessory. But they might not carry a charger with them.” The patent goes on to mention the case having “a cavity” for the accessory to slot into and charge. Covering all bases, it lists many different electronic devices as a possibility for charging, “earphones, both wired and wireless, watches, styluses or electronic pencils, keyboards, electronic mice, speakers, cameras, microphones, drones, biometric monitors, card readers, adaptors, chargers, cables, and other suitable electronic devices.” Not limiting themselves to just conventional cases, “a folio, a wallet, a flap, a cover, an enclosure, a holster, a clip, a sleeve, an armband, or suitable combination hereof.”

Apple Patent 2
Image Credit: United States Patent and Trademark Office

Detailing the charging solution, “receptacle can include two openings, one at each end for receiving accessory devices, and a charging terminal in between for energy transfer between the receptacle and the accessory devices.” The images show AirPods slotted into the case, however devices could equally be attached magnetically, “the accessory devices can be retained through frictional fit, magnetic coupling, or both.”

Image Credit: United States Patent and Trademark Office

This is all an interesting concept. Looking at other phone manufacturers, the logical next step for charging AirPods and other small accessories via an iPhone would be reverse wireless charging. While the patent images look ridiculous, the text is vague enough to introduce more elegant solution in final implementation.