Being a stick-shift driving, design engineering, bike-riding tech writer means I’m constantly on the go. One of the more annoying things in a busy and fast paced lifestyle is the connection of earbuds to a pocket or having to hold a phone up to your ear while navigating tasks or riding through traffic on a bike. BlueAnt looks to free you of wires with a stylish and functional bluetooth clip-on device called the Ribbon. Read on to find out how it did in our day-to-day tests.
The BlueAnt Ribbon has been a very welcome solution to these constant irregularities in my headset/headphone system. At first, I didn’t think much of it. I paired the Ribbon with my iPhone 5 and tested it out on a call while driving. Double clicking the play button brought up the familiar voice of Siri, and I was able to ask it to call a co-worker. During the call, I asked him about the sound coming through from my end and was informed that he didn’t realize I was even on a headset. Good news there. I could hear him clearly and without issues myself, listening through the iPhone headphones plugged into the Ribbon. Later, while at work, I discovered yet another feature this nifty little device had up it’s sleeve. Aside from the standard play/volume up/volume down features located on the rubber buttons there is a hidden feature. If you press and hold the volume up and volume down buttons, songs will move next or previous. This was a welcome feature as some similar bluetooth devices do not offer a song skip function which can actually be a big deal depending on how much music you listen to with a device like this.
Features aside, the physical design of this thing scores well too. With a harder blue plastic external body contrasted with three soft-touch black rubber button faces, it looks decently professional without distracting or shocking to people that might see it during your day-to-day. The way it clips to clothing or other things is fairly simple. The ribbon is made to only spread apart so far, and includes a line-on-line dimple that is forced to expand when slipping the unit onto a piece of clothing or what-not. This offers a surprisingly strong bond, able to withstand most activities including the occasional jog. The soft-touch buttons provide enough feedback both in feel and sound without being too loud or clicky to distract, although they do obtain a good amount of pocket lint. I’ve intentionally left a normal amount of lint on the Ribbon in the images to show how it will look in real life with use (it’s not going to look perfect, sorry, but it’s definitely not worse than one would expect and still manages to look subtle but great). It’s worth noting that the Ribbon itself features a great microphone that is built in. This gives you the ultimate comfort in being able to use any headphones you please, a genuinely appreciated feature. As far as the software goes, it’s fairly standard fare aside from the aptX support which is definitely unique and definitely not something to just pass off as a “bogus” feature. We unfortunately don’t have any aptX compatible hardware in the office to test with, but you can get more info about aptX here. It’s also worth noting that it supports the on-screen iOS battery meter, as well as a custom Android app available for it. Unfortunately it only features Bluetooth 3.0 (which streams 3GPP with DSP solution). Even so, it still boasts a 6 hour playtime (up to 250 hours standby) with it’s 3.7V Li-Ion polymer cell. The full charge also only takes 2 hours, so you should be able to keep going throughout most of the day and not find it lying dead on your desk too often.
BlueAnt went creative with the Ribbon and certainly came out with a device that boasts a good play time, good microphone, and good features. While we’d like to see Bluetooth 4.0 in the future, the 6 hours of playtime is still respectable and for most people the differences won’t matter. Being able to use this thing for streaming music to your headphones, making calls while driving or riding a bike, and even using it as a bluetooth receiver for your blue-less car that has a 3.5mm AUX port. You can pick the BlueAnt Ribbon up for $49 today here.
-6 hours of playtime (250 standby)
-Professional look without being too flashy
-Collects pocket lint and dust easily