A Slight Disadvantage To Using LG Tone & Talk App

One fact which I have written about, was that I have acquired an “LG Tone Pro HBS-750″ Bluetooth Headset, which still works, but which had some issues that I do not need to repeat.

In addition, these headsets have a suggested app, which we can download from Google Play, called “Tone & Talk“. That app has come under fire from its users, and any issues I can detect with it, are unrelated to issues I myself may have had with the hardware. Specifically, the new version of the app simply reads out the text which belongs to notifications, rather than allowing in-depth screen-reading, within any one app.

There is a type of error with this app that I have just noticed yesterday afternoon, in which the app just seems to repeat a notification indefinitely.

In my limited experience, this error will happen, if the app whose notifications are being monitored, goes full-screen on the Android device, in order to make the notification apparent.

Specifically, I use an app named “S Planner”, which on Samsung Galaxy devices acts as our Calendar app. I had checked off this app, as belonging to the ones, which Tone & Talk is supposed to read out notifications for. But, S Planner has always gone full-screen, so that when I next activate my phone, I can read in detail, what scheduled event I am being reminded of – even before I unlock the phone. Well in this case, when the next scheduled event was displayed, Tone & Talk also went into an endless loop of notification texts.

The way I solved this problem for myself, was just to uncheck S Planner as one of the apps Tone & Talk was ‘listening to’. And S Planner was also not checked by default.

I find this to be of low importance to me, because when S Planner plays its customized notification sound, like so many other sounds, That notification sound is Also played to my headphones. I can recognize that sound. But I will actually need to look at the screen of the phone, to see the details.

When other users are reporting a similar issue, I now suspect that they may also have set their 3rd-party apps to go full-screen, perhaps hoping to encourage Tone & Talk to work as a screen-reader again. And then, doing so would cause a short text just to be repeated indefinitely.

I cannot be 100% certain of this, but am reasonable sure.

Dirk

(Edit : ) There exists the possibility, that the predecessor to the Tone & Talk app, actually used its remote-control over the supported apps, to change some of their settings, so that this predecessor-app would be better-able to act as a screen-reader. The users may not have noticed this.

But then, when users were migrated to Tone & Talk, there could have been no follow-up, in which the settings of the other, read-from apps would have been reverted to what they would normally be. And this would have failed to happen, because the later app does not have the remote-control / Accessibility Aid status, required to change settings of other apps.

So the task may now be up to Tone & Talk users, to revert the settings of each other app, no longer to go full-screen when they receive a message. And the users would need to do this, to put an end to repeated, few words read out by Tone & Talk.

 

A Disappointing Reality, of Manufacturing Today

In This Posting, I wrote how I had my “LG Tone Pro HBS-750″ Bluetooth Headphones around my neck, with the ear-pieces attached to the end of the collar-piece via magnets, that I put my head down on a cushion for a moment, and that immediately, I had a kink in the very thin cable that connects the left ear-piece to the collar-piece.

This happens because the very thin cable has as outer tubing, a rigid kind of material, which develops kinks especially easily. Rigid tubes will form kinks instead of bending.

The headphones have not stopped working yet, but I am very worried by how long it may only take, until that happens. Right now it strikes me, that the average lifespan of a pair of Bluetooth Headphones is 3 days.

Inside the ear-pieces, there are driver coils, which produce variable thrust, in response to voltage and current changes, and which move slightly, across the magnetic field lines of permanent magnets. These driver coils have traditionally been made out of enameled wire.

The way devices were manufactured a long time ago, there would be some kind of contacts inside the ear-pieces, which transfer the current from the enameled wire of the coils, to thin braided wire in the cables that connect the ear-pieces to the collar-piece.

What I find very disturbing, is the degree with which companies have cut corners. The companies have spared every expense. By now, the enameled wire of the coils is merely extended down the tube, that connects the ear-pieces to the collar-piece. That is all.

What this means, is that instead of having changes in the series resistance, the probable mode of failure will eventually be a break in the enameled wire. And when that happens, there will be absolutely no way to repair the damage, other than just to spend another $ 90, and to buy a new set of BT headphones.

Because of a tiny little wire, that was never designed correctly in the first place.

Dirk

(Edit : ) Also, the free end of this one enameled wire is just soldered into the circuit-board, on either side of the collar-piece, so that an earnest attempt to replace the whole ear-pieces, requires that we use a soldering iron. After we undo the trick, which secures the thin cables to the shroud of the collar-piece mechanically. And it just so happens, that not any type of soldering job will be good enough. The soldering iron needs to be low-wattage enough, that it is safe to use with modern, small-component circuit-boards. It is possible for some people to be able to do basic soldering jobs, but not ones at low wattage, on the tiny circuits of modern circuit-boards.

I should just point out, that this particular problem is not specific to LG. For example, I have owned Sony, wired, over-the-ear headphones for a long time, where for one reason or another, the outer tubing on one of the cables has slid, and has exposed the enameled wires underneath, right at the edge of the headphone where there is a lot of wear and tear.

But on those age-old Sony headphones, that enameled wire next lasted for a long time, and never really broke.

(Edit : ) There exists a recent advancement, which makes the concept more feasible, and which did not exist in that past era, which I still use as a reference-point. It is possible to manufacture an apparent wire which looks at first glance like a single, enameled wire, insulated with a transparent resin, but which under closer inspection, is braided out of several, even-finer wires. Therefore such a supposed wire, is also not truly a wire.

This is one of the improvements which also help explain, why the enameled, braided wire does not fatigue close to the driver coils, which deflect back and forth 20,000 times per second.

My Sony headphones used that, and it would only be fair to assume, that my LGs also use that. But, because the wires of my LGs have not been exposed (so far), I cannot be 100% certain.

 

I have damaged my HBS-750 headphones slightly.

The “LG Tone Pro HBS-750″ Bluetooth Headphones differ from the newer “Infinim” Headphones, partially in that the HBS-750 still have a thin cable connecting each ear-piece to either side of the collar-piece, that cable being on the outside of the collar-piece. I read that with the Infinim series of headphones, there is an even thinner cable on each side, which retracts inside the collar-piece. A review by other testers suggested doubt, about the longevity of these ultra-thin cables, of the Infinim-series headphones. The thin cables of the HBS-750 are at least not quite as thin.

But after only owning my HBS-750 for a few days, I made a foolish mistake with them. With the ear-pieces of mine, held in place in each of the magnets on the ends of my collar-piece, I lay down on a cushion, even though I had my collar-piece around my neck. I lay down on my left side while watching television, with my actual phone placed safely on a table in front of me.

What has happened as of yesterday evening, is that the very thin cable on the left side, has developed a slight kink.

There is a hypothetical possibility of such a kink affecting sound quality. In general, headphones should operate with the sound balanced perfectly between left and right. A kink in a cable on one side can do two things:

 

  1. It can short-circuit the cable.
  2. It can insert some small amount of resistance, in series with the ear-piece in question.

 

The problem lies in the fact, that even if HQ ear-pieces are just stated to have ’32 Ohms’ of impedance, in reality their impedance curve is frequency-dependent. Ideally, this impedance might then be equal to 32 Ohms – neglecting any imaginary component – in the middle of the audible spectrum. But on the low-frequency end, as well as on the high-frequency end of the spectrum, it is likely that their impedance is much lower. This is due to the fact that a certain part of this impedance is actually due to the resistance of the wire in their coils, while most of it is due to the fact that their coils move, within the static magnetic field of their magnets.

Hence, to insert maybe ? 1/2 Ohm ? in series with one of the ear-pieces, will not affect performance much in the middle of the spectrum, but may affect performance at either end of the spectrum, where these hypothetical 1/2 Ohm will be in series with much lower impedance, due to the ear-pieces themselves.

What I have found, thankfully, is that for now, the actual kink in that cable, has not affected the sound coming out of the left ear-piece one iota. Yet, over time, these thin cables may deteriorate below the condition they are in right now. In fact, they may receive more kinks and blemishes in the near future. All of which prompts the question, of how long blue-tooth headsets are expected to last in general, with normal wear and tear.

One lesson learned: Do not lie down on one side of the head, while wearing them… The next time, I may not be so lucky. Right now, my sound still seems to be perfectly-balanced, and not in any way that favors specific frequency-ranges on one side. I also still get good, rich bass and treble on the left side…

Dirk

 

I am also satisfied, with the Tone And Talk app.

Together with my new LG Tone Pro HBS-750 Bluetooth Headphones, there is a recommended app on Google Play, named “Tone & Talk”. It is not strictly necessary to use this app, when using the headphones, but it provides an advantage. This app will only activate, if it detects that one of the LG Headphones is BT- connected, that the app has on its supported devices list. The HBS-750 Headphones are on that list, and work in my case.

What this app does today, is somewhat different from what earlier versions of it used to do. The name of the original app was “LG BT Reader”, but when people download BT Reader, the latest version of it only tells them, that their membership has been migrated to the Tone & Talk app, which we should now install instead. There is a subtle difference in what these apps did.

LG BT Reader, had app-specific support, which enabled it not only to read out the text of notifications, but which also allowed it to read out the body of Facebook, Twitter, SMS and certain other messaging apps. Some users were interested in that, because people today do a lot of social networking – on their computers and phones.

In order to be able to do this, LG BT Reader needed to be enabled as an ‘Accessibility Aid’, which gave the app the ability, effectively, to observe how we tap, and then to tap in our place, on buttons within each app.

Tone & Talk has a slightly different approach. It supports a wider variety of apps, but only reads out the text part of notifications displayed by those apps. Just as with LG BT Reader, the user gets to enable specific apps which we want served. But with Tone & Talk, the list of supported apps is longer. As a trade-off, Tone & Talk will no longer go into each app, and read the screen of each app to us, which the earlier app used to do, to convey the body of the SMS or the Twitter announcement… Therefore, at least with Android Lollipop, Tone & Talk also no longer requires to be enabled as an Accessibility Aid, but only to have permission, to ‘Read Notifications’, as can be granted from the settings panel of our phone.

I had set up Tone & Talk as an Accessibility Aid, before launching it, and once it had detected the connection to my headset, it politely told me to unset this. It no longer needed this.

Now, there are some users who are upset about this change, because while they do a lot of SNS reading, they can no longer get the full messages of their Social Networking (Service) apps.

I, personally, am not even used to getting a lot of SMS messages, or other types of IM messages, and so the fact that Tone & Talk will not read those out, is no loss to me. I do receive a lot of email, to the 3rd-party app “Kaiten Mail”, and have this app enabled in Tone & Talk. What this means, is that Tone & Talk does factually read the subject line of any emails I receive, but not their body, and the former, only because the Kaiten Mail app makes the subject-line of received emails, a part of the notification text it displays.

I can actually appreciate that every time I receive a regular email, Tone & Talk will only announce the subject line to me, and that it will not attempt to read out the text of the entire email. I have Kaiten Mail set, to receive all the regular emails which I would also receive to my PCs and laptop.

Also, with the new app, I can set sundry other apps, so that Tone & Talk will read the notifications of each one. I already know which of my apps send me notifications which I am interested in receiving, possibly without taking the phone out of my shirt pocket, so that I can make this selection pretty much according to my taste.

What this means, is that some users have an understandable disappointment in the ‘Tone & Talk’ app, and have also not been given the option, to stay with the ‘LG BT Reader’ app. But I, for one, am not among the disappointed users, because I was never intending to use my headphones, the way those users were doing.

Dirk

Note: There is one app, which the Tone & Talk app has specific support for, and that is the Phone app. These headphones, and / or their software, have a complex system in place, such that if we receive a phone call – which was the primary purpose in having BT Headphones not long ago – and if the caller-ID of the person phoning us was in our Contacts List, the headphones will play the name of the person who is trying to call us.

Well, because the Phone app is also an app, it appears in the long list of them, which we can check off, to have notifications read to us. To check off the Phone app here constitutes an error. It might lead, to a primitive series of digits being read to us, that the Phone app displays as part of its notification text, while the more-specialized software is also trying to read the name of the caller to us.

I have discovered that If I do check the Phone app, as one of those, from which I am to receive regular notifications, the Tone & Talk app recognizes this as an error, and un-checks the other app again.