Google closes Motorola Acquisition

Motorola logo
Motorola logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As an ex-Motorolan I have very mixed feelings about the Google acquisition of Motorola.

On one hand I’m happy as it offers (potential) financial security, an opportunity to continue working on new handsets and it offers Google a pool of very talented hardware experts.

On the other hand I’m concerned that Google have bought the Motorola patent portfolio and, now it has that, will be looking to offload the handset business (Huawei anyone?).  Selling off the handset business may work out well for Motorola of course but I do fear potential lay-offs as part of either process.

Time will tell.  I truly hope that jobs remain secure and that the marriage between Google (software) and Motorola (hardware) talent produces some amazing new handsets.

Read the official Google Blog post here.

I’d love to hear thoughts on this one in the comments below.

Motorola TK30 Pro-Install BT Car Kit

For the last three years I have been using a Motorola IHF1700 Pro-Install BlueTooth car kit.  It’s an excellent kit, with full voice control and a nice, simple to navigate, user interface module (UIM) comprising 5 buttons for volume up and down, on-hook, off-hook and a central menu button.

The kit works well but it has it’s limitations.  There’s no A2DP support for streaming audio via BlueTooth, no AVRCP for controlling the connected device and no PBAP to transfer the address book to the kit.

So I welcomed the arrival of the Motorola TK30 Pro-Install BlueTooth car kit.  The kit features an up-to-date UIM featuring four push buttons and a job wheel, also with a push to select feature.  Alongside the buttons is a single line display which is a particularly welcome feature over the old kit.  Obviously the display allows full menu navigation as well as displaying caller ID, the song you are playing and so on.

Features

Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR
MultiPoint (connect 2 phones at once)
HFP (Hands-Free Profile)
A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile)
AVRCP (Audio Video Remote Control Profile)
PBAP (Phone Book Access Profile)
iPod/iPhone connector for playing music and charging
Noice reduction
Voice prompts
4-channel, 60W hi-fi sound (4x15W)
OLED display
Multiple connection options (BT, iPod/iPhone, 3.mm, USB)
Upgradeable software
Full duplex audio
ISO connection for ease of installation

The full low-down of features is available via the Motorola website.

Installation

Installation is very straight forward.  The TK30 uses standard ISO connectors so actually connecting the kit was simply a case of plugging it in.  The MIC and UIM obviously need to be carefully placed and the corresponding wires routed but it’s a very straightforward process and the installation instructions are very clear about how to place each.

The only issues I had with my installation were the placement of the control box and the size of the UIM.

While you could argue that the control box isn’t that big it does have connections along both sides.  This means that you aren’t just looking for space for the control box but also for the connectors and a length of cabling on each side of the unit.  I wasn’t able to place the control box in the same (and very convenient) location as the IHF1700 control box (underside of the drivers side dash) and had to opt for the (very tight) space above the stereo head unit.  This is a temporary location as there is a storage unit that fits above the stereo which has left everything very tightly packed in.

The UIM is, inevitably, quite large as it now incorporates an OLED display.  This makes placement of the UIM also tricky (at least it does in a 2003 Laguna II).  The issue I faced was finding a large enough flat area on which to mount it.  In the end I opted for the included bracket and ball jointed mount, as can be seen below.  While this provides for a convenient location of the UIM I do find there’s a lot of flex in the mount when pressing the various buttons.  It doesn’t feel like it’s going to break but the movement caused by the flexing is a little off-putting.

Motorola TK30 Pro-Install BT Car Kit

The UIM does come with the top and bottom buttons apparently missing.  In fact, these are left for the installer to fit as the device can be mounted in either right-hand or left-hand orientation.  The in-built installation menu (accessible by holding the button closest to the display whilst turning the unit / ignition on) enables the display orientation to be set as well as other features such as language.  The buttons are then simply pressed into place (sticky backed).

In use

In use the TK30 offers very good audio quality.  I always make a point of asking the person I’m talking to how they find the call quality and I’ve not had any complaints.  Most have said it is very good.

The phonebook sync feature (PBAP) is particularly welcome, giving full access to the whole of  the address book on my iPhone (the IHF1700 didn’t have this feature which meant manually entering contact details).

iPod connectivity via the iPod connector is also a very welcome feature.  Previously I had a separate iPod Nano wired in to the stereo head-unit’s CD Changer port via a Connects2 adapter.  Now I have full access and control of the iPod functionality on the iPhone (you can also stream music over BT but of course this doesn’t offer any control via the UIM of the car kit).

The quality of the audio when playing music (via iPod) is very good and there’s an equalizer option to tune to your specific tastes.

Control of the vehicle entertainment system works very well, pausing all relevant audio sources for incoming calls and resuming when the call completes.  When playing music the UIM also offers up control of the volume via the jog wheel.

Issues

I have noted a number of issues which have all been reported to Motorola in detail and most are specifically related to interaction with the iPhone.

The most obvious issue I’ve noted is a lack of audio when connected via the Apple dock connector.  It’s seemingly hit or miss as to whether audio is routed through the connector or not after the first connection of the iPhone.  Motorola report this as an iPhone issue and that despite being plugged into the dock connector, the iPhone defaults to routing audio via BT when the BT connection happens before the physical dock connection.  Disconnecting and reconnecting the dock connector fixes this for now. iOS4.1 doesn’t do anything to address this unfortunately.

Another obvious issue happens when connecting a call.  Upon making an outgoing call, the UIM display alternates between the connected call and “call ended” three times before correctly displaying that the call is connected.  There is a corresponding click as though the audio channel is opened and closed in accordance with the on-display messages.  More an annoyance than problem but again this is reported to me as an iPhone problem (again iOS4.1 doesn’t fix this).

Other issues I’ve noted and reported include poor management of audio routing during playback of music.  I have noted on several occasions, when reducing the volume to zero via the TK30 UIM, audio is still routed to one or both of the right-hand speakers.  Likewise, at higher volumes it appears that audio is not routed correctly to some of the speakers as they appear muffled.  The TK30 does seem to eventually catch up and correct the routing but it seems fairly random as to when this happens.

Conclusion

The Motorola TK30 is a great kit.  It boasts some good features, audio quality (both in-call and music playback) is very good and the UIM is reasonably well thought out and implemented.  Installation is very straightforward, especially if your stereo head unit already sports ISO connections (if it doesn’t it just means plugging in an adaptor cable which will need to be purchased separately).

The issues with the iPhone connection (which according to Motorola are iPhone specific) leaves the TK30 a little short of where I want it to be.  The features are all there they just don’t work as they should.  Whether this is the TK30 or the iPhone has yet to be fully determined.

What’s next?

I like the kit and shall continue to use it.  I am hopeful that between Apple and Motorola that a fix to the issues are imminent.  Having said that the problems aren’t critical.

As always, if you have a TK30 I would love to hear your feedback or comments, especially if you use an iPhone.

The Motorola TK30 retails for around £120 (based on a quick search via Google).

Visit the Motorola product page and the fact sheet for further information and detailed specifications.

Disclaimer: I should point out that I am an ex-Motorola employee although I am no longer connected to the company and therefore offer up this review as an independent individual.

Update: I am using a development build of SW on the TK30 although the issues reported above are common to both the release version and the development build.  The development build does improve the general responsiveness of the kit and allows much faster scrolling through the menus as well as fixing a previous issue of the unit crashing when selecting “Genres” via the iPod menus.

Update 16-Sep-2010: Update: 15-Sep-2010

I have run the TK30 with the iPhone upgraded to iOS4.1 for a week now and can report the following:

The existing issues (as I noted in the original review) have not been fixed.  All the issues, as reported, remain evident with iOS4.1.

In addition to the previously listed issues iOS4.1 has introduced an annoying problem whereby it drops the BT connection.  On several occasions I have noticed a couple of variations of the bug.

The first is that, once connected, the link is dropped momentarily and then re-established.  This may happen immediately after the initial connection or a few minutes afterwards.  The good news is I haven’t noticed it drop more than once.

The second is that the kit and iPhone don’t automatically connect and I am forced to manually connect the iPhone via the TK30 menu.

iOS4.11?

@icraigt