As our smartphones get bigger, better, faster, and just plain MORE, we’re going to see repetitive innovation. I say repetitive because the tech is already there, it’s just smaller now. One such example of this innovation is High Definition audio on mobile devices. The next generation of Android phones will have features like stereo speakers and support for much higher quality audio codecs, bringing your multimedia experience much closer to that which you would expect from a high-end laptop. In fact, the companies that fought the PC audio war seem to have picked up their game right where they left off, just taking the fight to the mobile space. So, with all this audio innovation happening all around us, what will it mean for consumers?
It’s probably important to look at the gladiators of this arena, and what is being brought to the table. At the moment, there are two major organizations interested in delivering better audio to your ear holes, and they’ve already started bringing their tech into our world. DTS, for example, has brought it’s “DTS Ultra Mobile” audio software to Huawei and LG for use in their handsets. The LG G2x, for example, has been hailed in several reviews as being able to deliver amazingly high quality audio via both the built-in speakers and by plugging in a set of headphones. On the other side of this fight is SRS Labs, who recently engaged in a deal with Qualcomm where their WOWHD software will be implemented not only on future handsets, but also offer limited versions of the software to existing Snapdragon devices. Qualcomm’s Dual Core developer device is fully equipped with this, and includes stereo speakers on the handset to help developers get the most out of their apps. The Droid Incredible 2, being released later this week, will be the first of the Snapdragon phones to offer the full WOWHD audio enhancing software, and limited versions of this software can be found on the HTC Thunderbolt as well.
Of the many questions I have in the interest of determining which delivers a more superior audio experience, I want to know that the creators of this software have developers in mind. For example, SRS Labs has helped develop OpenSLES, allowing Android app developers to build hardware accelerated 3D audio right into their app, and have it be supported natively by Android. At the moment, there’s little information available regarding how developer-friendly DTS Ultra Mobile is, or whether it is Open Source like many of Dolby’s other Mobile audio enhancers.
As a consumer, I remain unconvinced that this division would weigh in when it comes to choosing a handset. Like with laptops, audio is often pretty low on the list of concerns raised by those making the purchase. However, for the audiophiles out there, and for early adopters eager to have the best, the choice between DTS Ultra Mobile and WOWHD may become a deciding factor as more and more devices adopt these technologies. I, for one, am happy to see growth in this area, making sure that every day these little phones become full entertainment centers.