21
Mar

No one is more tired of hearing the word "magic" applied to gadgets than I am. For the iFrogz Boost, though, I'm willing to make an exception. This device promises to amplify the sound coming out of "nearly any smartphone or digital media device" sans wires, Bluetooth, setup, or syncing. For once, in a parade of lofty promises coming from every corner of the tech sphere, a device not only makes a grandiose guarantee of convenience and ease-of-use, but actually delivers.

The Setup (Or Lack Thereof)

Step one: cut a hole in a box remove the Boost from its box. Step two: either plug it into a wall via a Micro USB charger, or insert three AA batteries. Finally, start playing a song on your phone and set it on top of the Boost. The Boost will immediately begin amplifying the music. Without any hyperbole or exaggeration, this device was amplifying Frank Sinatra's Fly Me To The Moon inside of 30 seconds after opening the box.

I've been conditioned by modern technology to be a skeptic. I don't expect to get the projected battery life from my devices, I don't expect that software updates will finally remove all of the bugs in an app, and I don't expect that any Samsung device will ever get a perfect GPS lock quickly 100% of the time. The Boost, however, is one time where the device lives up to its promise.

The Hardware

  

Upon first opening the Boost, you will find a black slab with two big speakers on either side. On the front, a power button, on the rear a Micro USB port and an auxiliary audio input. Underneath the device you'll find a battery cover where you can place three AA batteries if you so choose. The whole device (save for the bottom) is made of a rubberized plastic that makes it very easy to hold.

The whole device is very minimalistic. Save for the one button on the front, there is no method nor need for interacting with the device. The power button, true to its name, actually cycles through three modes: Off, Standby, and On. In "On" mode, the Boost will stay on for ten minutes without detecting any signal. If you place a device on it while in this mode, it will amplify the sound immediately.

In "Standby" mode, the device will remain active for one minute. During that time, it will wait to find any signal. If it detects an audio signal, it will activate the speakers. While it's not as immediate as the reaction in On mode, the delay is minimal, measured in fractions of a second.

The Good

The best part of this device, to put it simply, is the simplicity. (Har har.) As stated before, very rarely does a device work as well as its advertising says it does. The audio quality is very good. While we're still not sure exactly how NearFA technology works (the official explanation is "magic"), it seems to be more than merely a microphone echoing whatever it hears. This isn't professional audio amplification equipment, but it amplifies a wide frequency range. Bass sounds bassy, treble sounds trebley. If you've ever tried to format shift a piece of audio by recording the audible playback of a device, you can appreciate the difference in sound quality with this method.

Since there's no real setup required, either, it's extremely easy to switch devices. On more than one occasion while testing this device with every phone I could get my hands on, the situation quickly turned into "Hey, let me play this song." It's not difficult to imagine this device as the centerpiece at a party, everyone taking turns sharing whatever song they fancy. It makes sharing music in a group setting a very fast and very easy experience.

The Bad

The one thing this device doesn't seem to be so hot at is distinguishing between a brief duck in the audio and the end of a song. Even in On mode, occasionally the Boost would stop amplifying the music if the volume got too low, be it from a pause, a transition between songs, or a bass drop. That being said, it required the volume be pretty low to trigger this minor flaw. Low enough that the phone's volume being set to maximum would be equally loud, so the only time you'd experience this effect is if you don't really need the Boost in the first place.

The one other minor gripe we have with this device is that there doesn't seem to be adequate protection over the speaker areas. The concave silver speaker covers can be pressed inward with very little pressure. We would prefer that there be some sort of firm grate in front of the speakers to ensure the user can't accidentally slip and jam a finger into the speaker. While you won't break it with a slight tap, it still feels less safe than one would like for a portable device that is likely to be passed around a group.

In Summary

Even with the above minor issues, on the whole the device is fantastic. For $40, you get exactly what you're promised and what you pay for. This won't replace your home audio set up, or win any awards for best audio quality, but if you have a need for a portable amp for your phone and every phone around you, take a look at this device. The Boost is that rare device that promises perfect simplicity and actually delivers.

Buy

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • Mat

    Tried commenting before, but it didn't show up. Amazon has this for 25 bucks :-)

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007CU56X2/

  • Kree

    that is pretty sweet.

  • Knasher

    From the look of it I would guess that it works by picking up the changes in the magnetic field that normal speakers use to create vibrations. Hence why the pickup is located so far from the speakers, otherwise it might interfere with itself.

    Speaking of pickup, if you have an electric guitar you can hold your phone near the pickup on the guitar and hear the audio though the amp. Both are working under similar principals.

  • evilhunter101

    Step 2: put your junk in that box?

    • Btod

      Step 3: Make her open the box.

      • mlj

        Step 4: ???
        Step 5: Profit!!!!!

  • Matt

    I would be excited but the one iFrogz item I own (an iPad cover) broke while putting it on. Their products don't really inspire confidence with me. Yes the cover still "works" but the cracks and splits, along with pieces of plastic that falls off don't make me want to buy their stuff.

    On all though that was a very good review. Thanks!

  • Laurence

    Step 3: Make her open the box

  • Kenn

    FYI, you can pick one up here for $35 shipped: iFrogz Boost

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Or here on Amazon for $34 (or $30.56 directly from Amazon when it's back in stock).

  • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

    Excellent review, Eric. The video really-really helps understand what the heck this thing is and just how it works.

    The only thing I wish you did was turn the volume all the way up, but then again, it's hard to gauge the actual volume from the video. Was it loud enough to actually be useful at a party where people are speaking loud and screaming?

    • http://androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft Eric Ravenscraft

      Honestly, that depends on what kind of party you're talking about. If there's a hundred people there, everyone shouting and music already playing, then no, it wouldn't be very helpful, but that's to be expected. A gathering of a dozen or so people in a smaller setting where you could get the attention of everyone in the room with a loud shout, it'll work just fine.

      I actually did try turning the volume all the way up in a previous iteration of the video review, but between the distortion in my phone's speaker (the Boost can only amplify a signal as good as it receives) and the loud volume from the boost directly in the camera's microphone caused too much distortion. Just keep in mind that this is a casual device and not a replacement for proper amp equipment, I doubt you'll be disappointed.

      • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

        Gotcha, thanks. Worth the money you'd say then? As opposed to just using a powered speaker and a headphone cable? It still needs power, so really the only saving is the lack of a need for a cord or pairing. It's simple, but how many times will you use it compared to a conventional portable speaker, considering how easy it is to bump it off the speaker and how much lower the volume is? I like the idea, but I just don't see myself spending money on this vs a regular speaker, especially with BT capabilities.

        • http://androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft Eric Ravenscraft

          If a typical speaker works for you, then go for it. $40 is right around the price point where it's really up to your own situation. If it was upwards of $50, I'd say no, absolutely not. If it were under $30 (and as some commenters have pointed out, it is in some places), there's no reason not to get this.

          But it really just comes down to your preferences. The device does exactly what it says it will do and it does it well. If you have no need for what it does, then that's all well and good, but you just can't get a simpler solution to this very specific problem.

        • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

          I wonder if it's loud enough to hear podcasts in the shower over the water noise. That's pretty much what I use one of these speakers for, except it's powered and needs either a BT or wired connection. Would you say it is?

  • Deltaechoe

    If there is no microphone in there like the company claims then it's almost certainly a magnetic pickup near where you would lay the phone. The problem i can foresee with this is serious degradation of audio quality.

    That in mind, how was the sound quality from this box.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      That was my initial concern too. Eric, care to comment?

      • http://androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft Eric Ravenscraft

        It's not going to win any awards for best audio quality (those exist, right?), but like I said in the review, the audio quality was still very good for what it is. The only distortion I ever noticed was when I had my phone turned up to the maximum volume at which point the distortion was coming from my phone's speakers, not the device itself. I certainly wouldn't characterize it as a "serious degradation", so consider those worries quelled.

  • Ben G

    I imagine it is working in a similar way to this:
    http://techtv.mit.edu/videos/782

  • Ian

    Can anyone recommend something like this that uses the speaker jack? Looking for something relatively cheap (of course I am), with good quality sound (obviously), that I could use for both my phone and tablet.

    • ChumbleSpuzz

      I've been very satisfied with the X-Mini II Capsule Speaker. $27.29 @ Amazon.

      A better solution I think, because they will work with a laptop, tablet, or iPod (so I don't eat my phone's battery) as well. This seems to only work with devices with external speakers that will comply with the form factor of the box itself.

      Eric, or anyone, any thoughts as to how sound quality, or volume, compare to the X-Mini, or other similar type devices?

      • Droid

        X-Mini has a series of wonderful portable speakers. I have a X-Mini MAX II, which you can for $35.95 @ Amazon. Connected with 3.5mm speaker jack. Great sound and amazing battery life (the 12hrs claim is legit).

  • Kevin

    Match this with th Galaxy Beam for a mobile theater!

  • http://www.friendzier.com Janitha Karunathilake

    How heavy is this?

  • http://twitter.com/shamus_carter james kendall

    The so called magic is an Inductive Pickup hooked to the built in amplifier. so basically you have two inductors on the sensor side that receive the music via induction then pass the audio to the built in amp then out the speakers.

Quantcast