It was only a few weeks ago at IFA, that Philips announced to Android fans everywhere that they would finally be getting a speaker dock to use with those ubiquitous micro USB smartphones. Yes, the Philips Fidelio for Android has arrived, and for those Android users who have been chomping at the bit for an all-in-one speaker dock, your prayers have finally been answered with a solid device that will make your Android smartphone sing.
There will actually be three Fidelio for Android devices released and so far we have had the opportunity to test out the slightly smaller Fidelio for Android AS351. This speaker may be small in stature, but it is certainly big in sound. The Fidelio for Android AS351 stays true to the shape of the iPhone/iPod Fidelio docks from last year. Its design features the same sleek curves and an inviting shape that will fit in with mostly any decor. Furthermore, it’s small footprint works well in a bedroom, office or even in a dorm room.
However, there are two major differences for the Fidelio for Android AS351 when compared to the iPhone/iPod versions of the dock: For starters, Apple’s 30-pin connector has been replaced with a micro USB connector, and also, this system packs in Bluetooth connectivity. That said, the micro USB connector is not stationary by any means. It is able to tip forward to accommodate bulkier Android smartphones or for those Android models that have micro USB ports placed in precarious places; the connector rotates so the smartphone screen is always able to face you. Lastly, Philips wants to insure that all Android smartphones are able to dock on the device perfectly, so they have implemented small adjustable wheels on each side of the connector to either lower or raise rubber bumpers in the docking cradle.
Philips has managed to accomplish a “universal” speaker dock for Android smartphones by packing in Bluetooth connectivity for streaming music between the smartphone and the speaker. So at its heart, the Fidelio is really just a souped-up Bluetooth speaker system with a Micro USB connector thrown in to charge your device. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. But that does mean that sound quality is dependent on how strong your Bluetooth connection is with the speaker. That said, the Philips Fidelio doesn’t disappoint.
In order to properly get the most out of your Fidelio for Android, it is best to download the Philips Fidelio App from the Android Market. Philips has made this super easy for Android users by putting a QR code on the packaging of the dock. So all you need to do is place your camera over the QR code and you will be directed to the link in the Android Marketplace. Just make sure you have QR reader app on your smartphone for this to work. Otherwise you can still find the App the old fashioned way by searching for it in the Marketplace under the name Philips Fidelio.
Once the app is installed and running on your smartphone, all you need to do is dock it and the device will pair with the Fidelio – once you activate it through the app. Philips has revamped the Fidelio app and it’s much more intuitive and robust than with earlier versions of the app. You can modify EQ settings, set an alarm, check the weather and choose from a selection of internet radio stations- should your playlist grow tired and boring. The selection of channels are vast and international. You can listen to radio stations form New York to London. Since the device does work via Bluetooth, you can also stream Pandora through the Fidelio, but the sound quality is better when streaming music through the dedicated Fidelio app.
Songbird; Philips proprietary media software has also been revamped with an adorable little birdie wearing headphones to boot. The Songbird software will automatically pick-up any audio files you have on your smartphone and sort them accordingly by album, song title, artist, etc…
For those who have an iPhone, hope is not lost, since you can charge your iPhone through the USB port in the back by connecting a 30-pin cable USB cable. You can also stream your iPhone’s music over Bluetooth via the Philips Fidelio software. Furthermore, if you don’t have an iPhone or an Android Smartphone, there is an AUX input jack as well for other external audio devices.
The AS351 model offers Dynamic Bass Boost to preserve low tones for deep bass at any volume level and comes with 10W RMS total output power. The watts may seem minuscule, but the Fidelio for Android AS351 doesn’t come off sounding like a bedside alarm clock for $20. Instead it pumps out tunes that exhibit a decent amount of body with rich treble and midrange. Bass is a bit on the weaker side, but it certainly is relevant on songs that emphasize the low-end. However when you turn the volume a little higher than normal, these types of songs do start to exhibit some faint distortion.
Philips deserves big props for being one of the first to attempt a universal speaker dock for Android smartphones. It’s obvious that they thought about every minuet detail on this speaker, down to the adjustable micro USB dock. Sure, the Fidelio AS351 is not a speaker dock in the truest sense of the word since sound only comes out of it if you connect via Bluetooth. However, even for a Bluetooth speaker the sound is pretty impressive and those who have longed for a micro USB dock for their Android device will be thrilled. The fact that you can use the system to charge your Android phone, and use it with an iPhone is a nice touch too, so that means that in most homes, this dock should suffice for everyone. The one bummer however, is that the dock doesn’t come with a remote. But since it streams via Bluetooth, you can undock your Android smartphone and play music on the speaker wirelessly. Also the Songbird App is not Mac compatible, so only those with a PC will be able to use Songbird to customize songlists and synchronize to an Android phone.
The Philips for Android AS351 hasn’t yet been released, but we can anticipate it retailing somewhere between $99.99 to $150.00 based on prices for the Fidelio docking speakers for the iPod/iPhone. At the end of the day, Philips has proven their obsession with sound has no bounds, and the Fidelio for Android manages to be a solid speaker system that also has the potential to be a formidable contender to the slew of iPod/iPhone docks on the market.
The Good: Sleek design and small footprint make it ideal for the bedroom or a dorm room. Good sound reproduction even through Bluetooth connectivity. Philips Fidelio App has gotten a major upgrade. iPhone users in your household can use it too! Those who have looked high and low for a Micro USB speaker dock, your search ends here.
The Bad: Would have liked this to be a true Android speaker dock, not just a Bluetooth speaker/micro USB charger combo. Depending on the Android smartphone you use or Bluetooth strength – sound quality reproduced will be better or weaker. Light sound distortion happens on low-end tunes when pushing the volume upwards past normal.