Following my Kindle review yesterday, several readers asked me what I thought of the Bluetooth option and the Voiceview accessibility feature.
I couldn't test that feature because I didn't own a Bluetooth speaker (or any other BT accessories for that matter), so today I went out and bought a couple speakers to I could offer a first-hand report.
Since the 2016 Kindle does not support the $20 Kindle audio adapter USB dongle, the only way to enable Voiceview on this ereader is to pair with a BT speaker.
And that's a shame, because every part of Voiceview over Bluetooth is a fiasco. It is difficult to set up, doesn't work for its intended purpose, and when you turn off the BT speaker the Kindle proceeds to nag you to reconnect it.
There's no part of this which doesn't scream that Amazon should go back to the drawing board and try again.
To start with, I had to go find the user manual and search for instructions on how to pair a BT speaker. The process was not straightforward nor as simple as with the Paperwhite (where you could enable Voiceview by plugging in a USB dongle). It took me two tries on my first attempt to pair a speaker with the 2016 Kindle, but offering a blood sacrifice at dawn after the full moon while painted blue and reciting Hamlet in the original Klingon helped me make the connection.
And once I paired the speaker and the 2016 Kindle, I found that Voiceview was simply unusable over Bluetooth.
I tested my 2016 Kindle loaner review unit first with a $40 Insignia BT speaker from Best Buy and later a $13 Vivitar BT speaker from Walmart.
Both speakers demonstrated the same problems. Every time the audio paused, whether at the end of a sentence or after a comma, the following word was invariably clipped. This made it difficult to impossible to follow the text.
Here's an audio clip demonstrating the problem, and for the sake of completeness I have also embedded a screen shot of the text being read below.
I don't know why or how this happened, but I can tell you that the audio problems in the clip happened not just once but multiple times with each speaker. (Curiously enough, Teleread posted an audio clip which did not exhibit the clipping flaw.)
Is the problem unique to these speakers, or just to cheap BT speakers? I don't know, but I wouldn't call a $40 speaker cheap. There was only one other BT speaker immediately available to me, and that cost $50.
I have little experience with Bluetooth, but I did find while troubleshooting this issue that some BT speakers don't support the newer and faster BT standards. That might be the problem here, but frankly if a $40 speaker is not good enough to get the promised performance than it is simply not achievable.
Having been frustrated by Amazon's failures, I disabled the BT speakers and tried to read the ebook sans audio. That's when I discovered that Amazon simply would not let this go.
The Kindle kept nagging me to reconnect the speaker. Eventually I enabled airplane mode just to get it to shut up.
This is a mess from beginning to end.
Nothing worked the way it should, and this didn't even come close to meeting Amazon's usual standard for ease of use.
It's a huge strike against the 2016 Kindle, but hopefully this is something Amazon can fix in a software update.