The most exciting thing at IFA isn't a gadget at all
Bluetooth tech in the new Moto X4 lets you link the phone with four speakers at once.
Andrew LanxonEditor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
Motorola's Moto X4 is a decent all-round phone, but it's not the dual camera or shiny back that excites me -- it's the Bluetooth skills.
This is the first phone that lets you broadcast your music to multiple different Bluetooth devices at once. You can connect the phone to four different speakers or headphones -- of any kind, as long as they have an A2DO profile -- and play the music in sync across all four, all in perfect sync.
Surround sound when you want it
To give an example, imagine sitting on the train with three friends. Your phone is connected to all their headphones -- and yours -- and you're all sitting back enjoying the new Taylor Swift track. Maybe you go running with those friends. Now you can all run to the same songs, so you can pick up the pace together when the chorus drops. Then when you're home, you connect your phone to four different Bluetooth speakers in your living room and get a richer surround sound.
These are common scenarios and I know I can't be the only one whose excited about this new technology.
Sure, brands such as Sonos already make speakers that connect to each other if you're looking for a multi-speaker system -- but you'll be limited to Sonos gear if you want to set it up. With the Moto X4, however, you can hook up a mini JBL speaker, a Sony speaker, a Samsung speaker and a Bose one all at once. Having a BBQ? Get your mates to bring their speakers round to put one at each corner of your patio. It's not exactly a Sonos killer as you'll be limited by Bluetooth's standard 30-foot range, but you can still turn your living room into a dance party.
It's all in the software
While the Moto X4 is the first phone we've seen with this feature, it's not actually Motorola's technology. The Bluetooth software that powers it is made by a French startup called Tempow, which has licensed it to Motorola. You connect to multiple devices in exactly the same way as you'd connect to an individual speaker right now. And you can independently control the volume of each device using the standard Android Bluetooth interface. To adjust the volume of all devices, use the X4's volume toggle. Also cool? The feature is integrated into the Settings menu so there's no need to open a separate app.
You can hook up a maximum of four devices and Tempow says there will need to be changes to the Bluetooth hardware to support more, but this is an exciting start. Tempow hasn't said whether we'll see this update on any other upcoming phones (no word on the iPhone 8 from them, unfortunately) but the functionality could be added via an OTA update. If there's enough excitement around the concept -- and I suspect there will be -- we could see Tempow's software being pushed to other manufacturer's phones down the line.
Tempow told CNET that its next step is to get the technology into smart TVs, which will enable multiple speakers to connect to a single TV for surround-sound audio in the living room.