Review: Native Union Switch Bluetooth Speaker
February 10, 2013 by Beatweek
The flood of portable bluetooth speakers to market in 2013 means that new arrivals need to offer something in the name of standing out. The Switch from Native Union comes in a fairly common size and shape in the form of a roughly eight inch by two inch rectangular housing, but does stand out in some interesting and largely positive ways.
Switch is perhaps the only rectangular bluetooth speaker which, at least in the promo shots in its website, encourages you to stand the product up vertically instead of laying it horizontally. Although it’ll work fine in either orientation, the rubber footing on one end makes it sturdy while standing upright, which takes up less desk real estate. The unit itself is almost Apple-esque in its lack of visible control buttons. The large rubber circle sticking out of one end (or the top, as it were) initially appears to be part of the decor, but instead turns out to be a volume knob. The space inside the circle doubles as the on-off and pairing button.
The ports are hidden under a rubber flap, and include not only a micro-USB port for charging the Switch, but a USB port for using the Switch to charge the iPhone or other mobile device you’ve paired it with. This feature makes sense here, as the Switch offers an uncommonly long fourteen hours of battery life, meaning you’ll have some to spare to pinch off for your mobile device if need be. The minimalist single color design of the unit (choice of black, red, grey, blue, or white) is offset by the charging cable. My all black test unit, for instance, came with a bright red rope cable.
In the end, a product like this will be judged mainly on its audio output. Switch is a bit of an anomaly here. Native Union encourages users to put their product up against the more expensive competing Jambox, and as it turns out the Switch does in fact sound better. The catch is that the best of the $99 bluetooth speakers, for instance our Best of 2012 winner JBL Flip, manage to slightly outpace the Switch’s audio quality. So with the Switch you’re paying extra for essentially the extra battery life, the charging port, the choice of colors, and the ability to stand the unit upright. Whether that’s worth an extra fifty bucks is going to different for each user. Still, Switch carves out its place in the market.
Price: $149 • nativeunion.com