The Beats Pill Speaker Gets an Apple-Flavored Redesign
I’ve been waiting to see a new set of headphones from Beats ever since Apple bought the mobile audio hardware company in July, 2014. Yes, there have been some models since the acquisition (Solo2 and Powerbeats2), but they feel like more of the same. What I’ve really been itching for is a pair of headphones that signal the next chapter for Beats—a set of cans that marry the sleek style of the brand with the quality and refinement of Apple products. Those would be totally kick-ass, right?
So when I walked into a Beats product demo last week and saw a couple of Bluetooth speakers on the table, I was disappointed. I really wanted to see headphones. Sure, Bluetooth speakers are cool and the category continues its rolling boil, but they’re a little boring by comparison.
The speakers quickly won me over. During the demo, I began to see that a new Pill speaker from Beats makes perfect sense. It’s a product that desperately needed a redesign. The first Pill has sold more than a million units since its debut in 2012. Though it’s a hit, it’s gotten long in the tooth and the audio quality is really poor. That makes the Pill the perfect thing to tear down and rebuild. (Also, Bluetooth speakers are way easier than headphones.)
The result, the Beats Pill+, sounds much better, looks much better, and is a far more enticing product than its predecessor. It’s more than just a new piece of mobile candy. It’s an opportunity for Apple to show the extent to which it can shape the design of hardware coming out of its subsidiary.
The new Beats Pill+ costs $230, comes in either black or white, and is available through all the usual retail outlets starting today.
It’s impressive on paper. It’s got a 12-hour battery inside, and volume controls and a big pulsing pairing button along the top. A downloadable app (iOS and Android) lets you manage sharing between multiple users, and lets you join speakers together to wirelessly create multiple nodes or a left-right stereo pair. You can use it to make phone calls. A USB port on the back lets you charge your phone off of the Pill’s battery.
The industrial design is understated, more grown-up. The shell feels nicer, the new grill is handsome. The front-and-center red “b” logo has been replaced by a cool white “b” logo on the top. Whether or not Apple had any say here is a mystery, but looking at it, it does look more Applesque than the old Pill, don’t you think? Also, it charges via Lightning. A cable comes in the box, along with a small 12.5W wall wart that can charge any iDevice.
I spent all of 10 minutes listening to the Pill+, but I can tell you from my initial impressions that the sound is much, much improved. Listening to the old Pill filled me with something between ennui and angst. This new Pill+ is the Spic-and-Span to the old Pill’s murk. Music is clear and precise—at least, as clear and precise as you’d expect a Bluetooth speaker to be. (I plan a full review later once Apple supplies us with a review unit.)
The $230 price tag is probably $30 too high. Several speakers at just under $200 offer excellent sound and similar features and they’re waterproof—something the Pill+ is not. But I’ll reserve judgement until I can listen to the Pill+ alongside its competitors. For now, I’m just happy that Apple is making cool speakers again.