If you were to head to the shops to buy an iPhone dock you would be spoilt for choice. There aren’t just dozens, there are hundreds, nay thousands to chose from. They range from pocket options, full blown speaker systems, to ones that even look like pigs.
Try and do the same for your Android phone and you will come up a little short. Aside from the Sonos system that has Android support, getting your tunes from your phone, to a speaker, so you can boogie isn’t easy. We're hoping that the Fidelio will change all that.
The Philips Fidelio AS851 from Philips is the flagship Android speaker dock from a new range from the company. Based on the company’s popular iPhone range, the speaker design and construction is virtually identical.
Your Android phone, or tablet, sits center stage, while the large speaker sits behind it blasting out tunes. The black grill on the front covers up the ugly speakers behind, and at the bottom is a small console with controls for volume, power and indicators for connectivity status.
Around the back of the speaker is the power socket and a 3.5mm jack so you can connect other, non-Android phones.
The speaker’s footprint is large enough to take up a shelf on your bookshelf, but not big enough to dominate any room you put it in. If space is an issue you could always opt for the smaller and cheaper Philips Fidelio AS351.
Where the Fidelio AS851 differs to the iPhone and iPad version of the Philips dock is the bit that makes it Android friendly. The first is a technology you can see, the second is a technology you can’t.
The crux of the Philips Fidelio AS851 is a spinning, turning, rotating, sliding, moving micro-USB connector that can be manipulated into fitting all manner of Android phones and tablets out there, regardless of where the micro-USB charger is situated on the phone.
We tried out the speaker on the HTC Legend, The Samsung Galaxy S II, the Motorola RAZR (2011), and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. All worked perfectly, although it has to be said that the Motorola RAZRs positioning means that it sits upside down, while Sony Ericsson (and some HTC) users will have to sit their phones sideways.
Within the connector there are two supporting feet that can be raised or lowered to create a better fit with the phone and all in all it works surprisingly well, giving plenty of support to your device.
The second part of the Android friendly technology is Bluetooth. Which Philips has chosen because Android phones don’t have a standard connector in the same way the iPhone does. It's also there because, as the ultra-geeky amongst you know, micro-USB doesn’t support audio.
To get around the boring element of having to pair the speaker each and every time Philips has created a dedicated app to make the pairing process simple. It is so simple that it will auto launch every time you dock your phone so all you have to do is press play to get the music started.
Philips Fidelio: the app
The app is simple affair, handling the pairing and giving you time and weather updates. The added benefit of turning your phone into a clock is a nice idea, it also means it can double up as an alarm. You don’t have to use the app once you’ve paired your phone to your speaker, and you can head over to Spotify or another online music service instead.
It also provides in-built access to Songbird, as long as you have it installed, and if you don’t, it will prompt you to do so. SongBird is easy enough to use, you just have to point the app to your music collection on your phone and you get all the usual features. The app also comes with an Internet Radio player too, which is ideal when your phone is charging and connected via Wi-Fi to your internet connection.
It is also worth pointing out that to make it even easier to get the app, Philips have included a QR code on the device that you can scan. Although we're not sure how much easier that is than using the Android Market.
Step away from the vehicle
Being paired by Bluetooth has its benefits. It means you can remove the phone altogether from the dock and still listen to the music. Usual Bluetooth rules apply - so you’ve got about 10m to play with - but rather cleverly you can use the volume controls on the phone to control the volume of the speakers.
But if you leave your phone docked, you can still control your music from the sofa using the supplied remote control. This is a terrific feature, and gives the dock far more use for us than a dumb speaker.
It gives full control over your phone, including the ability to pause, fast forward and more. It's a little small though, and there's every chance you'll lose it down the back of the sofa, or your dog will eat it for lunch.
All these treats; the design, the Bluetooth, and the remote will count for nothing if the system doesn’t sound good though. Fortunately for Philips the Fidelio AS851 doesn’t disappoint, happily filling a room with sound that is rounded, and full of base, but not overly so.
We tried the AS 851 in a number of locations around the house and were happy with the results in every room. It is certainly ample enough for your bedroom or your lounge, rather than just being something for the kitchen, where so many docks end up.
With so many iPhone speaker docks on the market that don’t cater for Android, it's really good that someone is trying to cater for a the huge number of devices that aren't made by Apple.
The Philips Fidelio AS851 isn’t a rush job. It looks good, sounds good, and more importantly easy to use. So, If you’re an Android smartphone user and are looking for a music solution that lets you charge your phone as well, this is definitely one to look at.
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