Last year, a team of engineers led by Olle Lindén launched on Kickstarter to bring the world's smallest wireless earphones into production. The Earin campaign raised almost a million bucks from folks wanting to pop them in and strut down the street like Ryan Reynolds in Definitely Maybe. Though the slick ear bullets have yet to be shipped, they've already got some serious competition snapping at their heels. 21 year-old Australian Jonathan Zuvela has developed Nextear, equally teeny wireless in-ear headphones that come with a portable recharging case packing built-in storage and an LED flashlight.
The Nextear earphones pair as one entity over Bluetooth with any suitably-enabled smart device and communicate with each other to deliver a stereo image, though one Nextear can also be used on its own, perhaps while the other is being charged. In addition to Bluetooth technology (with a wireless range of 33 ft/10 m), Zuvela says that he's managed to squeeze a high performance stereo ADC/DAC, a balanced armature driver, 50 mAh Li-ion button cell battery and an applications processor into the machined aluminum housing of each earpiece.
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Other than promising a listening experience "comparable or better than most of the top brand earphones" with virtually no latency, further details on audio quality are not available. Two sets of Nextear earphones can be paired to one Bluetooth-enabled music source to share a playlist with a friend. The earphones are pushed into the ear canals and held in place by the user's chosen small, medium or large silicone buds.
Those worried about them falling out, or anyone undertaking vigorous exercise, can lock them in place using the supplied ear clips. Should a Nextear unit be misplaced, Zuvela is planning to include a "radar" function in the companion app to help users locate their missing earphones, though its implementation in the first production batch depends on the level of interest from the crowdfunding community.
Each Nextear in-ear headphone has a diameter of 14.2 mm (0.56 in) and is 19.5 mm (0.77 in) long, making it a tiny bit wider and somewhat shorter than an Earin earpiece. As for scale-tipping, it's not possible to determine whether Zuvela's earphones are lighter or heavier than the Earins as he only says that his weigh in at about 5 g.
Users are promised 4 hours of continuous use from each 40 minute charge. The Nextear earphones package includes a 46 x 92 x 21 mm (1.8 x 3.6 x 0.8 in), 48 g (1.7 oz) storage case that also packs a 1,000 mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery for charging the earphones up to four times while on the move, or for topping up mobile devices using a "multi-fit" cable (which sports Lightning, USB and micro-USB device connectors). LED status lights let users know how much juice remains.
The multi-fit cable can be removed from the case and includes 16 GB of flash memory, giving users some extra storage without having to dangle the full case from their mobile devices. A switch at the side of the case activates an LED light, which is said to be more powerful than a smartphone flash/light but no specifics are given.
Prototyping has been completed and a manufacturer in China has been found, now the young entrepreneur is looking for funds to help make Nextear a reality. To that end, the project has launched on Indiegogo and a rather modest campaign goal of US$20,000 to get the first run rolling off the production line has just been reached.
An early bird pledge level of $119 is still available (representing a significant saving on the expected recommended retail price of $263), which includes the cost of shipping worldwide. The flexible funding campaign runs until May 24 and, if all goes to plan, delivery is estimated to start in October.
The video below introduces the Nextear project.