Mobile Man USA Elecware

by Jared Williams, PCI #1214
Tacoma (WA) Police Department
IPMBA Industry Relations Committee

This set of wearable speakers was given to me in January 2016 for test and evaluation.  The retail packaging contained the speaker vest, charging cable, and instructions.

The vest was bright neon-yellow with 3M reflective marking, definitely designed for high visibility.  There were also markings on the vest for device controls.  Overall the vest appears well-built and durable, but only time will tell.  The electronics are removable so the vest portion can be washed.

The instructions were fairly straightforward, which made syncing my iPhone 6S a simple task.  Once my phone was synced, I started playing my typical work-out playlist.

I am a bit of an audiophile, and I like to tinker around with speakers and sound equipment.  I know and appreciate good sound quality when I hear it.  Once the music started playing, it was about what I expected – good enough to know what song is playing, but far short of high-quality sound.  If you’ve ever used any sort of speakers or blue-tooth device that utilizes 1” full-range speakers, this is on par with many of those devices.  I did find the alignment and use of the speakers interesting, however.  The speakers face forward and sat right at my collar bones on either side.  This created a stereo effect as the sound was directed towards my ears.  Since the speakers were in contact with my body, there was an added effect of “feeling” the sound.  The speakers were able to get plenty loud if I wanted them to, but too much volume quickly distorted the music.  After finding a comfortable listening volume, the sound quality was acceptable for this device’s intentions. 

I conducted a series of tests to evaluate overall quality, sound quality, ease of use, and battery life.  I tested this system while biking, running, and doing some yard work.

I worked for several hours in my backyard while wearing the vest, with my phone in my front pants pocket.  The sound cut out for a few seconds on numerous occasions as I worked, seeming to lose sync with my phone.  This typically happened when I bent over or squatted down.  After this happened a few times, I checked to make sure I wasn’t accidentally pushing buttons on my phone.  It appeared to be connectivity interruptions with the phone, even though it was only a foot or two away from the device.  After 3-4 hours of playing music, the battery was still charged and didn’t show signs of dying. 

This device had a couple of advantages for the yard test – I could play it at a comfortable level and still hear people talking to me, which I wouldn’t be able to do with headphones.  I also didn’t have to have a boom-box blaring for everyone else in the neighborhood to hear while I worked. 

Next was my running test.  I run a mix of rural roads and both paved and dirt trails.  Normally I like to wear headphones while I run so I don’t bother other people.  The biggest disadvantage to this is not being able to hear approaching vehicles, cyclists, or faster runners behind me.  The device performed well while running, and I found it to be advantageous to use over a set of headphones  since I could hear approaching vehicles as I ran.

The last test was the riding test.  There is a bit of debate over listening to music while cycling.  Some riders like to wear headphones while they ride.  The disadvantage of this is the rider can really zone out and not pay full attention to their surroundings or hear other trail users approaching.  Road riders may not hear cars approaching if they are wearing headphones. 

I personally have never worn headphones while riding or had any other means of listening to music.  Being able to hear things on the trail is important while I ride, so I was hesitant to even test this device.  The device performed similarly to when I worked in the yard, with occasional cutting out and syncing issues.  Even though I could hear other trail users approaching, I still prefer the sound of nature and my bike over listening to music.  Perhaps as a bike commuter, one would be more apt to use this device on a regular basis.

This device is certainly not something I would ever consider wearing on duty.  However, as an off-duty workout accessory, it works as advertised.  If you prefer better sound quality, stick with a good set of headphones.

Elecware offers other products, including a similar vest with an LED turn indicator on the back, activated via a remote you can mount to your handlebars.  Check out their website http://elecwear.com for further information.

Jared is currently a Police Patrol Officer for the Tacoma Police Department.  He loves to tinker, and can often be found obsessing of the mechanical state of his bicycles.  Jared is the owner and operator of Piggies On Wheels, LLC, which exists for the purpose of public safety bicycle education. He can be reached at piggiesonwheels@gmail.com.

(c) 2016 IPMBA.  This review appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of IPMBA News

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