The purpose of this topic is to discuss True Wireless Stereo (TWS) Earbuds that come with a Smart Charging Case featuring a touchscreen, which limits or eliminates the need for an iOS or Android app to access most or all features.
The first product to match this description is the JBL Tour Pro 2, which was released in 2023.
The smart case features a 1.45 inch touch screen, wireless charging, USB-C fast-charging, and magnets (to hold the earbuds inside the case and to hold the lid closed).
- Status bar displays Bluetooth status (off/on/connected), Spacial Sound icon (if enabled), and battery percentage of each earbud & smart case
- Playback controls ( )
- Volume controls ( )
- Enable/Disable Ambient Sound and switch between 3 modes:
- Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
- Ambient Aware (transparency mode to pass-through audio of surroundings using microphones)
- TalkThru (transparency mode with quiet media volume and pass-through audio of surroundings with enhanced volume of voices)
- Enable/Disable Equalizer and switch between 6 modes:
- Custom (iOS or Android app is required to create custom equalizer mode)
- Set timer to shutdown earbuds after 5 minutes
- Enable/Disable Spacial Sound and switch between 3 modes:
- Switch between 3 screen brightness modes:
- Switch between 5 lock screen wallpapers:
- red, orange, and yellow paint splotches on blue
- pink, orange, and blue gradient smoke
- grayscale smoke
- bright cyan, magenta, violet, and orange forms
- pale green light waves (similar to gnome LightWaves.jpg background)
- Enable/Disable VoiceAware (voice detection sensitivity to control how much of your own voice you hear during calls) and switch between 3 modes:
- Enable/Disable SilentNow (Enables ANC & Disables Bluetooth) in 30 minutes and for 30 minutes, with alarm at end
- Enable/Disable Auto Play & Pause (pauses when removing an earbud and resumes playing when putting it back in ear)
- Enable/Disable Notification (notifications from connected device show on smart case)
- Find My Buds (L & R buttons to play high pitched beeping sound for locating lost earbuds)
- Enable/Disable Flashlight (smart case display switches to max brightness & full screen white background to act as simple flashlight)
The JBL Headphones Android app is not open source, but it can be used without internet connectivity.
- Update firmware of earbuds and smart case (requires that the app has internet connectivity)
- Customize ANC settings:
- Enable Adaptive ANC (automatically adjusts the ANC level based on the surrounding noise level) or Disable Adaptive ANC and manually adjust sensitivity using slider
- Leakage Compensation (check leakage status and adjust the ANC level in real-time)
- Ear Canal Compensation
- Ear Canal Test
- Manually adjust sensitivity of Ambient Aware mode using slider
- Personi-Fi personalized sound configuration (hearing tests)
- Create custom Equalizer mode (only one custom mode can be used by smart case)
- Enable/Disable option to Preserve Settings for Spacial Sound (preserve settings keeps Spacial Sound mode setting; disabling this disables Spacial Sound when earbuds are shutdown)
- Enable/Disable Earbud Gestures with limited customization if enabled
- Manually adjust VoiceAware sensitivity using slider
- Enable/Disable Smart Audio & Video (enabled by default) and switch between 2 modes:
- Audio Mode (optimized for music and enabled by default)
- Video Mode (optimized for low latency)
- Manually Configure SilentNow (does not affect smart case)
- Enable/Disable Personal Sound Amplification and manually adjust left/right balance and gain (amplify situational sounds from your surroundings to stay aware of what is going on around you and enhance conversation)
- Configure Voice Assistant
- Enable/Disable Voice Prompts
- Check My Best Fit (helps you get a good seal by playing music to detect any sound leakage from wearing the earbuds loosely or using wrong sized ear tips)
- Enable/Disable Max Volume Limiter (protect your hearing with a volume limit)
- Smart Case Settings:
- Upload custom wallpaper to smart case
- Manually adjust smart case auto-sleep time using slider (from 1 second to 60 seconds)
- Enable/Disable Message Preview (if Message Notification and Message Preview are enabled, the actual content of the message notification is displayed on the smart case)
- Enable/Disable the following Feature Shortcuts pages on smart case:
- Ambient Sound Control
- Spacial Sound
- Auto Play & Pause
- Power Saving modes:
- Auto Standby (earbuds enter standby mode and automatically disable ANC if idle for 15 minutes to save power)
- Auto Power Off (earbuds automatically power off in idle mode)
I bought a pair of JBL Tour Pro 2 last year, and I love them! I hope that competition will eventually bring the ability to use a Linux computer to manage firmware updates and other settings, but that is probably not happening anytime soon. I’m just glad that I can access all of these features without an iOS or Android device, and they sound really good too.
At CES 2024, JBL introduced three different styles of JBL Live 3 earbuds, which will be available in Summer 2024.
The last TWS I owned were the Noble Audio Falcon TWS over 5 years ago, so seeing a touchscreen on charging cases is a huge surprise for me.
Do they work with the Librem 5?
Are they open source? Can they be verified? Do you trust them?
Yes, the JBL Tour Pro 2 earbuds work with the Librem 5; I’m using them right now to listen to an internet radio station using the Shortwave flatpak.
Are they open source? Can they be verified?
No, I don’t think so.
Do I trust them?
They have no network connectivity features, so I don’t feel like I need to trust them. What malicioius things could they even do? I can’t think of anything.
Besides the PineBuds Pro, which do not have a touchscreen-enabled smart case, there aren’t any other open source TWS earbuds yet. If Purism decides to make their own TWS earbuds, I will absolutely buy them.
But even if there is a nice free software linux app for controling them, the touchscreen-enabled smart case is a game-changer for convenience and usability that makes for a platform-agnostic product. That is what should be the focus of companies like Purism when making products like TWS earbuds. If a non-linux user were looking for such a product, the requirement for a free software linux app would be a strong deterrent.
Can you elaborate on what connects to what and how?
Even without internet connectivity, a comprehensive investigation of the security and privacy risks would have to consider what RF transmissions are involved.
I’m not an expert here, just a user. If my understanding is correct, TWS earbuds only connect to each other, the charging case, and the transmitting device - all using Bluetooth; there is no Wifi involved.
Bluetooth itself seems to be greatly lacking in security. Using Bluetooth devices is inherently risky, to an extent, and it’s a risk that I currently accept.