AirPlay speakers are fantastic if you happen to be an Apple adherent. Otherwise, your best choice for wireless audio is crappy Bluetooth. Just yesterday, HTC introduced its AirPlay competitor, HTC Connect, and Pioneer is the first company offer products equipped for the standard. Are you ready for an HTC Connect speaker? Kinda sounds weird, huh?
The Pioneer XW-SMA4 is an AirPlay Speaker, which also supports HTC Connect. The new audio streaming standard will be available on all HTC One-series phones, and, presumably, on future phones that come out. It'll roll out as a firmware upgrade—two carriers will get the upgrade next month, but Pioneer wouldn't tell us which ones. There are also plans for a video equivalent sometime soon, but details are similarly scant.
We saw the new service and speaker in action, and it might as well have been AirPlay. The speaker connected seamlessly to an HTC One via a wireless network, and the audio sounded full and lovely. Another nice touch: The XW-SMA4 can connect directly to your smartphone by creating an ad-hoc wireless connection. That's not something you need to do every day, but it's a useful feature other speakers don't offer.
The XW-SMA4 has five total speakers: dual three-inch mid-ranges, a four-inch subwoofer and dual 3/4-inch soft dome tweeters. The wireless speaker system also comes in two alternate versions. The cheapest is the XW-SMA1, which has dual three-inch speakers and a 3/4-inch tweeter. The next step-up, the XW-SMA3, is identical to the XW-SMA1 but carries a four-hour lithium-ion battery and a tougher case so that it's good to travel. All of the speakers will be available in August.
All of Pioneer's excellent Elite-line receivers will also support HTC Connect. Pioneer makes great gear, and it's interesting to see the company jump behind HTC Connect so enthusiastically. Who knows if the service will catch on, but more connectivity for more people is always a good thing. Plus, Apple could really use the competition.