Decisions Choosing HA's before Google and Resound's Announcement


#1

I’m set to see my audiologist and am looking to purchase a new HA. I was planning on getting the Oticon OPN 1 but now I just read that Google and Resound have made an announcement for native support on Android phones(which I currently own). I understand that the first hearing aid to support this will be the new Resound Quattro set to be released in September. My questions are: Should I try and demo the Resound Quattro in September and “future proof” my purchase? Or I should I still get the Oticon OPN? Is it possible/likely that the Oticon’s will be flashed and updated to work natively with Android in the future? What are your opinions on Oticon vs Resound as far as sound quality, durability, support etc? Thank you everyone for your time.


Oticon and Android P Update (Pixel)?
#2

This is a question that’s of concern to many Android users who are shopping for hearing aids right now! My (non-expert) guess is that the new protocols require either new hardware or beefed-up specifications, suggesting that suppliers will need to bring out new models instead of flashing old ones. I do think we’ll find out fairly soon whether flashed upgrades will work, so you might think about delaying your purchase for a while until the picture becomes clearer.


#3

I’m a long time Android power user, lots of modifications, and use the Android Debug Bridge (ADB) program to modify and analyze my phone and apps. I work with developers to test and improve apps, usually via XDA-Developers but also beta versions via Google Play Store and Google+ site. I have a Google Pixel 2 XL phone that gets monthly software updates, and I usually manually flash them myself via adb on the day they release, and do not wait for the Over The Air updates. I’m currently running Android 9.0 / Pie, released August 5, 2018. I use Project Fi from Google as my service, so no delays in updates.

My point in this is the the direct HA support is not visible and useable yet in v.9/Pie, and as the Press Release states, “in a future Android release”. If you do not have a phone that gets frequent monthly updates, then you could be waiting 6 months, one year, or more to get phone manufacturer or carrier updates. Samsung is especially bad about this slow update process. Verizon, T-Mobie, AT&T are similar in that they have to have their sticky fingers all over the Android operating system, so updates run very slow.

As Bryan9 states, all published info now appears that a new radio chip and / or processor is required in the HAs to handle the wider dynamic range of Bluetooth Low Energy Low Latency direct hearing aid support via Android will provide. The ReSound Quattro states availability in September, and Google has their big product release event in early October. That event showcases new products, and usually an Android OS update.

tl;dr We will know more in Q42018, and everything until then will be speculation.

I’d love to have the Quattro with direct Android support, but not willing to wait too long. I have been dealing with audiologists / fitters / clinics since May, trying to get HAs from someone who is up front, not gawd-awful expensive, and is willing to work with a tech savvy, articulate, active senior who is not deaf, senile, or mentally incompetent, thought they treat me that way. :roll_eyes:

I’ve found that, I think, in a Costco HIS. Initial testing and get-to-know-each-other session was excellent. I get fitted for ReSound Forte 8 RIC on Thursday, and will get the Phone Clip+ to work with my Android phone.

Wow, long winded, sorry. These are thoughts that have been boiling for a week now. As so many have stated here, the Audi / HIS / fitter is far more important than the HA model. After four different clinics, that is painfully apparent to me


#4

If a device is sold with a Bluetooth 4.x chip, I would not pin my hopes on a firmware upgrade bringing it up to Bluetooth 5. And judging from what I’m seeing, the OPN is currently sold with a 4.2 chip.

Generally, yes, it is possible for a firmware upgrade to allow a chip to support a new version of a communication protocol. One prominent example is with the 802.11 protocol family (colloquially known as “Wifi”). At various times, hardware manufacturer sold devices that were upgradable to a new version. I’ve bought such hardware sometimes, and the manufacturers made good on their promises. They produced hardware that ran the latest formally released version of the protocol, and also followed the draft specification of the next version. So upgrading to the next version once it was formally released was usually no big deal. And usually, that was the only upgrade supported: from the current version to the next version, once it was formally released. It was not a promise to support upgrades to all future versions, forever and ever.

There is also historical precedent with previous releases of Bluetooth: some devices with BT 4.0 chips could get BT 4.1 or 4.2 with a software upgrade. However, not all 4.0 devices were able to get the upgrade. And I do not know of a case where a chip sold with a version number got an upgrade that made it work with a new major version number. 4.0 to 4.2, yes. 1.x to 2.x, or 2.x to 3.x, or 3.x to 4.x, no.

For an upgrade from 4.x to 5 to happen multiple pieces would have to align. The BT chipset would have to allow the upgrade, which is not by any means a given. Also, the BT chipset manufacturer, and the manufacturer of the device using the chipset would both have to work towards releasing the upgrade to end users. It may not make financial sense for them to do this, even if the upgrade would be technically possible.

Note that it is possible to sell a device with a BT 5 chip driven as a BT 4.x chip. My Pixel 2 phone is one such device: the phone had a BT 5 chip but the phone did not support BT 5 until Android P was released. (That was a bad example: Android O already supported BT 5, at least minimally. The the general principle remains that it is possible for the OS to drive a chipset according to an older version of the protocol.) This is not a chip upgrade because the chip was a BT5 chip from the get go.


#5

LOL, my experience exactly. I find it helps enormously to obtain a copy of the fitting software documentation, study it thoroughly, and specifically (and diplomatically) point out the fitting parameters they overlooked :slight_smile:


#6

I haven’t read anything that suggests the new system will use BT 5. My take is that this is Google’s version of what Apple did–using Bluetooth 4.2 LE to stream sound. I do think that most of the phones that support this will end up being BT 5 because only newer phones are going to get a recent enough version of Android Pie. As far as hearing aids though, I expect you’re right that only new hearing aid models will be able to support this.


#7

If the radio chip in the hearing aids already supports the proprietary Apple BLE and their performance is already adequate for streaming with Apple, wouldn’t it be realistic to assume that it can also handle the wide dynamic range of the new BLE standard that Android (and probably Apple phones in the future) will adopt?

Sure, the protocol will be different than that of the Apple proprietary protocol, but I don’t see why the performance requirement for this new protocol will need to be much more advanced/demanding than the Apple protocol that a more powerful processor for the radio chip would be required to keep up with it.

Therefore I’m hopeful that the HA mfgs can simply reflash their firmware to update and add support for the new protocol, asking with support for the existing Apple protocol.

That is, unless the HA is constrained to hard wire/design their radio chip to an older protocol for some reason, like due to some kind of IP restriction. Otherwise, why would you not want to implement the communication protocol via software to give flexibility for future upgrades?


#8

Acknowledged, but we’re talking about the possibility of an Android-compatible firmware upgrade to hardware conforming to an Apple protocol. Ideally, communication protocols should be hardware independent… but that’s not necessarily how Apple operates. The company likes to inject proprietary hardware into protocols in order to control the peripheral market. For example, conforming to MFi appears to require the use of an Apple-designed authentication coprocessor. As Boromir put it, “One does not simply walk into Mordor.


#9

Love it. Twenty characters. Love it.


#10

I would like to think that while the hearing aid mfgs may have to inject Apple authentication hardware into their design, if they were smart enough, they would leave room in their design to still accommodate other non hardware confirming protocol in parallel.

That way their main processor will draw on the Apple authentication coprocessor for MFI communication, and operate independently from it for non MFI, non hardware conforming protocol

This is assuming that the Android protocol doesn’t require their own hardware authentication co-processor, of course.


#11

I hope so! Even if they were, I think there’s a marketing rationale for a MFi HA providers to refrain from releasing firmware upgrades with the new Android streaming capability. They can bring out flashy new, “revolutionary” products, with catchy new slogans, and reap in the cash as previous, long-suffering Android customers upgrade their aids. How about “Streaming everywhere,” or “Worlds of sound”?


#12

Many thanks for the rundown on the Google side of things. I got my new HAs last week and had certainly considered this, but without the understanding of the issues as you have outlined so well. Makes me realise my choice is okay, and that realistically it will be my next aids that have these matters sorted out - way too early now.


#13

Something that I haven’t seen discussed here: assuming Android comes up with a solution similar to MFi, if the protocol is different how will the aids adapt to that? I use MFi a lot (and love it - use it extensively with my IPad) and would hate to see Android do something which would disable it (I have an Android phone - S8).


#14

Yet another unknown, at this point, is whether an iPhone or iPad will be able to connect with aids employing the Android protocols (but not MFi). All these points suggest that it’s possibly unfortunate that the industry was so eager to jump on the MFi bandwagon rather than supporting an open-source, cross-platform Bluetooth solution that would have better suited their customers’ interests (and likely their own. too)


#15

If you can, I’d wait 6 - 12 months. BTooth is being (major) upgraded. Major upgrades w. Android and HA working together.
I have been using Phonak’s first attempt at using BT in HA for 3+ months. It works for me - I can put up w. its many idiosyncrasies. NOT ready for prime time. (They have 2 BT versions - 1 works w. cell phones, other w. audio streaming. I use the cellphone version.


#16

No mention of Google direct support for hearing aids at the Made by Google event today.


#17

As online tech blogs have pointed out, Google barely mentioned “Android” - and is rebranding many of their apps such as “Android Wear” to just “Wear.” Android: The word Google didn’t say during the Pixel 3 event - 9to5Google

Given that, that Android is a mess, why would they want to trumpet - “Hey, here we have a direct streaming hearing aid protocol, it only works with one hearing aid, BUT WAIT, it won’t work with that hearing aid, anyway, until ReSound also issues an HA firmware update. BUT OH, if you want a phone that works with any modern HA, get an iPhone!”

IMHO, bragging about their new HA protocol would just be another “Boy, is Android a mess!” reminder. YMMV. They wanted to remind us of all the things Google is leading in (like AI) - not the things that it’s trailing miserably in or has messed up with all the different flavors of Android on different carriers from different OEM’s that never seem to get in sync - whereas something like >53% of iOS users are now on iOS 12.x.


#18

Android works fine and is far and away the choice of most people.

The issue is what do you need to connect to. If you need to connect to laptops, tablets, office phones, and other Bluetooth transmitters then you need the intermediate device for your hearing aids. Very few people connect only to a smartphone. With the intermediate device your choice of phone OS becomes irrelevant.


#19

Hi, Don!

Correction (afterwards): Rereading my own post (chirp!), I do make “Android is a mess” a front and center argument. But I’ll stand by that assertion, and that was ~the point of the article I referenced, i.e., why Google did not brag about Android at its recent conference. …… originally post---->>> The point under discussion was not whether “Android works fine” but rather why didn’t Google brag about MFA at its recent event. Since MFA is in rather sad shape and years behind MFI, my point was only that right now, there is nothing much to brag about. Or, Google could brag relative to your point, yeah, it works fine if you buy different connecting devices for every different brand of hearing aid and if you switch brands, your connecting devices purchases will probably be obsolete and for many, you’ll have to add that expense to that of your very expensive new HA brand. And in another post by TJ in a different thread, it is mentioned that AMONG HEARING AID USERS, 3/4 use the iPhone, only 1/4 use Android (GN Hearing introduces ReSound LiNX Quattro). Android may be the most popular mobile OS world-wide but in the U.S., it’s only modestly ahead of the iPhone in popularity - and Android users tend to be the type of poorer folks not too likely to be able to fit premium HA’s into their budget, e.g., my 5 siblings.
The iPhone is gaining ground on Android in the U.S. - Recode (a bit out-of-date)

On whether Android is “fine” as an OS is another matter for debate, not what I was originally commenting on. Most tech journalists feel that Android is inferior to iOS. That Apple has both the best OS and the best mobile device - for many, turning to Android is not wanting limited choices and a My-Way-or-the-Highway lockdown philosophy with Apple-along with a range of affordable devices being available compared to the premium device philosophy of Apple. I’ve been a WIndows Phone user for a number of years. I felt that Android was inferior to Windows Mobile, too, albeit the latter OS has been a dismal failure with no apps, etc. But if you read reviews of third-party apps in Google Play, it’s amazing how many apps don’t work so well with this particular phone or that - and if you own that phone and contact the developer, you might get an answer such as “I’m sorry. I don’t have access to that particular phone to test my app…” Desktop Windows suffers the same problem. There is such a variety of devices that it runs on, it’s a miracle it runs on any.

Don’t mean to hijack the thread. Just pointing out I was only commenting on what reasons Google might have for not bragging about its newfound MFA standard and not commenting until now on Android as an OS. If I’d known about the HA-iPhone connection earlier, I might have switched to iPhone from Win Mobile instead of back to Android (but I have such an investiture in Android apps that I do like, it’s also painful to chuck all that and start over with iPhone) - but the latest iPhone processor is supposed to eat Qualcomm chips alive, too - processing power that will come in handy if AR/VR on phones ever takes off.

Statistics Update: In May 2018, 54.4 percent of U.S. smartphone subscribers were using a Google Android device. Apple was the second most popular smartphone operating system with a 44.3 percent market share. Source: • Mobile OS market share in the U.S. 2018 | Statista

If link doesn’t work directly (subscriber-based site), try searching on Bing or Google for article title “Subscriber share held by smartphone operating systems in the United States from 2012 to 2018” to get temporary free access by following a Search link. Article shows that iOS market share has progressively increased since 2012 in U.S. as other mobile OS’s have died away and that Android has held steady in U.S. at around or less than 60%.

Further Correction The statistics on Apple vs. Android HA use are just for ReSound and based on HA app downloads. From Minneapolis Star-Tribune article TJ posted: “Right now about two-thirds of downloads for GN Hearing mobile apps go to Apple devices, and one-third are for Android, but those numbers are expected to even out over time as the number of Android users grows.” So the ratio for ReSound users is 2:1, not 3:1 Apple vs. Android, apparently.


#20

When you use an iPhone you don’t need to wear the streamer when you’re out and about with just the phone. I know you don’t mind a streamer, but some of us find it burdensome and are very happy to be free of one.