Fitness trackers in the form of wristwatches and bands are quite common now, and are often called a fitness wearable. However, a relatively less popular niche within this category is the ‘fitness hearable' - an audio product that has fitness tracking functionality built in. There have been only a few such products, including the Samsung Gear IconX and Jabra Sport Pulse, and they don't come cheap.
This is what makes the Blink Play special. This pair of wireless earphones comes from Blink, which had previously worked with Timex to launch the Timex Blink fitness smartwatch. The Blink Play has been brought to the market in collaboration with Flipkart-owned Myntra, and has a fitness tracker built in. It's also priced at a very affordable Rs. 1,799, and is available online via Myntra and its sister site, Jabong. We've had a chance to try out this fitness-focused wireless headset, and here's our review.
The Blink Play is, at first glance, an ordinary pair of wireless earphones like many others in the under-Rs. 2,000 price segment. The earbuds have metal outer casings and plastic inner casings, with a short cable connecting the left and right buds. There are five colour options — silver, black, rose gold, lime, and orange — and all have a dull matte finish that we quite liked. Our orange review unit looked the best in our opinion, and came with matching ear tips.
The Blink Play has a three-button inline remote module, which also has the microphone and a Micro-USB charging port with a rubber flap to protect the unit against water ingress. The headset comes with a total of three pairs each of ear tips and wing fittings. The winged tips did help us get a secure fit, and the earphones were comfortable to use over long listening sessions. The design allows for a decent level of passive noise isolation.
As we mentioned earlier, the Blink Play is a ‘fitness hearable' — it has a fitness tracking module attached to the cable that connects the two earbuds. This tracker monitors steps taken, calories burned, and distance covered. The tracker is essentially a step counter, and the calorie and distance data is calculated based on the number of steps taken.
The fitness tracker pairs with the Blink Fit app — available for Android and iOS — and uses Bluetooth for synchronising data between the tracker and the app. While you do need the app to see your activity information, wireless audio functionality only needs the headset to be paired to your phone.
The pairing process was simple enough for us, and we were also able to quickly sync data and see updated readings in the app whenever we launched it. The app was developed with other Blink devices in mind as well, and shows blank readings for features that are not supported on the Blink Play, such as heart rate, sleep tracking, and activity sessions. The app also includes audio workout programs that you can download and listen to on the headset, or even through the phone's speakers or any other audio product.
The sales package includes the extra ear tips and wings, a short Micro-USB cable for charging, and a carry pouch. The headset also has a Qualcomm cVc chip for noise cancellation on voice calls. It supports the aptX Bluetooth codec and Bluetooth 4.1.
The main button on the remote can be used to invoke the voice assistant on your phone as well as play/ pause music and answer calls. We were able to get around five hours of use from the Blink Play on a single charge, which is average even accounting for the fact that the battery is powering not only the audio functionality but also the fitness tracker.
The Blink Play might have a lot going for it when it comes to features and specifications, but it is a budget wireless headset at its core. That said, sound quality is a bit better and louder than what we've typically experienced from wireless earphones in this price range, such as the Sound One X60 and Stuffcool Monty. We used the Blink Play with a OnePlus 6T (Review), which let us use the aptX Bluetooth codec for music.
The Blink Play earphones have an acceptable, consumer-friendly sonic signature that sounds decent with most popular genres. The low-end is favoured a bit, and this leads to a bit of drone in the bass. While this didn't bother us over short sessions, it did lead to a bit of listener fatigue over longer periods.
The highs and mids felt a bit repressed in comparison, but the sound is largely comfortable and easy going. Listening to Big Wild's Aftergold was pleasant for the most part, but the deep bass and aggressive beats often overpowered the gentler instruments in this lively upbeat track.
The use of the aptX Bluetooth codec did make a big difference to the sound quality, and helped bring out the best in the drivers. Bass sounded tighter, while vocals and highs benefited the most in terms of sharpness. The sound also felt a bit more open than when listening with the SBC codec on the same device. However, the earphones did struggle with busier tracks such as Woodkid's Run Boy Run, and even the aptX codec couldn't help the Blink Play keep up with the pace and aggression of this track.
We tried a variety of audio sources, including streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music, as well as high-resolution audio tracks stored on the smartphone. The bass-heavy sound tended to muddy up the listening experience with some of our high-quality tracks, which took away any sound quality benefits that they might have provided.
Our favourite high-resolution test track, Touched By Tango - Anxiety by Astor Piazzolla, started out well with its punchy double-bass hits, but the earphones simply could not bring out any detail and character in the track beyond that.
We also tested the fitness features of the Blink Play. The step tracking wasn't as accurate as the Honor Band 3 which we tested it against, with the deviation at around 10 percent off our manual count of steps. The headset works differently from wrist-based trackers that can read the motion of the user's arm to count steps, but despite that we felt that the 10 percent deviation was too high and led to a step count that wasn't accurate enough.
The biggest problem with using the Blink Play as a fitness tracker is that it cannot practically be used all the time, unlike a wrist-worn tracker which can remain on you unobtrusively at all times. It was useful in tracking steps taken when we were actually listening to music, but we would need to either be listening to something or at least have the headset around our neck at all times to continuously track steps taken through the day. This device is therefore only useful during workouts, and impractical as an everyday-use health tracker.
The Blink Play has a Qualcomm cVc chip for noise cancelling on voice calls, and performance as a hands-free headset was excellent. Sound quality was good on both ends of calls, and people we spoke to reported that they could hear us clearly even in noisy environments.
The Blink Play is a unique product that combines the useful functions of wireless earphones and fitness trackers, and that too at an affordable price. Sound quality is decent for the price thanks to support for the aptX Bluetooth codec, and the addition of a fitness tracker (albeit with limited accuracy) and good performance as a hands-free headset make this a worthwhile proposition. We would go as far as to say that this is the most feature-filled and best sounding pair of wireless earphones you can buy for under Rs. 2,000 today.
Although the Blink Play's fitness tracking feature is, in our opinion, somewhat impractical, it might come in handy to keep track of the number of steps taken when exercising without needing multiple devices. This isn't a perfect product by any means, but is definitely worth considering for the price and what's on offer.
Price: Rs. 1,799
Ratings (out of 5)