When Apple first announced the iPhone 5, the world went into mayhem. Not because there was a new iPhone incoming, but because the new phone would introduce a new connector; the Lightning connector. Apple fans went into overdrive worrying about their old charging cables and accessories that used the previous 30-pin charging port. Jumping on the worry bandwagon were the various companies who made speaker docks for iPhones and iPods, trying their best to put out the first-ever Lightning dock. Beating everyone to the finish line was JBL, who announced the first-ever Lightning speaker dock, dubbed the OnBeat Micro. Here was a small and portable speaker dock that promised to deliver audio worthy of the JBL name while still comfortably accommodating your spiffy new iOS device.
Build Quality & Design
The JBL OnBeat Micro looks like a miniature flying saucer to be honest, with a recessed center that docks your iPhone or iPod. Surrounding the OnBeat Micro is a speaker grille that hides the device’s tiny speakers. You also have a speaker button, status LED light, and a volume control button, and that’s about it.
Behind the OnBeat Micro are two ports for connecting non-Lightning devices – there’s a 3.5mm audio jack and a USB port to connect older iOS devices. It’s worth noting that you won’t be able to charge devices via USB, just play content.
Hidden beneath the OnBeat Micro is the device’s battery compartment – four AAA batteries slide in here to provide up to five hours of constant playback. The batteries won’t charge your device even if it docked, and the batteries aren’t rechargeable, so it’s a given that you’ll need to have the AC adapter nearby.
Connectivity & Performance
The OnBeat Micro is first and foremost a Lightning dock, so you can snap in your new iPhone or iPod and instantly blast out music from your library or most other music apps. The only issue is that if you’re using an iPhone case, chances are that the OnBeat Micro won’t play nicely as its Lightning connector sits very snugly with your phone, so most cases will cause a few issues unless you temporarily remove them. Naturally, the device is too small to accommodate an iPad, so you’ll have to use the USB connection if you want to play media off your iPad or iPad mini. The other downfall is that there’s no Bluetooth or AirPlay support, so you’re always connected to the OnBeat Micro either by cables or docking.
Performance-wise, the OnBeat Micro isn’t the greatest JBL speaker. While the speaker is certainly loud enough for its size, it isn’t loud enough to fill a sizable room, and is too small to produce enjoyable bass. The speaker also slightly distorted some vocals when it was turned up to maximum, while on other songs it performed with issues. On the plus side, the OnBeat Micro did deliver just under 5 hours of battery-powered audio at near-max volume, so at least JBL kept that promise.
If you’re really desperate for a Lightning speaker dock, then certainly the JBL OnBeat Micro will satisfy your cravings. But what you get in the end is a mid-sized speaker that sadly won’t impress you too much. Throw in the fact that you’ve got only wired connectivity options and no rechargeable battery, and it’s probably worth passing on this one.