Everything you loved about the JBL Flip 3 coupled with a fully waterproof body
The popular JBL Flip series is back again with a new addition, the JBL Flip 4. This is a Bluetooth speaker which looks to build on the success of its predecessors by adopting a refinement approach, rather than a revolutionary one. In some areas, there seems to be little-to-no improvement, while in others the Flip 4 has been drastically improved. One area that has certainly remained static over the generations is the price - as the JBL Flip 4 is now available to buy and priced at $99.95.
The JBL Flip 4 comes loaded with two 40 mm drivers and offers a 2 x 8-watt output. The frequency response is listed as 70Hz – 20kHz, while the signal-to-noise ratio comes in at ≥80dB. This is a speaker which makes use of Bluetooth 4.2 to establish a connection and should be able to maintain a connection up to 10 meters away from a wireless source device. In addition, the Flip 4 comes packed with a 3,000 mAh battery that is said to offer up to 12 hours of playback (as a maximum) and is listed to take up to 3.5 hours to be fully recharged again. In terms of the physical properties, the JBL FLip 4 measures 68 mm in height, 175 mm in width, and 70 mm in depth. While weighing in at 515 grams
In the box
The unboxing experience is a fairly generic JBL one. The Flip 4 is designed to be an affordable speaker and with that in mind, you are not getting anything above and beyond the minimum. In addition to the actual JBL Flip 4 Bluetooth speaker, you will also find a microUSB to USB charging cable, as well as various pieces of paperwork including the safety guide, quick start guide, and warranty card. So in terms of what you are not getting, you are not getting a wall adapter for charging and you are also not getting a 3.5 mm jack cable to directly connect devices.
Hardware & Design
As the name indicates, this is the fourth generation of JBL’s popular Flip line of Bluetooth speakers and that means that when it comes to the aesthetics, there's not much change here. With the exception that the Flip 4 is slightly larger and slightly heavier. Although arguably (and without having the two side-by-side) you would be hard pushed to notice much difference. Size aside, the Flip 4 adopts a near-identical look to the JBL Flip 3 with the majority of the speaker housed within a mesh exterior - which for us was red colored. Although this is a speaker that is available in a variety of colors, including black, blue, grey, red, teal, and white.
While the look does not differ drastically from the Flip 3, it is worth noting that as this is a refinement process, there are some changes. The Flip range has always been one that has been designed for lifestyle users and as such is a very durable range of speakers - due to its makeup combination of fabric and rubber. However, JBL has taken the durability aspect to the next level with the JBL Flip 4 as this is the first in the Flip range to come equipped with an IPX7 certification. Which is arguably one of the Flip 4’s biggest selling points. Although the previous model was splash-proof, the IPX7 certification means the Flip 4 is now fully waterproof and can survive being submerged in water for up to 30 minutes and to a depth of 1 meter.
Generally speaking, the lack of a full waterproof body is one of the criticisms that had been leveled at the Flip 3 before and especially considering competitor products do offer such protection at a near (and in some cases, cheaper) price. So this will not be an issue raised this time round with the Flip 4, as it is as protected as it can be - and as built for adventure as it claims to be. On the top of the speaker, you will find the usual control plate which houses the main control buttons, including a play/pause button, volume up, volume down, and a Bluetooth button. Which is where one of the minor aesthetic changes have taken place, compared to the Flip 3. On last year’s model, there was a dedicated ‘phone’ button which now appears as a 'play' button. Although the functionality has not changed at all.
Just behind the control panel (technically the rear of the speaker) you will find the last of the design talking points - which again, while adopting the same functionality as the Flip 3, is presented this time in a slightly redesigned way. The only two buttons positioned here are the main power button (different design) and the JBL Connect+ button. The battery indicator is also present here, although it has moved up and is now incorporated within a small plaque that houses the power and Connect buttons (different than before). Towards the base of the rear panel, you will find the port compartment which houses the 3.5 mm port and the microUSB charge port. This aspect largely remains the same, although the outer rubber flap looks slightly different as it highlights the Flip 4 branding - again cosmetically different but otherwise the same. Completing the hardware elements is the inclusion of a rope lanyard which allows you to easily carry the Flip 4 or attach it to a bag or similar - much the same as the Flip 3.
So overall, when it comes to the design, the Flip 4 is very much just a Flip 3. What JBL has essentially done here is just take the iconic look of the JBL Flip 3, change some minor cosmetic details, and ensure that the entirety of the body is now waterproof. So if you liked the style of the Flip 3, then it will be hard to dislike the Flip 4's look. Although, if you were not a fan of the Flip 3 design, prepare for much of the same with this one.
Sound Quality & Performance
In all honesty it is hard to find a JBL product that does not offer a good sound quality, and the JBL Flip 4 is no exception. While there are weaknesses in this speaker's sound quality, the question of how good it is, really comes down to the price you are paying and the design of the speaker. Yes, the Flip 4 does not offer the type of bass response you will get from other, bigger, Bluetooth speakers, including some of the JBL’s own, like the JBL Xtreme range. However, that is largely due to the size of the speaker and is an issue that has always been in play with the Flip range - it is small and always has been lacking in bass compared. In fact, if anything the bass does feel a little better on this latest Flip model, although only marginally so. In either case, while the bass is a little on the timid side, it is still there and certainly enough for the sort of product that this is designed to be.
In contrast, the mids and tops are certainly a lot more prominent on the JBL Flip 4, which is again an attribute of the Flip line in general. When playing back any sort of music, you can expect the mids and tops to take the dominant role. In particular, the mid-range frequencies are what stand out the most when listening to a cross-section of content. So while some might feel that the accentuation of the mids and tops further add to a compromising of the already-limited bass, that is not the case. Instead, the balance overall is fairly pleasant with sound quality resonating a lot more natural-like. Vocals come through well, are accompanied by the background tops and mids, and finished off neatly with a good enough degree of bass. This speaker will not blow you away on sound quality, but it will certainly prove its worth and will especially prove worthy of its cost.
While sound quality is subjective for the most part, the performance is less so, as this really is a solid performing speaker overall. During testing there were never any issues with the JBL Flip 4. It performed as expected and on all accounts. It never got too hot, was fine when used in water, and generally just consistently delivered what it said out to. This is a very capable little speaker and one which does provide a very good and reliable product for the price.
Battery Life & Connectivity
Similar to sound quality, battery life has never really been a major issue when it comes to JBL products, as they do tend to perform in line with expectations. Generally speaking, the JBL Flip 4 adds to that list of well-performing battery-lasting speakers. Although, it does not last quite as long as you might expect. Officially, JBL state the Flip 4 will offer as much as 12-hours of playback before the battery runs dry. Although as is always the case with such claims, volume and Bluetooth will impede on that figure significantly. So while the 12-hour suggested marker should be considered the outermost duration, on this occasion, you shouldn't really even expect that. Point to note here, the battery inside is rated as 3,000 mAh and that is an identical capacity to the battery included in the Flip 3 - which incidentally was only rated to offer up to 10 hours of playback. So presumably, JBL has made some tweaks elsewhere to account for the additional two hours of usage. Although, in either case, the Flip 4 (like the Flip 3) never really hit the levels of battery life suggested by JBL. If you are running this speaker continuously, and at a very high volume (80-percent or higher), then you should expect battery life to be in the region of four to five hours, depending on how high you get to the maximum volume level. Dropping down to roughly 50-percent volume and you should be able to squeeze out a couple of more hours of playback. Which puts it directly in line with what we noted with the Flip 3 - which would make sense seeing the same battery capacity is on offer. Of course, these times are directly relevant to when used in Bluetooth mode. Directly connecting a device and establishing a manual connection will increase the battery life further.
When it comes to recharging the JBL Flip 4, the takeaway is that with this being the same capacity battery as the JBL Flip 3, one should expect the charge times to be fairly identical - and they are. We found the JBL Flip 3 takes up to three hours (as a maximum) to recharge and that was pretty much what we was found with the JBL Flip 4. Three hours is the longest you should really expect to recharge the device. However, where things get complicated is that JBL does not provide a wall charger with the Flip 4 so you will find that time largely depends on which charger you use. We had varying charge times ranging from just over two hours to just over three hours, depending on which charger was used. But as a rule - three hours should be a good average to assume. Which in either case, is less than the 3.5 hours that JBL officially states to be the recharge time needed.
Connections on the other hand, are effortless. As it always tends to be with JBL headphones and speakers nowadays. There are no issues in establishing a connection with a device over Bluetooth, and in all instances connections were easy to maintain once established. This is a speaker which is expected to be able to maintain a Bluetooth connection to a distance of 10 meters and that was in line with testing. You do have to move a significant distance away before the speaker begins to cut-out before eventually cutting off. In addition, with this being a JBL speaker, the JBL Flip 4 is also able to make use of JBL Connect which allows it to connect to other JBL speakers.
However, this is where things might prove problematic for existing JBL speaker owners. The Flip 4 makes use of JBL Connect+ which is presumably the next evolution of the technology. So while this does (presumably) offer advantages over the standard JBL Connect technology, the downside is that the two are not compatible. So if you already own a JBL Connect speaker, then it will not be able to connect to the Flip 4. This speaker will only connect with equally newer speakers that also make use of JBL Connect+. On the positive though, one of the stated benefits of Connect+ is that you are now able to connect a JBL Connect+ speaker to even more devices than ever before - the JBL Flip 4 has the ability to connect to more than 100 other Connect+ speakers.
The JBL Flip 4 also does come with the ability to connect to two devices at the same time. Which makes it an ideal option for when more than one person is sharing a connection, as the two connected devices can take turns in playing content through the speaker, without having to continually connect, disconnect, and reconnect. Likewise, and similar to most Bluetooth speakers nowadays, the JBL Flip 4 comes with the ability to make and take calls hands-free. The quality is not excellent and is certainly harder for someone to hear you than it is for you to hear them, but the feature is included and although not great, works as intended.
If all that is not enough, then one feature worth noting though is that the JBL Flip 4 also comes with built-in Google Now (and Siri) integration. By simply holding down the play button for a few seconds, the connected mobile device will launch Google Now. From here you can just ask the speaker a question and the response will be fed back to you through the speaker. So as long as the mobile device is within in range to the JBL speaker and connected, then Google Now can be used without having to physically touch the smartphone at all. Of course, this is a feature that is now available on older JBL speakers, including the Flip 3. However, it arrived for those speakers as an OTA update. So unlike the JBL Flip 3, at launch the JBL Flip 4 comes with this technology included.
If you liked the JBL flip 3, then it stands to reason that you will like the Flip 4 as well. Although the two are not compatible with each other, the JBL Flip 4 takes most of the design points and features from the Flip range and improves on them. Most notably, with its waterproof nature. In many ways, this is the main aspect to focus on here. If you own the Flip 3 and do not need a waterproof speaker, then there might not be much value for you in upgrading - especially considering the lack of compatibility between the two JBL Connect versions. However, if you do need a waterproof speaker, or are new to the Flip range, then it is hard to argue against the value that is on offer here. While you will find cheaper waterproof speakers available, you are unlike to find many that are built as well as this one, offer as good a sound quality as this one, and a battery that lasts as long as this one. More so, you are probably very unlikely to find all three of those points in one package and at a cheaper price.
For a speaker that costs $99, the JBL Flip 4 offers bags of value for the money.