Google recently started rolling out an update to its Sound Amplifier accessibility utility that adds Bluetooth support. The feature has already been widely reported and should prove useful for those who are hard-of-hearing or just need to amplify the sound in their environment.
Prior to the update, users were effectively stuck using wired headphones in Sound Amplifier. Now, with version 3.0, when users open up the app, they're greeted by a message highlighting the addition of Bluetooth. Users can dismiss the message outright or tap a Learn More icon to gain extra details. Tapping the latter reveals some information about how the feature works and a link to Bluetooth Settings.
All other aspects of the UI remain the same as the previous iteration of the app.
How does this make the accessibility-focused Sound Amplifier more useful?
Google's Sound Amplifier was already a decidedly useful utility prior to the addition of Bluetooth. Supporting any device running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or newer, the feature does exactly what it says. It takes the noise picked up by a gadget's inputs and amplifies that over headphones. The purpose, of course, is to help users hear better, whether for interacting with others or for environmental awareness.
Sound Amplify accomplishes that task by adjusting the audio balance to make things like voices easier to hear. Users additionally have the ability to make fine-tuning adjustments, change the source, and adjust boost to better suit their individual needs. But the latest change, as pointed out when the above-mentioned "Learn more" link is pressed, opens up use cases substantially.
Now, Google notes there can be a slight delay in audio over Bluetooth. But also that it extends the range of listening. The search giant points out that, with the update installed, users can now use their mobile device as a 'remote microphone'. It gives a fairly straightforward example, where a user can place their phone near a source such as a TV and then listen to the enhanced audio at a distance over Bluetooth headphones.
The benefits of Google's example are obvious. Sound Amplifier can, for instance, be used to maintain a comfortable television volume for everybody. That's as opposed to just turning it up to uncomfortable levels. And that won't get in the way of people who need the accessibility feature since they can place their smartphone near the TV and amplify the sound.
Other scenarios, of course, stem from that. For example, it could be used at a lecture or in day-to-day conversation simply by placing the device closer to the person who's speaking.
This lands alongside other major accessibility updates and apps
The Sound Amplifier update lands alongside a wealth of new features and apps launched by Google this week. That includes the launch of Action Blocks as well as updates to Maps and Live Transcribe. In each case, the goal is to ensure that each of the tools and apps performs as well as can be expected. And also to improve usability and functionality.
Action Blocks, in particular, extends on accessibility by nature of its position as an entirely new app. Unlike the others, that's a more visually-assistive tool that adds custom-icon-bearing Google Assistant AI shortcuts to the home screen.