BlackBerry Music Gateway for iPhone and iPad review

The BlackBerry Music Gateway is a great way to connect to and control your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad music to your existing speakers and stereo system, at home or on the go

Okay. Yes. Sure. It's made by Research in Motion (RIM) and called the BlackBerry Music Gateway, but thanks to the universal standard that is Bluetooth, this mighty little marvel works not only fine with Apple's iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad -- it works fantastically well. You connect it to your existing home theater/stereo system, your car or camper audio, your boat or backyard boom box, tap to connect, and make with the music. It really is just that simple, and just that awesome.

The BlackBerry Music Gateway box includes the device itself, a micro-USB cable, an AC adapter, a 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio jack, and a 3.5mm to left- and right stereo connectors (RCA). Again, the device is small. Compared to an Apple TV or Apple Airport Extreme, both of which can stream audio over Wi-Fi, it's positively tiny. It's not much bigger than a chicken nugget or an iPod nano. It's that small.

It's also ridiculously easy to set up. Plug it in and connect. That's it. Seriously.

You do have some choices, however. You can charge the BlackBerry Music Gateway with the USB cable, either by plugging it into a handy USB port on your computer or MacBook, or into the AC adapter. Then you slip it into a pocket and take it with you anywhere and everywhere, ready to jack into any audio source you come across. I tried it in my car's AUX in, my friend's home theater, and an old ghetto blaster someone had left on the deck since the 80s... and it worked perfectly with all of them.

You can also plug it into the AC adapter, and the AC adapter into the grid, and just leave the BlackBerry Music Gateway in one place, hidden away, ready to use whenever you want. I tried that at home -- hooking it into my Pioneer 7.1 receiver and just leaving it on. That way I was only ever a remote button push and iPhone play button away from room-booming sound.

Speaking of iPhone, and iOS devices in general, pairing is a snap. No fuss, no codes, no muss. Simply tap Settings, BlueTooth, wait for iOS to discover the BlackBerry Music Gateway, and then tap to connect.

If the iPhone had NFC, it would be even faster, since the BlackBerry Music Gateway supports NFC connection as well. So, if you have a non-Apple device with NFC, just knock the NFC and go. If you're all in on Apple, you'll have to wait and see what the next iPhone brings to see if we can join the near-field communication revolution...

In the meantime, the BlackBerry Music Gateway supports all the basic Bluetooth controls you need, including pause and play, and even volume. Tap the AirPly button to select between iPhone/iPod/iPad and BlackBerry Music Gateway, then drag your finger across the volume slider to pick the perfect level for your intimate dinner, house party, or road trip.

If you're worried about Bluetooth mangling your music, don't be. Companies like Jawbone have proven that even highly compressed audio transport protocols can still produce great sound, and the BlackBerry Music Gateway shows they're no exception to that rule.

Also, don't let the Music gateway name fool you -- you can use the BlackBerry Music Gateway with any type of audio, even movies and video games. If you want to fill the room with cinematic sound, or take your gaming to the next sound level, you can do that too. I tried it with my iPad watching Dark Knight and playing Real Racing 2 and the sound was far, far -- far! -- better than the tiny, tinny Apple speakers in every situation.

The only real tradeoff is this -- unlike cabled audio systems, the BlackBerry Music Gateway can't charge your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad while it's streaming music. So, if you've relied on a USB to Dock connector cable in the past to keep your device alive while it was playing, you'll have to either charge separately, or get a dedicated cable to charge while you're streaming over Bluetooth.

Now, for double the price you could get an Apple TV that will stream video as well as audio, and AirPort Express that will act as a router as well as a music gateway, or something like the Jawbone JAMBOX that includes built-in speakers. But that's at double the price, and for things way beyond what the BlackBerry Music Gateway excels at -- inexpensively putting your audio on your existing sound system.

It's also platform independent, so if you have iPhones but your friends or family have Androids, BlackBerry phones, or anything else, you're all good to go.

The good

  • Incredible small and convenient
  • Simple and easy to pair
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Includes both 3.5 and stereo RCA connectors
  • Excellent sound quality, even for Bluetooth
  • Supports NFC... even though Apple doesn't yet

The bad

  • Requires existing speaker system

The bottom line

There are alternatives to the BlackBerry Music Gateway that do substantially more, but they cost substantially more as well. The BlackBerry Music Gateway won't replace your Apple TV or AirPlay system, but it will certainly complement it. If you already have a great speaker system in your home, car, cottage, etc. and you just want a cheap, convenient way to stream your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad audio to it, you want the BlackBerry Music Gateway.

49.95 - Buy now

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.