If you've been watching "American Idol," you've probably seen a commercial or two for the $399 Beats by Dr. Dre Beatbox Portable audio system, which allows you to stream music wirelessly from your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone or tablet and is available exclusively through AT&T stores. But few people know that AT&T actually has its own portable Bluetooth speaker sans Beats logo. And it's shipping now.
It's called the LoudSpeak'r.
No, that's not a typo. The LoudSpeak'r follows in the footsteps of the Casio G'zOne (see 20 worst-named tech products for reference), which also incorporates a wandering apostrophe, but at least LoudSpeak'r is easier to figure out how to pronounce (I'm going with a Brett Favre-like pronunciation for the end).
Anyway, the AT&T LoudSpeak'r is a very compact Bluetooth speaker that's designed to compete with the Jawbone Jambox which retails for about $75 more. It's actually a lot closer in design to the $99 Logitech Mini Boombox, but it feels a little bit better built than the Logitech and has a matte finish (the speaker is available in black or white).
I'm still working my way through a full review but it sounds pretty decent, and like the Jambox and the Logitech Mini Boombox, it has a built-in microphone and speakerphone functionality, which you'd expect from an AT&T-branded speaker that will be sold in its stores starting around April 15. It's also worth mentioning that the speaker charges via USB and is rated for 10 hours of use on a single charge.
Dozens more sub-$100 portable Bluetooth speakers will be hitting the market this year, and Jawbone is expected to release a new Jambox in 2012. I'll let you know how the LoudSpeak'r stacks up in my full review, but at first listen it definitely plays loud for its size, offers reasonable clarity, and some bass. Like all these small Bluetooth speakers, you're not going to want to play Skrillex at high volumes (unless you enjoy torture), but it can do just fine with less bass-intensive material.