Beats Pill is a line of portable, Bluetooth speakers produced by Beats Electronics. Unveiled in October 2012 as one of Beats' first independently developed products since the end of its manufacturing contract with Monster Cable, the Pill is distinguished by its capsule-like form factor.
The Pill was met with mixed reviews; while the device was praised for its innovative design and capabilities, most criticism was directed towards its inconsistent sound quality and lack of bass, along with its high price.
Design and functionality
Serving as one of the company's first self-developed products after the end of its exclusive manufacturing deal with Monster Cable Products, the Beats Pill was designed by Robert Brunner's studio Ammunition Design Group, and carries a capsule-based design roughly 7.7 inches (20 cm) in length. Its appearance is characterized by curved surfaces and a gloss finish; company president Luke Wood considered the look to be a design language for Beats' product line, considering it to be "like a car that you immediately know—like, 'Oh that’s an Audi or a Mercedes,' from across the parking lot—you can just tell this reads Beats, even before you see the 'B'." The speaker contains minimal controls; the Beats logo serves as a multi-purpose button for starting and stopping tracks, and the only other buttons are volume keys and the power button. In comparison to competitors such as the Jambox, the Pill does not produce any additional voice or sound effects beyond the audio source being played through it; Wood stated that "As a music fan, I don’t want someone talking over my music."
The Pill uses Bluetooth to connect to a device (such as a smartphone), and also supports near-field communication for device pairing. It also includes 3.5mm audio input and output jacks. The Pill charges over a Micro USB port, and comes with a USB AC adapter. The device also includes a microphone so it can be used as a speakerphone. The Pill is also an aptX-certified device.
In 2013, updated versions of the Pill, Beats Pill 2.0, were released. The new models have longer battery life, a port for charging other USB devices, the ability to pair Pills together with near-field communication (NFC) to play the same audio either individually, or handling left and right stereo channels respectively, character stands, and a new, larger "XL" version.
Another revision, the Beats Pill+, was unveiled in October 2015, as the first revision to the product released under Apple Inc. ownership. The Pill+ is slightly larger than the previous model, and carries a refreshed design with top-mounted volume controls and a Beats logo button. The Pill's speaker hardware was redesigned to improve sound quality; a Beats representative stated that "[the] tweeter and woofer separation uses the same acoustic mechanics found in professional recording studios around the world". The Pill+ uses Apple's Lightning connector instead of USB, and can charge supported iOS products from its battery—which has an increased capacity rated for 12 hours of use on a single charge. The Pill+ has a companion mobile app for iOS and Android devices; the app will be able to pair multiple speakers (NFC is no longer used), allow multiple users to alternate playing music on a single Pill ("DJ mode"), and display battery capacity.
Playing off its design, initial marketing for the Pill used the tagline "Just what the doctor ordered". As with other Beats products, the Pill was promoted primarily through celebrity endorsements and product placements in pop music videos, such as Britney Spears' "Work Bitch", where the speaker is used as a ball gag on a dancer in a BDSM-themed scene. In April 2013, a limited edition, Nicki Minaj-branded pink version of the Pill was released, as introduced in her video for "High School".
A commercial for the Pill for RadioShack featuring Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams was released in mid-2013; reprising the music video for "Blurred Lines", it featured what Adweek described as "[Thicke's] accessories—I'm sorry, backup dancers—using the speakers to do more or less everything except speak." The ad was the subject of complaints in the United Kingdom, as some viewers felt the ad was distasteful; however, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled in October 2013 that "taken as a whole, the ad did not show sustained, overtly sexual or provocative behaviour", but still considered it inappropriate to air before 7:30 p.m.
In August 2013, a new ad campaign was launched during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards that introduced anthropomorphic versions of the speakers voiced by musicians such as Chris Rock, Eminem, and Tichina Arnold. Soon after the VMAs, several ads mocking events that occurred during the show itself were released, including one set at Barclays Center (the host venue of the event) referencing Katy Perry's performance at Brooklyn Bridge Park, and a commentary on twerking and Miley Cyrus's controversial performance with Robin Thicke. Incidentally, both Thicke and Cyrus had been involved in prior Beats Pill marketing, as one was also featured in Miley Cyrus's "We Can't Stop" music video.
Following the August 2014 acquisition of Beats by Apple, a new ad was released featuring the Pill characters, in which Siri refuses to invite them to attend a party being held by Dr. Dre to celebrate the deal.
The Beats Pill was met with mixed reviews; while praise was received for its hardware design, ease-of-use, and the levels of volume it could produce, the Pill was primarily criticized for its audio quality and price. PC Magazine in particular criticized its handling of bass, concluding that "[it] offers a unique form factor and doubles as a good speakerphone, but it simply doesn't offer good enough sound quality to justify its $200 price tag. While you might get a reasonably loud and clear listening experience on one track, the next might pop distractingly and force you to tweak the volume just because it has slightly more bass." Wired felt that the Pill's difficulty with bass was ironic, given that the Beats by Dr. Dre headphones had emphasized the low-end as its "sonic signature", going on to say that "while acoustic and vocal tracks sounded acceptable, any other genre of music where a drum is involved sounded lifeless and anemic. There’s definitely something to be said for shrinking things down for more portability. But in this case, physics definitely won out over engineering."
CNET was similarly mixed, noting unique features such as its "striking design", NFC support, the ability to serve as a pass-through device for other audio systems, and its "relatively detailed sound (notice the use of the word "relatively") with respectable bass compared with other tiny speakers in its class." However, connectivity issues were noticed with devices running iOS 6, and its review score was later revised from 3.5 to just 3 out of 5, citing the introduction of competing products offering equivalent or better sound quality and a lower price than the Pill.
With the new Pill+ however, reviewers show better favor to the sound quality of the speaker. The Verge has called it a "refinement on the recognizable Beats Pill look" instead of a "radical redesign". It also says that the new Pill+ is the best sounding speaker from the Pill lineup. Similarly, Wired (magazine) points out that the sound of the new speaker is "much, much improved.
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