After two years, Bluetooth finally received a major update this past December. It went under the radar until the Samsung Galaxy S8 announcement in March. The S8 will be the first device to offer Bluetooth 5. 5 – no more “v” or “x.0” – is a major upgrade over 4.0 and its 4.x updates.
What is Bluetooth?
Bluetooth is a wireless technology invented by Ericsson in 1994. It allows the ability to connect devices wirelessly by “pairing” them. It is cross platform, so it works with almost any device on the market (iPhone/Android/Windows/Linux). Bluetooth allows the transfer of data, audio and control of Bluetooth-compatible devices such as speakers, wireless mouse/keyboard and smart home products. In contrast to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth has lower power-consumption, making it a useful addition in mobile devices.
A worthy update
Almost everything can be connected via Bluetooth: headphones, speakers, cameras, mouse/keyboards, fitness bands, door locks and even lightbulbs. With so many devices polluting the airwaves, Bluetooth devices can easily disconnect or not pair with a mobile device.
Bluetooth 5 intends to fix this. According to Bluetooth SIG, Inc.,“5 quadruples range, doubles speed, [and] increases data broadcasting capacity by 800%.”
What Bluetooth 5 promises to do
Better pairing with devices
If you own Bluetooth peripherals and try to pair them with your mobile device, then you’ve noticed how slow the process can be. Issues can be that the device isn’t recognized, cannot connect or connects and then disconnects. Bluetooth 5 promises to connect more devices, faster. The new upgrade should transfer data two times faster than 4.0, and there will be less audio delay with connected speakers and headphones.
Greater range, better connectivity
An issue with previous versions of Bluetooth has been the short range, especially indoors. Without a clear line-of-sight, Bluetooth is limited to a range of 10m. Connect an audio device, walk out of range or into another room and the audio begins to skip or stop working altogether. Outdoors, 4.0 provides a theoretical maximum range of 50m. Bluetooth 5 quadruples the range to 40m indoors and 200m outdoors. This means you can leave your phone in your bedroom and catch some sun in the backyard.
Significantly faster data transfer speed
One of the biggest advantages Bluetooth 5 has over 4.0 are data speeds that are eight times faster. Forget Wi-Fi or cable transfer of your photo gallery, use 5 without issue. Thanks to the ability to transfer eight times the data, 5 also allows pairing two devices at the same time. So, if you have two Bluetooth speakers in the house, connect them both to play audio at the same time.
Bluetooth 5 promises to reduce interference from other Bluetooth and wireless devices. If you’re using a wireless keyboard to type an email on your computer, it won’t disconnect because of interference from your smartwatch. Similarly, when your phone is connected to your car, it won’t skip or drop calls because of your neighbor’s Wi-Fi signal.
The Internet of things
“Bluetooth is revolutionizing how people experience the IoT. Bluetooth 5 continues to drive this revolution by delivering reliable IoT connections and mobilizing the adoption of beacons, which in turn will decrease connection barriers and enable a seamless IoT experience.” –Mark Powell, Executive Director of the Bluetooth SIG
The Internet of Things continues to grow and Bluetooth 5 aims to help connect IoT enabled devices. Thanks to advances in pairing and a more robust signal, Bluetooth 5 will keep them connected for a pleasant experience. If you have multiple smart lightbulbs, speakers and other devices around the house, 5 allows you to pair and control all of them. The combination of longer range, faster transfer speeds and better pairing offers a variety of opportunities to make your home smart.
Available, but coming soon
Bluetooth 5 was officially released in December 2016, but not every device in 2017 will have it. For now, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is the first-and-only device with 5, but expect mobile devices of Fall 2017 (iPhone 8?) to come equipped with better Bluetooth.