Wireless technology was once never even on the radar. Even when computers were first invented, cables and cords were thought to be the only ways to transfer data correctly. But since the invention of Bluetooth in the late 90s, the entire world has become completely disconnected — in a good way.
With more and more people using this technology, it’s important that it evolves to meet the standards of both developers and the general public. Fortunately, Bluetooth has continually improved its protocol since its fruition.
As we continue to use the newest version of Bluetooth 5.0, it’s important to understand all of its features so that you’re buying compatible devices and making use of everything the technology has to offer. Here is everything you need to know.
What Is Bluetooth 5?
Bluetooth 5 is the latest version of the wireless communication standard that was first introduced to consumers in 1999. While a lot has changed, it has always been a way of transferring data across a short radio range.
Originally, Bluetooth devices were limited to headsets and cellular phones, but you can now find wireless compatibility in keyboards, laptops, video game controllers. However, its most popular usage is audio streaming through wireless speakers or headphones.
The core Bluetooth technology hasn’t changed despite the vast number of improvements that have been made.
Bluetooth 5’s Biggest Improvements
This newest iteration is one of the most comprehensive yet, covering improvements in many different facets that the wireless protocol has to offer. However, a few stand out as the most impressive.
The original Bluetooth classic, or Bluetooth 1.0, only supported a maximum range of 10 meters (about 30 feet). However, the newest update has extended this range drastically, supporting a maximum range between compatible devices of 240 meters, or 800 feet.
This is four times the range that was supported by the previous version, Bluetooth 4.2. This iteration supported a distance of 60 meters (200 feet).
Even with obstacles or walls in the way, 240 meters is a long distance. This type of range can allow developers to engineer speakers, headphones, and other technology that can wirelessly communicate from any room in the house with ease.
The previous version of Bluetooth could transfer data at 1Mbps, while version 5.0 has now doubled this speed. At 2Mbps, firmware can be uploaded and downloaded in less time than its predecessor.
While Wifi can transfer data at much faster speeds, averaging around 25 Mbps, this is a big step toward more advanced wireless technology.
Devices can actually choose between faster speeds and longer ranges. For example, wireless headphones might increase speed for high bitrate streaming, while smart home devices may opt for a longer range to communicate throughout the entire living space.
Bluetooth Low Energy
One of the biggest drawbacks of Bluetooth was how it drained the battery of its master devices, such as a phone or laptop. While Bluetooth 4.2 introduced this concept, not every single device was compatible with the technology. For example, wireless headphones couldn’t communicate over Low Energy, which meant decreased battery longevity.
With Bluetooth 5.0, every improvement made is to the Bluetooth Low Energy specification itself. This is designed to reduce energy consumption for Bluetooth peripherals, making for reduced power usage and longer battery life.
Other changes have been made to Bluetooth 5.0 to make your wireless experience even better than before.
Improved Frequency Hopping
Bluetooth uses something called Adaptive Frequency Hopping. This is an algorithm that determines which radio channel to transmit and receive on, swapping channels frequently so that the data is transmitted over a wide assortment of channels. This allows data to transfer smoothly in particularly busy radio environments.
Bluetooth 4.2’s channel algorithm produced only 12 distinct sequences of channels, which isn’t optimal for applications such as audio, specifically.
But in Bluetooth 5.0, the hopping sequence is now pseudo-random, and the sequences possible are very large. This gives the newest version a much higher interference tolerance, ensuring that you’re less likely to get disconnected from your wireless device.
There’s a fun new feature in the newest version of Bluetooth called dual audio, which allows you to stream audio on two connected devices simultaneously. So if you’re ever listening to a song and want your friend to hear it too, they can connect their wireless headphones to your phone at the same time.
This means that you can also stream audio to two different speakers in the same room, making for a DIY surround sound experience right from home.
Higher Message Capacity
Bluetooth 5.0 is able to transfer packets at a rate of 255 bytes, which is extremely large. This is nearly eight times the capacity of Bluetooth 4.2, which capped out at 31 bytes. This improves the data payload, allowing for larger files to be transferred wirelessly.
Has the Sound Quality Improved in Bluetooth 5.0?
One of the biggest drawbacks of Bluetooth has always been that the sound quality is never as crisp and clear when compared to CDs or other digital/ analog systems. But does the newest version of the protocol make any improvements?
Unfortunately not. It seems like most of the emphasis was placed on improving speed and range, which avid music listeners will still see as an immense benefit.
However, Bluetooth released a smaller update to Bluetooth 5 called Bluetooth 5.2. In this newest update, an audio codec called LC3 was introduced. This is a high-quality, low-power audio codec that provides high-quality sound at even lower data rates than the standard Bluetooth Classic SBC codec.
While this codec doesn’t match the quality of a record player, it does mean that the technology is headed in the right direction for crisper sound.
What Devices are Compatible with Bluetooth 5?
When a new version of Bluetooth is released, developers can take some time to utilize the newest protocols in their devices. Typically, flagship smartphones like iPhones and Samsung Galaxies are the first products to hit the market with the most up-to-date versions.
With that said, Bluetooth 5.0 is backward compatible with Bluetooth 4.0. For example, if you get the newest iPhone that supports 5.0, you can still connect a pair of headphones that run on Bluetooth 4.0, 4.1, or 4.2. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to enjoy the increased range, speed, or battery life that a 5.0 headset might be able to accomplish.
Check to see if a device is Bluetooth 5.0 compatible before purchasing to ensure that you can reap all of the benefits and improved features.
When Will Bluetooth 6 Be Available?
As of now, there is no indication when Bluetooth 6.0 will arrive for your wireless peripherals. Especially since the recent 5.2 updates brought in a slew of new improvements and features, it might be some time yet before we get to see what the next generation of Bluetooth devices have in store.
Bluetooth 5 is the newest and most improved version of Bluetooth to date. Among its features, improved speed and extra-long battery life are some of the most impressive advancements made.
On top of that, Bluetooth 5 allows users to share audio to two devices simultaneously, letting users create surround sound speaker systems in their own homes. Not to mention, with improved frequency hopping, you’re less likely to experience disconnections.
Most devices are now compatible with Bluetooth 5.0 at this point, but it is also backward compatible with peripherals functioning on 4.0-4.2. And while there is no clear timeframe for the release of Bluetooth 6.0, version 5.2 has brought a ton of new improvements that are sure to keep techies excited for a while.