What is Bluetooth and how does it work?

What is Bluetooth and how does it work?

The name Bluetooth has been synonymous with connected technology for years now, and for good reason. When we need two devices to communicate with each other, Bluetooth has been our choice for most of the past two decades. While Bluetooth is an incredibly valuable function that we increasingly take for granted, what exactly is Bluetooth? You might be wondering what it is and how Bluetooth works in today’s increasingly connected world. Let’s find out.

What is bluetooth?

Named after a 10th century Scandinavian king, Harald Bluetooth, the history of modern Bluetooth dates back to 1994. Ericsson, a Swedish telecommunications giant, saw the promise of using Bluetooth as a wireless connection to connect headphones with phones. mobile devices. After testing, five companies (Ericsson, Nokia, IBM, Toshiba and Intel) formed the Bluetooth SIG in 1998 to help monitor the growth of Bluetooth. By the end of 1998, Bluetooth had more than 400 companies and, more recently, more than 30,000 members.

What is bluetooth image

On a more technical level, Bluetooth uses the same 2.4 GHz technology as other wireless technologies. Originally designed to operate over distances of 10 meters, Bluetooth can typically handle a network of two to eight devices. It is thanks to this technology that you can send a page from your computer to your printer in another room without cables. Inside every Bluetooth device is some sort of regulator that allows it to correctly determine the type of range available. Nowadays, three types of Bluetooth classes are available:

  • Class 1 is the most powerful and can operate up to 100 meters or 330 feet.
  • Class 2 is the most common and retains the original standard of 10 meters or 33 feet.
  • Class 3 is the least powerful and is generally only valid for distances of 1 meter or 3.3 feet.

How does bluetooth work?

As noted above, Bluetooth operates in the 2.4 GHz frequency range and sends 79 different bands of radio waves within that frequency. As data is sent, Bluetooth splits all your data into smaller, more transferable packets. Once the packets have been split, they are then sent individually over those 79 tapes, yet still being smart enough that they aren’t getting clogged anywhere. Of course, this all happens in microseconds with almost no lag between the two connected devices.

Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi

Unlike your Wi-Fi or 3G / 4G / 5G connections, Bluetooth doesn’t use any data. This is good news for people in today’s world who connect their smartphones to their cars and play music. While actual music streaming uses data, connecting to your car via Bluetooth does not use any internet data and has minimal impact on battery life.

Different types of Bluetooth

As of 2021, there are two types of Bluetooth technology available to consumers. The first is Bluetooth Basic Rate / Enhanced Data Rate, and the second is Low Energy. The first (BR / EDR) must always be paired. On the other hand, Low Energy devices may require a relationship of trust, but this is not always a requirement. Introduced with Bluetooth 4.0, Low Energy is ideal for electronic devices such as portable devices, headphones or other low power devices where battery life is limited. To date, five different versions of Bluetooth are available:

Classic bluetooth: This includes versions 1.0 – 3.0.

  • When Bluetooth 1.0 was first released, it was limited to data speeds of less than 1 Mbps with a range of no more than 10 meters.
  • Bluetooth 2.0 took things up a notch by increasing speeds from 2 to 3 Mbps.
  • Bluetooth 3.0 included the use of 802.11 technology, which helped increase data transfers up to 24 Mbps.

Bluetooth 4.0 is the most common type of Bluetooth available today. Data speeds are limited to 1 Mbps.

Bluetooth 5.0 is an improvement on the Low Energy side by increasing data throughput and range. It can operate in a variety of transmission ranges, including 125 Kbps, 500 Kbps, 1 Mbps, and 2 Mbps. The reduction in the data rate had the positive effect of being able to increase the data range to 240 meters. Conversely, the faster 2 Mbps transmission is significantly more limited and better suited for short range use.

The last version Bluetooth 5.1 introduces better transmission technology and better range. Learn more about Bluetooth 5.1 here.

Why use bluetooth?

Why not? The use of Bluetooth has spread to more than just connecting headphones and cell phones. There are already many uses for Bluetooth:

What is iPhone BluetoothWhat is iPhone Bluetooth
  • While printers typically rely on Wi-Fi, this type of connection can be unstable. Bluetooth enabled printers allow you to print from your phone or computer without cables, and even when Wi-Fi is offline.
  • Smartwatches and wearable devices rely heavily on Bluetooth connectivity. These devices have opened the door to a whole new world of workout tracking and can share data right on your phone to sync with a health app.
  • Most laptops are equipped with Bluetooth and allow you to connect to a Bluetooth keyboard and mice.
  • Wireless games are played via Bluetooth in the Xbox, PS4 and smartphone worlds. Connecting a PS4 or Xbox One controller to your iPhone or Android device is handled entirely through Bluetooth.
  • Need to get a Wi-Fi signal in a place where you only have cellular service? Connect your smartphone to your computer via Bluetooth so that it can be activated as an access point.

These few examples only scratch the surface of how many different types of electronic devices you use with Bluetooth today. It’s so deeply integrated and connected that you can see it’s something relatively new to the world of electronics.

Final thoughts

Bluetooth has already played a huge role in our tech-centric life and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. With advances in Bluetooth 5.1, connections are stronger and data transfers more reliable. These improvements are sure to materialize with the next generation of Bluetooth devices, which will only increase our reliance on it going forward.


David Beren
David Beren

David Beren is a freelance technical writer with over 10 years of experience in the technology industry. He loves dogs, his kids and everything Nintendo.

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