So, you head out to get your new smartphone or Bluetooth gadget and one thing that you always seem to notice is the Bluetooth version. Ever wondered why that matters? Why should we care about the different Bluetooth versions out there? What difference do they make? Well, let’s find out!
The short answer
If you’re aren’t interested in the technical details and history lessons, the most recent Bluetooth versions are basically better in any way. You name it. Range, speed, power efficiency, and some of the even offer more features.
As we’ve seen before from first-hand experience, certain Bluetooth gadgets like gamepads do indeed work better with a newer Bluetooth version while other gadgets like earphones won’t even work correctly if your phone doesn’t have one of the latest versions.
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Now, with that being said, do keep in mind that Bluetooth offers backward compatibility – which means that a Bluetooth 5.0 phone should work with a Bluetooth 4.0 gadget, a Bluetooth 3.0 phone should work with a Bluetooth 2.0 gadget, etc.
However, a smartphone with Bluetooth 4.0 will either present issues when paired with a Bluetooth 5.0 gadget or it will refuse to work at all and the same goes for basically all Bluetooth versions. We actually had that issue with a set of earphones that kept on losing the connection with a phone that had an older Bluetooth version and worked just fine with other phones that had Bluetooth 5.0.
So, there you have it. The latest Bluetooth versions are better in almost every single way and sometimes they are even a necessity for gadgets and phones to work in harmony. That’s why we should generally aim for them when possible.
End of the article. Right? Well, not just yet. There’s more to this than what meets the eye. Keep on reading if you want the details.
The long answer
You got a short answer. Now, for a long answer, we’ll mainly just go through the details. We’ll see exactly how much faster each Bluetooth version is and just how much more it offers.
Bluetooth 1.0 and above
Bluetooth is a short-link radio technology. It first got developed in 1989 as a wireless alternative to data cables by Nils Rydbeck who then was CTO at Ericsson Mobile.
It wasn’t actually named Bluetooth until 1997 where Jim Kardach of Intel developed a communication system for computers and phones.
He got the idea from a book that’s called “The Long Ships” and the king Harald Bluetooth where it’s mentioned that he united the Danish tribes into one unified nation. That’s kind off what they were trying to achieve with Bluetooth technology and electronic devices so you can surely make the connection.
The idea of using wireless technology instead of cables to transfer data was most certainly very bright. But, Bluetooth 1.0 and 1.0B were full of issues. Various devices couldn’t communicate with each other and retaining anonymity while using Bluetooth was downright impossible.
Bluetooth 1.1 fixed numerous errors and got a signal strength indicator. Bluetooth 1.2 was a little bit faster in discovery and connection while it also offered transfer speeds of up to 721 kbit/s. That, by today’s standards, is absolutely awful.
Chances are that you won’t be able to find a Bluetooth 1 device. So, there’s really no reason to worry about it.
Bluetooth 2.0 and above
Bluetooth 2.0 was released in 2004 and offered Enhanced Data Rate for transfering data at a much higher speed of 3 Mbit/s. Although, in practice, it was only able to reach 2.1 Mbit/s.
Bluetooth 2.1 started utilizing secure simple pairing for both a better pairing experience and extra security. It also offered a few minor improvements in power consumption and extended the inquiry response but that’s about it.
Bluetooth 3.0 and above
Bluetooth 3.0 and Bluetooth 3.0 HS was a game changer as it offered theoretical maximum transfer speeds of 24 Mbit/s. The HS stands for High Speed and only devices which supported that specific version could take advantage of the extra transfer speeds.
Furthermore, Bluetooth 3.0 also offered improvements to power control, enhanced L2CAP modes, and more.
Bluetooth 4.0 and above
Of all the Bluetooth versions that have come out until now, Bluetooth 4.0 is probably the most popular one. But, this time, not because of speed, but because of power saving. For years, Bluetooth was considered rather power hungry – until this version came out.
Thanks to this technology advancement, smaller devices with much smaller batteries like Smartwatches and earphones can now utilize the Bluetooth protocol. Most of our gadgets nowadays are coming with at least Bluetooth 4.0/4.2 and above.
This Bluetooth version is also called Bluetooth Smart. Later small improvements were made to this one with 4.1 and 4.2 which were mostly useful for IOT devices.
If there’s one issue with Bluetooth smart, then that would be that devices that are equipped with this protocol are NOT compatible with older Bluetooth gadgets that use the 3.0 version or anything below that.
Chances are that you won’t really be able to find a lot of Bluetooth 3.0 devices. So, again, no need to worry.
Last, but not least, the range is also severely increased and it’s theoretically possible to establish a connection at even 60 meters apart.
Bluetooth is the latest of Bluetooth versions that is currently out and its new features are mostly focused around IOT; aka Internet of Things.
Most smartphones nowadays come with this version equipped – which is nice considering that it offers low energy long range support. Bluetooth 5 is backwards compatible with 4.2, 4.1, and 4.0; but not with older versions.
So, to conclude, newer Bluetooth versions offer more functionality, range, and speed. That’s why you should generally care when picking out a new gadget.
One thing to keep in mind is that any device with anything from Bluetooth 4.0 and above is not backwards compatible with older Bluetooth versions.
Feel like we got something wrong? Missed something important? Then let us and everyone else know about it in the comments section down below!
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