Friday, June 10, 2016

Bluetooth 5 to be announced next week, with 4x speed and better range

Bluetooth 5, the next generation of Bluetooth standard, will be formally announced next week, offering double the range and quadruple the speed of the current low-energy wireless protocol.

Executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, Mark Powell, revealed the news in a published email sent to UK health and monitoring company Blue Maestro. The Bluetooth SIG, which is backed by Apple, Intel, and other major technology companies, will officially make the announcement on June 16 in London.

The standard's adoption of the title "Bluetooth 5" drops reference to both the version and point number, indicating both a significant revision of the protocol and an effort by SIG to simplify its marketing strategy.

The new standard is also said to offer significantly wider support for smart home devices and enhanced Internet of Things (IoT) functionality, in addition to increased support for location-based connectionless services, such as assistive navigation beacons.

It's unclear whether Bluetooth 5 will come to existing devices as a firmware update or require new hardware, but the latter is more likely. Previously, Bluetooth 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 devices were not upgradeable to newer versions of the standard, but Bluetooth 4.0 devices could be upgraded to Bluetooth 4.1 via software patches.

In October last year, Apple quietly added Bluetooth 4.2 support to the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPad Air 2, bringing 2.5x faster speeds and up to ten times higher data capacity to the devices.

Rumors of impending upgrades to Apple's MacBook range typically make no mention of wireless protocols, while iPhone 7 leaks and speculation are also usually silent on the subject.

However, given the increasing likelihood that Apple will remove the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, Bluetooth will become the primary means of connecting headphones for most users unless wired Lightning earbuds are included in the box.

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