Bluetooth is a cornerstone of our modern, wireless society. Launched originally in 1998 by a team at Ericsson, it exists as a two-way communication feature in nearly every device we own today, from speaker systems to cellphones. Generally reserved for shorter ranges, roughly 100 feet or less, Bluetooth allows for relatively stable data transfer between anchoring devices. Although it tends to be slower as a wireless connection then Wi-Fi, Bluetooth uses far less power, saving precious battery life in a world where we measure our existence by the time between charging. You can also find it in two different formats: Basic Rate / Enhanced Data Rate, which is best used for streaming continuous data; and, Low Energy, which has made a name for itself with the advent of the Internet of Things.
Unfortunately, however, Bluetooth’s image is pocket marked by myths that seem to never disappear. So today, we will look deep into five of these stories to find the truth!
It is Bad for Your Health
There tends to be plenty of fearmongering about technology in general and Bluetooth is no exception. For instance, it was in 2011 that the World Health Organization released its position on radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, stating that they were possibly harmful to humans. The principle behind this claim is that electronics, including Bluetooth capable cellphones and headphones, produce very limited radiation via radio frequency (RF). Indeed, it’s been a topic of conversation since the early days of telephone mobility and it’s important to note that scientific consensus on it does not yet exist. So, it is true that using a cellphone maybe, could, possibly cause long term damage, but the same can be said for nearly every other frequency emitting electronic in our society – which are pretty much everywhere. As mentioned above, however, Bluetooth relies on a RF output that is substantially less potent than your cellphone or Wi-Fi signal. It means, likely, that you’re better off using a wireless headset than keeping your device beside your head when making a call.
Reduces Your Battery Life
This myth remains incredibly pervasive. Any blog post on “Saving Your Device’s Battery Life” will include at least a passing reference to the importance of keeping Bluetooth off. And in the early days of smartphones, this was a very salient recommendation. Especially back then, Bluetooth worked like your phone’s Wi-Fi connection – it would perpetually try to seek out a pairing from another device. But technology has changed. We aren’t working with early 2000s cellphones anymore and the obsession of technologists for the Bluetooth battery drain myth may no longer be as warranted. Yes, of course, it’s true that the more things you do on your phone, including activating Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, and other features, will ultimately impact your battery. It’s just like if you decided to play your favorite game at full screen brightness; there would be a noticeable drop in your battery life. Especially now, with its Low Energy format, the continuation of this myth no longer makes much sense in context.
It is NOT Secure
Unless you’re a spy, Bluetooth connections are perfectly secure, in as much as other data transmission methods are protected from outside interference and monitoring. Bluetooth works through a dual function of service-level and device-level security. This means that Bluetooth technology requires new devices to be approved by an authorized user – you. You’re in full control as to what files the connection will transfer, when that will occur, and which pairings are safe to engage. Switching on Bluetooth’s non-discoverable feature means no other devices can match with yours. Period. But, just like any other piece of technology, as we’ve seen recently with the hacking of Wi-Fi enabled cars, given enough time someone will likely find a workaround. Bluetooth, however, isn’t sitting on its laurels; instead, it’s constantly identifying challenges and releasing pertinent firmware updates for required devices, ever improving the security of the system. For now, when coupled with effective user security practices, such as avoiding the opening of unidentified software packages on your phone or computer, this type of connection is perfectly safe and secure for everyday use.
Doesn’t Work Outdoors
With the advent of an era sans-headphone jack, runners and walkers are especially concerned about whether Bluetooth will effectively work outdoors. In actual fact, with the latest Bluetooth technology, you’ll likely get better signal strength outside than in. The challenge with using Bluetooth indoors has always been obstacles, namely walls, which cut down the connection between paired devices. It can lead to the now infamous old-school Bluetooth challenges of choppy sound and poor data transfer speeds. But without anything getting in the way, say outside on a field, Bluetooth can often reach ranges of up to 100ft. Rain, for example, could impact the signal strength at that distance, but the closer you are to the receiving device, the better it is for data transfer. So, in summary, Bluetooth will work as well as any Wi-Fi enabled device at close range, meaning those of us who are outdoorsy types have nothing to fear from the loss of headphone jacks.
Causes Problems for My Wi-Fi
In all likelihood, it’s probably something else that is causing problems for your Wi-Fi. The problem stems from the fact that Bluetooth sends its signal over a 2.4GHz radio frequency, the same frequency used by many other devices, including Wi-Fi. Microwaves also work at this frequency, meaning you could experience a drop in Wi-Fi when cooking a bag of popcorn. The difference in impact from Bluetooth and microwaves come from power. As we’ve mentioned, Bluetooth works at a shockingly low power level, meaning it’s producing a feather light frequency when transmitting data. When compared to microwaves, it’s like the difference between a heavy metal concert and a soft lullaby. Therefore, while this type of wireless connection has the potential to cause problems with your Wi-Fi, the chances it has actually done so are extremely slim.
Bluetooth is an incredible piece of technology that has changed the way we connect devices together. And with the advent of Low Energy Bluetooth, the potential for the Internet-of-Things is very exciting. We think the future has a distinct blue hue to it and can’t wait to see how Bluetooth is used going forward.
How often do you use devices with Bluetooth connections? Tell us in the comments below!