The world of wireless technology has brought many wonderful inventions. But nothing compares to the impact Bluetooth has had over the last two decades. These days almost everything wireless uses some form of Bluetooth connectivity.
Whether it’s your headphones, mobile device, laptop, speaker, or even your coffee maker or toaster! These forms of media all depend on Bluetooth connectivity when performing wireless activities.
That said, it isn’t always sunshine and roses. Sometimes you might find yourself in a war with technology. Maybe your connection keeps cutting off, or your device just won’t pair. Therefore I decided to take a look at the wacky and wonderful world of Bluetooth and explain how to use Bluetooth devices.
Where does Bluetooth come from?
Although it might seem like a fairly new thing, Bluetooth has been around since the late 1980s. The initial purpose of Bluetooth was for wireless headsets, created by Ericsson Mobile in Lund, Sweden.
Transferring data between two devices only became a thing in the late 1990s. It started when the head of IBM wanted to integrate a mobile phone into one of their ThinkPad notebooks.
The birth of Bluetooth…
Upon realizing that the batteries in mobile phones were not efficient enough, they created what they called short-link technology. This technology used Bluetooth and allowed for data transfer between the notebook and mobile device.
IBM and Ericsson made this technology available to all manufacturers on the market, with Nokia and Toshiba joining them. From there, it’s all history. Bluetooth became a staple in almost all devices that require wireless connectivity.
How does Bluetooth work?
Bluetooth devices use low-power radio waves emitting a frequency band of 2.4GHz – 2.483.5GHz. Most devices these days come equipped with Bluetooth LE, which means low energy. This is just a more efficient version of the Bluetooth receivers, but the bandwidth is still the same.
As technology became more popular and more accessible, it also advanced further.
So, what’s the new Bluetooth version?
Currently, most devices come with some variation of Bluetooth 4 or 5. Generally, as the versions go higher, so does the performance. Faster data rates and better connectivity at a further distance.
At this point, version 4 and its variants are low energy. They have a range of around 200 feet and can send data at a speed of about 1Mbps. Bluetooth version 5 doubles that speed to 2Mbps and has a range of up to 800 feet.
To get a better idea of the different Bluetooth versions, here is a table showing the differences between versions 3, 4, and 5.
|Bluetooth Version||Version 3||Version 4||Version 5|
|Range||100 Foot||200 Foot||800 Foot|
|Transfer speed||Up to 24Mbps||Up to 1Mbps||Up to 2Mbps|
|LE (Low energy)||No||Yes||Yes|
|SAM (Slot availability masking)||No||No||Yes|
Slot availability masking has been added to Bluetooth version 5, greatly improving its connectivity performance. This helps it work better when there are plenty of other devices using Bluetooth connectivity as well, interfering less with it.
Difference between Bluetooth Classic and LE
You might have noticed that Bluetooth version 3 has a much faster transfer speed than Bluetooth version 4 and 5.
So, why is Bluetooth 3 the fastest?
This is because version 3 is not low-powered, which means it consumes a much larger amount of energy. This is especially true when its high-speed option is turned on.
This makes it great for high-powered devices that need a strong connection, but it uses a lot more power. Alternatively, most smaller devices that had this variant would not have benefited from the increased connection speeds. This is because it would drain the batteries fairly quickly.
Low energy Bluetooth was introduced with version 4…
This newer form of Bluetooth not only used much less power but saw an increase in range. The newest version of Bluetooth, version 5, further improves on the previous version.
It is still a low-energy version. But it has been designed to switch between four different data rates, which accommodate different ranges.
When using devices like a smartwatch, which is usually near the Bluetooth device, it can boost the transfer speeds. For smaller sensors that do not need a large amount of data, they can transmit as little as 125kbps over a range of 800 feet.
How to use Bluetooth
Most Bluetooth devices, whether iOS, Android, Windows, or macOS, will need to pair first. This is done by going to your Bluetooth settings.
Go to settings and open up Bluetooth. The switch should be turned on. It will be green if it is on.
When Bluetooth is turned on, it will show the available Bluetooth devices in the area. If your device does not show up, check that it is turned on and not already paired and connected to another device. Usually, it will flash a blue light if it is looking for devices to pair with. If it is not flashing, that means it is connected to a device already.
Once your iOS device shows the device you want to connect to, click on it and pair with the device. Some devices have pairing codes that need to be entered; usually, it is 0000. If not, check the manual for the correct code.
Go to settings and then connections. In here, you can turn the Bluetooth switch on, but also then open the Bluetooth option. Here, just like iOS, it will show available options. Click and pair on the device you want to use.
From your desktop, right-click on the Windows logo in the bottom left and open settings. Then click on devices. In here, there will be a Bluetooth on/off slider. Turn it on.
Turn the device on that you want to connect, then click on add Bluetooth devices. A screen will pop up with three different prompts for different devices. Choose the one that is suited to the device you are connecting, wait for the computer to search, and then click on your device.
On the home screen, click on the Bluetooth symbol. Then click Open Bluetooth Preferences. From here, turn on your Bluetooth. Then turn on your Bluetooth device, wait for it to pop up as an option. Then click and pair the device.
Is Bluetooth audio any good?
As with most products, price and quality play a role in this. Cheaper Bluetooth products indeed tend to be bad, especially speakers and headsets. This isn’t always because of the Bluetooth, but it does play a role in the audio quality.
Standard Bluetooth connections…
For mobile phones to speakers or headphones, it works with an SBC codec. This is the format of compression of data that then gets sent from the mobile to the audio source. SBC does not have a high bit rate, which means less information can be sent every second.
SBC supports up to 320kbps, but a lot of cheaper devices sit at the lower end of the spectrum at 192kbps. The compression is also not lossless, which means a lot of information gets lost.
No more jacks…
But, with Apple getting rid of the audio jack on their devices, they are fully embracing Bluetooth as the future of audio. We will surely see an increase in quality with wireless audio peripherals.
AptX and AAC codecs are already raising the bar when it comes to quality. Sony’s LDAC codec is a lossless audio codec, which means it can send hi-res audio files without any compression.
Common Bluetooth Issues
Bluetooth may be the future, but it still has some ways to go. The most common Bluetooth problem is pairing with devices.
The first thing you should do when you are experiencing pairing issues is turning it on and off. Sure, this might sound like a cliché, but it has solved many connection issues I have had in the past. Internet slow? Turn the router off and on. Headphones cutting out? Turn them on and off. It is the first thing you should do before continuing troubleshooting.
If this does not work…
Try hard resetting the device first. This is done in many different ways, and you should look at the device’s manual on how to perform it. Some devices will have a little reset button that needs to be pressed down with a pin; some will need you to press and hold certain buttons together.
A hard reset will wipe the pairing data. Allowing you to repair the device, which might fix any connection issues.
The last thing to do…
Before rushing to your nearest shop to get the device checked, update the firmware. Most headphones and other Bluetooth peripherals come with applications these days. Check that the application and headphones are up to date with the latest firmware.
Need Great Bluetooth Devices?
We have loads of Bluetooth-enabled items. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, the Best Solar Powered Bluetooth Speakers, the Best Bluetooth Speakers With Radio, the Best Bluetooth Headphones for Conference Calls, and the Best Bluetooth Headphones for Commuting you can buy in 2021.
Also, have a look at our comprehensive reviews of the Best Waterproof Bluetooth Headphones, the Best Bluetooth Headphones Under $100, the Best Bluetooth Headphones Under $200, the Best AptX Bluetooth Headphones, and the Loudest Portable Bluetooth Speakers currently available.
How to use Bluetooth – Final Thoughts
With the future of wireless peripherals cemented squarely in Bluetooth connectivity, I look forward to where it takes us next. With Bluetooth connectivity already in our phones, headphones, watches, and speakers, where might it go next? Only the future knows.
Until next time, happy listening.