The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ were the first smartphones to support Bluetooth 5.0, which, up to this point, hasn’t meant a whole lot. Why? Because very few other consumer electronics support it — but that’s changing. All the new iPhones (8, 8 Plus and X), the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, the LG V30, and the Essential Phone all come decked out with Bluetooth 5.0 support. The Google’s Pixel 2 will support it. Most of your soon-to-be-favorite wireless headphones, speakers, computer and camera will most likely support it, too. Here’s what it means for you.
The big improvements with Bluetooth 5.0 amount to its speed and range. Supported devices can transfer data up to 2 Mbps, which is twice the speed as Bluetooth 4.2. This means that you’ll be able to send and receive data, whether that’s music files, documents or photos, in half the time. This transfer speed is also more than enough to support lossless CD-quality audio, provided that the same high-bit-rate codecs are present in both your smartphone and Bluetooth headphones. (Head to Headphone.com for more info on the impact Bluetooth 5.0 will have on high-res music.)
Secondly, Bluetooth 5.0 will have four times the range as Bluetooth 4.2. This means your smartphone and Bluetooth speaker will be able to work up to 260 feet away from each other (if no walls interfere). That’s a huge jump up from the 30 feet allowed by Bluetooth 4.2. The extended range of Bluetooth 5.0 could also have a big impact on smart home (IoT) devices as well, like smart thermostats, smart security cameras and smart bulbs. The low-energy and increased range could mean that these connected devices could switch over from wi-fi.
Perhaps the biggest improvement that Bluetooth 5.0 will make on your life is that it will enable two devices to be paired to another device at the same time. For instance, two people with different wireless headphones can pair to the same smartphone and listen to the same music; no more cumbersome earbud-sharing. This could also impact your decision to get a multi-room sound system, because you could be able to connect your smartphone to two different speakers in different rooms.
Bluetooth 5.0 isn’t perfect and won’t solve all your streaming problems. For example, it won’t allow you to play different songs in multiple rooms, a la Sonos, because it’s still a peer-to-peer connection (even though it allows for more “peers”). And you’ll only get the full advantages of Bluetooth 5.0 if the two (or three) devices connected support it. That said, Bluetooth 5.0 has the potential to be awesome; and because your next smartphone will support Bluetooth 5.0, if you’re planning on purchasing new home speakers, it might be worth waiting until a Bluetooth 5.0–supported model hits shelves.
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