Bluetooth 3.0 arrives with promise of eightfold speed increase

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
The next version of the Bluetooth short-range wireless protocol officially launched this week, promising an eightfold speed increase to boost the low power protocol into the same performance range as WiFi wireless networking, while allowing Bluetooth 3.0 devices to fall back to lower power mode when not actively transferring data.



Presenting at its annual All Hands Meeting in Tokyo this week, the Bluetooth SIG -- the special interest group that oversees the development of Bluetooth standards and licensing -- formally adopted Bluetooth Core Specification Version 3.0 High Speed (HS), or Bluetooth 3.0.



In addition to better power savings and unicast connectionless data, the new specification features the ability to use alternative radio antennas, including an 802.11 Protocol Adaptation Layer (PAL) that will increase throughput of Bluetooth data transfers to approximately 24 Mbps, up from 3Mbps in the current 2.1 EDR version. The extra speed comes from using the much faster but less power efficient 802.11 radio available in devices that support both Bluetooth and WiFi wireless networking.



Put more simply, any two devices that feature both Bluetooth 3.0 and an 802.11 wireless chip will pair with each other over Bluetooth but then perform the bulk of their data transfers over the faster WiFi protocol using a specialized 802.11 connection. When the speed of a transfer becomes overkill, the connection will drop down to normal operation on a Bluetooth radio for optimal power management and performance.



"This is the wireless technology equivalent of 'low hanging fruit,'" said Michael Foley, Ph.D., executive director, the Bluetooth SIG. "What we’re doing is taking classic Bluetooth connections -- using Bluetooth protocols, profiles, security and other architectural elements -- and allowing it to jump on top of the already present 802.11 radio, when necessary, to send bulky entertainment data, faster."



This move will be a boon to traditional phone makers who have built their devices around the low power, limited range Bluetooth, with the protocol's support for device profiles for sync and peripheral connections. Using Bluetooth 3.0, those makers will be able to take advantage of 802.11 radios to expand their data throughput without having to implement support for WiFi networking, something even many popular or prominent phones continue to lack.



Bluetooth 3.0 vs iPhone 3.0



In contrast, Apple's computer-centric background resulted in the iPhone being primarily a WiFi device, with Bluetooth added on the side and only supporting basic features such as support for mono headsets and hands free operation. Apple supports file transfers, A2DP stereo headphones, and other Bluetooth features on the Mac desktop, but the iPhone and the latest iPod touch make so little effective use of Bluetooth that many users simply turn it off to save battery power.



In iPhone 3.0, Apple is doing essentially the opposite of the new Bluetooth 3.0 specification: bringing PC networking features down to Bluetooth instead. The biggest new feature will be activating Bluetooth as a secondary networking protocol designed to discover other nearby devices using Bonjour. This will enable games and other software titles to connect with nearby users for interaction without having to attach all those mobile devices to the same WiFi network or to create an ad hoc WiFi network to support this.



Apple is also expanding support for classic Bluetooth features in iPhone 3.0, including A2DP stereo headphones and device tethering, which allows a user to share mobile network Internet access over WiFi or Bluetooth. It's not clear if iPhone 3.0 will focus much effort on device transfers, printing, and other common Bluetooth profiles, as these are already potentially available over WiFi.



Relative speed



While theoretical speed maximums touted by specification bodies don't always ring true in real world situations, Foley maintains the users will routinely see Bluetooth 3.0 transfers sustain rates at or above 22Mbps.







"Like Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights, this latest version was ‘born to go fast,’" he said. "Utilizing the 802.11 radio was a natural choice as it provides efficiencies for both our members and consumers -- members get more function out of the two radios they are already including in devices, and consumers with Bluetooth v3.0 HS products will get faster exchange of information without changing how they connect."



As with all versions of the Bluetooth specification, Bluetooth 3.0 HS is backwards compatible with earlier versions. Already, Bluetooth SIG member companies and Apple partners like Atheros, Broadcom, CSR, and Marvell are working on chips to support the new specification. Those chips should begin turning up in consumer products within the next 9 to 12 months.



While Bluetooth 3.0 will deliver a big boost by making use of an available 802.11 radio, Apple's mobile devices already support the faster 802.11b/g, and the forthcoming iPhone models expected in June appear set to use 802.11n technologies to deliver even faster speeds. That means that while Bluetooth 3.0 will begin to reach parity with the old USB 1.1, the iPhone and iPod touch should begin to achieve wireless networking speeds that might make wireless sync with iTunes a reasonable alternative to USB 2.0.



Wireless positioning



The downside to wireless sync is that it consumes lots of battery, requiring that the device be plugged in to power more often. For that reason, Microsoft's highly touted wireless sync feature on its second generation Zune devices actually recommends that users plug the unit in while performing a "wireless sync," defeating the purpose of giving up wires in the first place. Wireless sync over WiFi also continues to be around ten times slower than plugging into USB 2.0 directly.



Apple has focused on making the wireless connections of its mobile more useful, not just an alternative to USB. The existing iPhone and iPod touch use WiFi primarily for web browsing, email with push messaging, and other desktop-style applications. Apple primarily positions Bluetooth as an accessory connection, which will become significantly more useful in iPhone 3.0 as support is extended to peripheral devices and Bonjour wireless collaboration and gameplay.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 47
    donlphidonlphi Posts: 214member
    I suppose this means we're still going to be wired for iPhone 3.0



    Oh well... It's not the end of the world.
  • Reply 2 of 47
    I don't know why we're even bothering to talk about iPods/iPhones and Bluetooth 3 when none of Apple's devices even make proper use of stereo Bluetooth headset (and headphone, and speaker) support that's been in the Bluetooth standard for ages already.
  • Reply 3 of 47
    nofeernofeer Posts: 2,422member
    i have a subscription podcast, must access itunes, download then sync my iphone

    wish itunes on the iphone could handle these so i don't have to be home to do it.
  • Reply 4 of 47
    I just wish that my 1st-gen MacBook didn't lose its bluetooth capability randomly for hours at a time...
  • Reply 5 of 47
    dfilerdfiler Posts: 3,420member
    "paves way for iPhones, iPods that sync wirelessly"



    Um... the iPhone already has 3, count them, 3 wireless technologies built in.



    Wireless syncing is already possible, just not implemented. A new hardware standard is not what wireless syncing is waiting on.



    Edit: I should have said "bluetooth" instead of "hardware" because it is piggy-backing on top of the 802.11 hardware already present.
  • Reply 6 of 47
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dfiler View Post


    "paves way for iPhones, iPods that sync wirelessly"



    Um... the iPhone already has 3, count them, 3 wireless technologies built in.



    Wireless syncing is already possible, just not implemented. A new hardware standard is not what wireless syncing is waiting on.



    A new wireless standard is needed to make it sync at an acceptable speed wirelessly. This is still not it, unless you don't care how fast or slow it goes. It looks like Bluetooth 3 is about good enough to match USB 1.1 in actual speed.
  • Reply 7 of 47
    i was under the impression that bluetooth can be easily "hijacked" because it has a relatively light security protocol. so if bluetooth can easily use the 802.11 network, then could this possibly mean an "open door"? YES/NO?



    if you have any insight, would help clarify the relationship between bluetooth and 802.11, and the possible ramifications? i'd like to know. i think this is interesting.
  • Reply 8 of 47
    Why can't an iphone connect to a wireless network, then search for it's home computer to sync to over the network with existing wireless technology? I don't think that current technology is the limiting factor here if they wanted it to happen. This new technology just allows for a more direct connection, which is sounded more like a glorified adhoc 802.11 network connection
  • Reply 9 of 47
    gtl215gtl215 Posts: 242member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by OriginalG View Post


    Why can't an iphone connect to a wireless network, then search for it's home computer to sync to over the network with existing wireless technology? I don't think that current technology is the limiting factor here if they wanted it to happen. This new technology just allows for a more direct connection, which is sounded more like a glorified adhoc 802.11 network connection



    battery life, people...Apple has shown on numerous occasions that better battery life trumps certain features which *should" otherwise be available.
  • Reply 10 of 47
    ivan.rnn01ivan.rnn01 Posts: 1,822member


  • Reply 11 of 47
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,558member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    A new wireless standard is needed to make it sync at an acceptable speed wirelessly. This is still not it, unless you don't care how fast or slow it goes. It looks like Bluetooth 3 is about good enough to match USB 1.1 in actual speed.



    Any idea what speed differences will be between WiMax and Bluetooth 3.0? I know what the technical differences are in the technology, but not the speeds.



    (edit)

    Hmm... I found this on Wikipedia:



    Quote:

    The 3.0 specification[12] was adopted by the Bluetooth SIG on April 21st, 2009. Its main feature is AMP (Alternate MAC/PHY), the addition of Wi-Fi as a high speed transport. Two technologies had been anticipated for AMP: Wi-Fi and UWB, but UWB is missing from the specification[17].

    Alternate MAC PHY: enables the use of alternative MAC and PHY's for transporting Bluetooth profile data. The Bluetooth Radio is still used for device discovery, initial connection and profile configuration, however when lots of data needs to be sent, the high speed alternate MAC PHY (802.11, aka Wi-Fi) will be used to transport the data. This means that the proven low power connection models of Bluetooth are used when the system is idle, and the low power per bit radios are used when lots of data needs to be sent.



    So it sounds like Bluetooth 3.0 still would be no faster than 802.11, is this correct?
  • Reply 12 of 47
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GTL215 View Post


    battery life, people...Apple has shown on numerous occasions that better battery life trumps certain features which *should" otherwise be available.



    Apple won't use this for syncing even if they do utilize it. They don't use the 802.11g that the iPhone has to sync all your data. At the 8, 16 and 32GB sizes I can't see why anyone would want Bluetooth syncing or WiFi. If you need dynamic contacts and calendar syncing there are couple ways to do that. I find MobileMe very useful for this.
  • Reply 13 of 47
    istinkistink Posts: 250member
    [email protected] the ricky bobby comment. I can't believe he said that.



    As far as bluetooth stereo on ipods go, don't the wired connections carry song information and allow people to fast forward and rewind? Right now the bluetooth on my WM phone lets me skip to the next song, go back to the previous song, and pause the current song, all while never showing me song information. It's really nice being wireless, but seeing as how Apple's always gotta "revolutionize" the industry with things that "just work" I bet they are waiting until you can copy the wired functionality wirelessly. I know I'd really like to be able to fast forward and rewind and see song information on my head unit.
  • Reply 14 of 47
    mazda 3smazda 3s Posts: 1,560member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The next version of the Bluetooth short-range wireless protocol officially launched this week, promising an eightfold speed increase that could help device makers like Apple offer true wireless syncing on their handheld products in about a year's time.



    Why would it take a year? Microsoft's Zune has offered wireless syncing for well over a year now. That's the only thing I miss from going from a Zune 30 to my current iPod touch 2G.



    The current hardware is definitely capable of doing it, Apple probably just doesn't care to implement it. And then when it finally does, everyone will act like it's some big revelation.
  • Reply 15 of 47
    inklinginkling Posts: 731member
    Quote:

    For end users, this will mean the ability to synchronize bulky music libraries at high speeds between an iPhone (or iPod) and a Mac (or PC) without having to tether the devices with a USB cable or sign onto a WiFi network.



    Yes, I can see it now. The year is 2040, and a father and his young son are talking.





    SON: Tell me again about the primitive iPod you had when you were my age and how difficult it was to use.



    FATHER: Well, son, I know this is hard for you to believe, but there was a time when iPods didn't sync wirelessly.



    SON: Didn't synch wirelessly, father. What did you do? Was it something awful?



    FATHER: Yes, son, it was something quite awful. We had to tether our iPods with a strange device called a USB cable.



    SON: No, you didn't!



    FATHER: Yes, we did. And sometimes we had to walk across the room to do that. The cords were often short. Connecting it could take 5 or 10 seconds. You see we had to line the connector up just right. It wouldn't connect any old way. But that sort of thing is so complicated, I'm not sure you want to hear about it.



    SON: You're right. It does sound terribly complicated.



    FATHER: Yes son. You know, sometimes I don't think you realize just how good you have it. Things were more difficult when I was young. Much more difficult.



    SON: Now tell me what driving a car was like when you were young. Johnny tells me that you had to steer, and control the speed and brake and put on turn signals as you drove. I can't see how anyone could do all of those things...
  • Reply 16 of 47
    virgil-tb2virgil-tb2 Posts: 1,416member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GTL215 View Post


    battery life, people...Apple has shown on numerous occasions that better battery life trumps certain features which *should" otherwise be available.



    This is not necessarily the whole story though.



    The fact is there are numerous situations wherein the ability to sync wirelessly would be a great boon, even though at other times it would suck because of slowness and battery life. The *real* story is that Apple is denying us the ability to sync wirelessly when it *would* be effective and prudent, because if they turn it on, the average Joe idiot will try to use it in the *inadvisable* scenarios and make the iPhone "look bad."



    For instance you cannot use an iPhone as an alarm clock effectively unless you sleep in the same room as your computer, because all the overnight syncing of podcasts and other data won't happen until you put the thing in it's little dock by your main computer. It's likely that there is a wireless signal in your bedroom however and one usually has it sitting in some kind of powered dock when using it as an alarm clock. There is no reason at all that my iPhone could not be in my bedroom and sync wirelessly throughout the night. In fact it might be the very best time and the very best way to sync it.



    For me, this has been a major set-back and the one and only reason I still have my crappy flip-phone. I am used to using my phone as my alarm clock for years, as it just makes more sense than buying an alarm clock. A lot of people do this. People who have separate dedicated "alarm clocks" by their beds are becoming as scarce as those who still wear those "wristwatch" things.



    Until Apple enables syncing wirelessly or some kind of ethernet enabled dock, I still have to hang on to the dopey flip-phone and that's a shame.
  • Reply 17 of 47
    istinkistink Posts: 250member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Inkling View Post


    Yes, I can see it now. The year is 2040, and a father and his young son are talking.





    SON: Tell me again about the primitive iPod you had when you were my age and how difficult it was to use.



    FATHER: Well, son, I know this is hard for you to believe, but there was a time when iPods didn't sync wirelessly.



    SON: Didn't synch wirelessly, father. What did you do? Was it something awful?



    FATHER: Yes, son, it was something quite awful. We had to tether our iPods with a strange device called a USB cable.



    SON: No, you didn't!



    FATHER: Yes, we did. And sometimes we had to walk across the room to do that. The cords were often short. Connecting it could take 5 or 10 seconds. You see we had to line the connector up just right. It wouldn't connect any old way. But that sort of thing is so complicated, I'm not sure you want to hear about it.



    SON: You're right. It does sound terribly complicated.



    FATHER: Yes son. You know, sometimes I don't think you realize just how good you have it. Things were more difficult when I was young. Much more difficult.



    SON: Now tell me what driving a car was like when you were young. Johnny tells me that you had to steer, and control the speed and brake and put on turn signals as you drove. I can't see how anyone could do all of those things...



    great SCOTT
  • Reply 18 of 47
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,558member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Inkling View Post


    Yes, I can see it now. The year is 2040, and a father and his young son are talking.





    SON: Tell me again about the primitive iPod you had when you were my age and how difficult it was to use.



    FATHER: Well, son, I know this is hard for you to believe, but there was a time when iPods didn't sync wirelessly.



    SON: Didn't synch wirelessly, father. What did you do? Was it something awful?



    FATHER: Yes, son, it was something quite awful. We had to tether our iPods with a strange device called a USB cable.



    SON: No, you didn't!



    FATHER: Yes, we did. And sometimes we had to walk across the room to do that. The cords were often short. Connecting it could take 5 or 10 seconds. You see we had to line the connector up just right. It wouldn't connect any old way. But that sort of thing is so complicated, I'm not sure you want to hear about it.



    SON: You're right. It does sound terribly complicated.



    FATHER: Yes son. You know, sometimes I don't think you realize just how good you have it. Things were more difficult when I was young. Much more difficult.



    SON: Now tell me what driving a car was like when you were young. Johnny tells me that you had to steer, and control the speed and brake and put on turn signals as you drove. I can't see how anyone could do all of those things...



    Was Bluetooth part of the Singularity?
  • Reply 19 of 47
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mazda 3s View Post


    Why would it take a year? Microsoft's Zune has offered wireless syncing for well over a year no.



    "The next version of the Bluetooth short-range wireless protocol" will take about a year to get into products. I think the article falsely points to Apple wanting to include this. While BT would allow the handset to connect directly with the machine, using WiFi over a network would be much faster. It still doesn't resolve the issue of having to still plug in the device from a draining battery or the much slower speeds you get from not using USB2.0.
  • Reply 20 of 47
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post


    For instance you cannot use an iPhone as an alarm clock effectively unless you sleep in the same room as your computer, because all the overnight syncing of podcasts and other data won't happen until you put the thing in it's little dock by your main computer.



    Have you thought about a bunch of USB cables and a bunch of powered USB hubs?



    You do describe a situation that is a legitimate issue with the iPhone, but I can't see Apple caring about that in lieu of the potential pitfalls from including it.
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