Blue­tooth 5: ev­ery­thing you need to know

The new wire­less stan­dard brings greater range, higher speeds and larger broad­cast­ing ca­pac­ity. But which prod­ucts sup­port it?

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What is Blue­tooth 5?

Blue­tooth 5 is the next it­er­a­tion of Blue­tooth, the wire­less tech­nol­ogy in smart­phones, smart­watches, tablets, wire­less head­phones and speak­ers, lap­tops, desk­top com­put­ers and more. Blue­tooth lets your de­vices talk to each other wire­lessly. It also lets you fire tunes at a wire­less speaker so you can lis­ten to mu­sic wher­ever you want.

How pow­er­ful is Blue­tooth 5?

Com­pared with its pre­de­ces­sor (Blue­tooth 4.2 Low En­ergy), it’s twice as fast, has four times the range and can trans­fer eight times as much data. In prac­tice, this means speedy and re­li­able over-the- air con­nec­tiv­ity, lead­ing to faster firmware up­dates and data up­load­ing. Thanks to the greater range of around 800 feet (244m), your wire­less speak­ers and head­phones should work much fur­ther away from the sound source.

And be­cause of its more ef­fi­cient use of broad­cast­ing chan­nels on the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar 2.4GHZ band, it opens the way for “richer con­nec­tion­less, bea­con-based Blue­tooth so­lu­tions”, ac­cord­ing to the Blue­tooth Spe­cial In­ter­est Group (SIG).

Over Blue­tooth 5 you can con­nect more than one pair of wire­less head­phones to a sin­gle sound source. If your de­vice has the right func­tion­al­ity, like Sam­sung’s Blue­tooth Dual Au­dio fea­ture, you can ad­just the vol­ume of each in­de­pen­dently. Blue­tooth 5 can also de­tect in­ter­fer­ence at the edges of the 2.4GHZ and neigh­bour­ing LTE bands, and au­to­mat­i­cally pre­vent it. This should make for clearer mu­sic lis­ten­ing from any wire­less de­vice.

And as it’s more ef­fi­cient, it’ll use less en­ergy, which should mean longer bat­tery life for wire­less speak­ers and head­phones.

Which de­vices are com­pat­i­ble?

Blue­tooth 5 isn’t a blan­ket stan­dard just yet, but it’s slowly gain­ing trac­tion. Sam­sung’s Galaxy S8 was the first phone to in­cor­po­rate it, fol­lowed by the Galaxy S8 Plus and Note 8. They’ve since been joined by the LG G7 Thinq and the lat­est Ap­ple iphone 8, 8 Plus and iphone X smart­phones. Sam­sung con­tin­ues to fly the flag for Blue­tooth 5 with the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus phones. For head­phones, the Kick­starter-funded Anker Zolo Lib­erty+ was the first pair to sup­port it. And while Ap­ple’s Homepod speaker lists Blue­tooth 5 on its spec sheet, it ap­pears to use it only for the set-up process.

So with­out sig­nif­i­cant Blue­tooth 5 head­phones or wire­less speak­ers around, for the time be­ing you can’t yet take ad­van­tage of the greater range or faster speeds. The good news is that you can use Sam­sung’s Blue­tooth Dual Au­dio fea­ture with any stan­dard Blue­tooth speaker or head­phones. Just pair them with the com­pat­i­ble phones as you usu­ally would, then se­lect ‘Dual Au­dio’ from the menu in the top right of the screen.

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