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?
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.