Why does Bluetooth still suck?

Bluetooth has been around for more than 20 years, but it’s still plagued with issues. Devices may not connect, they may randomly disconnect, or you can run into interference from other devices. Here’s why the technology has so many problems, and what you can do to fix it. Following is a transcript of the video.

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re not alone. Apple, Google and other companies have gotten rid of the headphone jack from their phones. This is pushing people towards wireless headphones, which means they’ll have to rely on that Bluetooth connection. But Bluetooth is still so unreliable. Its got a short range, devices disconnect randomly and it uses up battery life. Even thought it’s been around for 20 years, Why does Bluetooth still suck?

Bluetooth is a wireless standard used all around the world. Wireless printers, keyboards, game controllers, speakers and headphones all use it. It was created by a group of engineers in the mid-’90’s as a secure way to exchange data between devices. The Bluetooth name and logo come from 10th century Viking king Harald Gormsson who, similar to Bluetooth’s purpose, unified two separate entities, Denmark and Norway. King Harald’s nickname was Blatand, which translates from Danish to Bluetooth. The logo comes from the initials of King Harald Blatand. It is a combination of the runic letters H and B.

Bluetooth uses the 2.4 gigahertz frequency to communicate with other devices. This frequency and a few others are referred to as the ISM band, for Industrial, Scientific and Medical devices. This is the spectrum that baby monitors and cordless phones all use. It’s also the same frequency fluorescent lights and microwaves emit. These frequencies don’t require devices to have an FCC license to operate on them. This makes the band attractive to manufacturers because they don’t have to deal with the FCC. Because of this, the ISM is brimming with devices. And they all interfere with your Bluetooth devices.

Any device running on Bluetooth falls into one of three classes. Class one, for long range, these need a power supply, and are mainly used for industrial purposes. They have a range of nearly 330 feet. Class two, they have a range of about 30 feet. This is what most cell phones and speakers use. Class three devices have a range of less than 30 feet. Class two and three devices generally use low power Bluetooth. But even low power can use up precious battery life on your phone. And if you have a class two speaker 20 feet away from your phone, it still may not work great. Especially if there’s any interference coming from other devices.

Bluetooth also transfers data much slower than WiFi does. While devices connected via the new WiFi Direct standard will be able to transfer data at 250 megabits per second, Bluetooth 4.0 can only get up to 25 megabits per second max.

There’s no superfix for these issues coming anytime soon. But if you want to improve the connection between two devices, there are a few things you can do. Keep the devices as close together as possible. Keep your devices updated. Reset your connections daily. Or even use a device that can amplify a Bluetooth signal.

While there’s no sure fix yet, some companies are taking matters into their own hands, developing technology that works a lot like Bluetooth. Apple’s W1 chip enables its AirPods to switch to whatever device you’re using, rather than having to unpair and re-pair the devices each time. Will we start seeing other companies take wireless communication into their hands? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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