The news didn’t exactly make front page headlines anywhere, but last month the Bluetooth Special Interest Group officially adopted Bluetooth 5.0 as the latest version of the technology.
That announcement means far more to technology companies than it does to consumers, at least in the short-term. That’s because headphone makers, speaker manufacturers, and similar wireless accessory brands can start putting Bluetooth 5.0 in their products. Now that 2017 has begun, you can expect to see Bluetooth 5.0 products hit market by the end of the year or sooner.
Does that mean you should hold off on buying Bluetooth products right now? Not necessarily. It depends on your needs. First let’s explore the new features that Bluetooth 5 brings to the table, and see if our wishes for this new Bluetooth version came true.
Bluetooth 5 is Faster and Has Longer Range
Right now, if you search for Bluetooth speakers on Amazon, you’ll find that the majority of them promise wireless range either up to 33 feet or 66 feet — about 10 or 20 meters. That’s been decent, but the call for increased range has been loud and steady over the years.
If you hook up your Bluetooth speaker to your iPhone, then take your iPhone with you to walk around the house, chances are by the time you get to the other side of your house it lost connection and the speaker stopped playing music. I’ve experienced this many times myself.
Bluetooth 5.0 quadruples the range of its predecessor. It essentially promises full home coverage so roaming and losing connection is a concept of the past. The future is bright with longer range. Hopefully this means that you’ll be in the kitchen with your phone and can start playing music from the speaker all the way in your bedroom. Maybe you’re playing music through headphones connected to your laptop and now can wander and get house work done at the same time.
Bluetooth SIG also promises that version 5.0 is faster. That should just translate into faster to connect and a stronger connection to your devices.
Bluetooth 5 Should Dramatically Improve Audio Quality
If you’ve held off on wireless headphones because you preferred the clean, lossless sound of wired, you might give Bluetooth 5.0 a shot.
Bluetooth 5.0 increases “the capacity of connectionless data broadcasts by 800 percent” according to the SIG. It sounds like PR jargon, but ultimately means better sound quality is on the horizon. An issue that has plagued Bluetooth speakers and headphones since their inception has been sound quality. It has gotten much better over the years, but still can not compare to wired sound.
With Bluetooth 5.0 being able to hold and transmit far more data, it should be able to preserve sound far better when it leaves the broadcast device. If you’ve held off on wireless headphones because you preferred the clean, lossless sound of wired, you might consider giving headphones with Bluetooth 5.0 a shot.
None of this should come at the cost of battery life either, since Bluetooth 5.0 runs with the same low energy connections. The SIG is hopeful that the improved data broadcasting capacity will enable new generations of beacons, location-aware, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices too.
Should You Hold Off on Bluetooth?
While Bluetooth 5 is on the way, it could take years before it’s the mainstream standard.
Whether you should hold off on buying Bluetooth 4 devices depends on your priorities. If you definitely want improved sound quality and range because those are necessary to fit your lifestyle, wait for Bluetooth 5 accessories to arrive if possible. Most people are probably just better off buying what they want now, to be honest.
Bluetooth 4 works just fine, and while Bluetooth 5 is on the way, it could take years before it’s the mainstream standard.
Bluetooth 5 looks pretty impressive on paper — even though it doesn’t quite tick everything on my wish list. Of course, right now none of us can get our hands on any Bluetooth 5 devices. That’ll change quickly. Hopefully manufacturers take proper advantage of all the new technology this new version of Bluetooth has to offer.