To start this discussion we must first mention Nokia as one of the Bluetooth pioneers – They took the first step in creating a niche wireless technology market that uses a low range, low energy Bluetooth signal as the main transport protocol. That was years ago and now that there are only two heavy weight contenders left in the mobile phone market, I think it’s fair to say that Apple, not Google, got it right from the beginning.
In early 2011, Apple released the iPhone 4S – The first mobile phone to feature what was back then called Bluetooth Low Energy. Apple took a chance on the new technology. We saw, for the first time, a huge mobile provider outwardly supporting Bluetooth low energy (BLE) shunning competing more popular technologies such as ZigBee and NFC. How big of a big bet was Apple making? When the iPhone 4S came out, not only was it the first smartphone with Bluetooth Low Energy, it was the only device in the market with Bluetooth Low Energy support. Bold move indeed. Even as a PC guy since Windows 3.1 (How many people remember playing Minesweeper or Solitaire?), I have to tip my hat to Apple for their forward thinking.
Over the last few years, one could argue that Google Android has hesitated supporting Bluetooth Low Energy. They support regular old plain vanilla Bluetooth but decided that NFC was the technology they would back up. It didn’t make much sense back then and in retrospect it still doesn’t make much sense. NFC or Near Field Communications was presented as an ultra-low cost, ultra-low range technology. It was built with the idea of replacing RFID. From Google’s perspective NFC was a better bet than Bluetooth Low Energy. By supporting a competing technology they could also challenge Apple’s decision to back Bluetooth Low Energy.
It didn’t take long for the winner to shine. The major difference between the two technologies, range, would give BLE a slight competitive edge (at least for the time being). NFC’s range is approximately less than a foot, while Bluetooth Low Energy has an approximate range of 164 feet. The best part is (hold on to something because this may shock you a little)…. They use the same energy consumption, about 15 mA. Yes, BLE has a far greater range and uses just about the same amount of energy. Apple made the better bet, as Bluetooth Low Energy is the clear winner.
With two months left in 2013, Google just made an announcement that it was going to officially support Bluetooth Low Energy, now called Bluetooth Smart with their upcoming Android 4.3 release. This was the final piece of the puzzle to finally create harmony in our Bluetooth Smart world – Finally both major mobile phone developer Nokia…..I mean Google and Apple both support Bluetooth Smart.
At Blue Ring Technologies, we could not be happier with Google’s announcement as we also bet on Bluetooth Smart technology. We are also incredibly proud to offer one of the first Bluetooth Smart products to support both Android and Apple.