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What is Bluetooth 5 and why is it better?

What is Bluetooth 5, which phones have the latest version of Bluetooth and what are the benefits vs Bluetooth 4.1? Here's everything you need to know about this new wireless tech, which offers up some cool features such as streaming to two headphones or speakers at once.

Bluetooth is the go-to close quarters communication platform of choice for most gadgets these days. Wireless headphones, speakers, wearables and even bulbs now use the radio waves to connect with smartphones and tablets, to give us total control. And now the tech has been updated to make it even better.

The last notable update meant a more energy efficient form of Bluetooth, in the form of Bluetooth 4.1 LE.

Now we have Bluetooth 5, the latest version of this wireless communication standard which delivers longer range, faster speeds, greater data capacity and better stability when working across devices. Plus the ability to play nice with other wireless tech.

Here’s everything you need to know about Bluetooth 5 and what's changes, including the latest phones to rock the wireless tech.

What are the benefits of Bluetooth 5?

This is a pretty big upgrade compared with the older versions of Bluetooth. Here's a quick summary of all of the advantages of Bluetooth 5.

Bluetooth 5 is twice as fast as old Bluetooth

The new Bluetooth 5 technology has doubled the speed of previous efforts. This upgrade takes it from 1Mbps to 2Mbps, crucially without consuming more power.

That means data will be transferred faster between devices. Which of course is ideal in an age when more and more data is being collected and shared at a higher quality.

For example, next time you make a transfer of high-quality lossless audio from devices to headphones or speakers, there will be fewer limits allowing for even better quality and no cut-outs. Also the growing number of metrics collected from wearables and smart home devices can deliver more detailed information than ever before.

Bluetooth 5 has four times the range of old Bluetooth

One of the previous limits for Bluetooth was range. If you had a speaker connected to your phone and moved between rooms you might end up losing signal. Annoying. Now that should be less of an issue.

Bluetooth SIG, the guys behind Bluetooth, say the new version will offer four times the range of the old tech. Which should mean that connections remain strong when moving about, whether it's at home or outdoors. Bluetooth 5 can therefore be used for entire home and even building cover, to connect all of your devices together.

Bluetooth 5 can transmit eight times as much data

The capacity of the new Bluetooth 5 tech is far greater too. The messages sent can carry up to eight times as much data, in fact.

This too helps pave the way for higher quality audio transmission. But it also means even more data can be sent about the home or even in business premises. A Bluetooth connected television, for example, might offer another way to fling imagery to the screen from a connected smartphone or tablet - easing the reliance on Wi-Fi in the home.

Bluetooth 5 is more stable

The latest update to Bluetooth 5 will mean that devices should have more stable connection to one another. This is thanks to changes which result in signals that aren’t as easily interrupted by other wireless technologies.

This should mean that the use of Bluetooth in public is less flakey and the implementation in businesses can be greater in the future.

Bluetooth 5 could be used for indoor navigation

Bluetooth beacons that allow for location-based interactions could work better than ever thanks to Bluetooth 5. This is what Apple uses in its Stores in the form of iBeacons, along with the iBeacon iOS app, to determine the location of customers and give them item specific information on their devices.

Imagine beacons on a larger scale could be used indoors all over the world. The result could be more accurate location-based services, allowing maps and navigation to continue working indoors even when GPS has stopped working.

Bluetooth 5 is low energy

Just like Bluetooth 4.1 LE before it, Bluetooth 5 remains a low energy consumption technology. Despite all of these upgrades over old Bluetooth, there is still a good level of energy efficiency - or so claim the creators. The result should be better connected devices that can transfer more data without an extra burden on battery life, which is particularly important for our phones, wireless headphones and anything else that isn't always plugged in.

This could be a great alternative to battery consuming Wi-Fi that will allow smartphones, wearables, speakers and more to last longer between charges.

Bluetooth 5 is secure

Since Bluetooth will be able to connect more devices now, the level of its security is vitally important,. Especially with all the personal information shared over smart home devices.

Bluetooth SIG says: “Bluetooth adheres to U.S. federal security regulations, ensuring that all Bluetooth devices are capable of meeting and exceeding strict government security standards.”

Bluetooth 5 release date: When will I see Bluetooth 5 phones and other devices in the UK?

Bluetooth 5 is already appearing in mobile phones, speakers and other devices, after launching early in 2017.

What phones use Bluetooth 5 already?

Any flagship phones launched these days will almost certainly sport Bluetooth 5 as standard.

Samsung's Galaxy S8 was one of the first mobiles to use Bluetooth 5, offering the ability to stream music to two speakers or headphones at once. Check out our using Bluetooth 5 on the Galaxy S8 guide for all you need to know.

You'll also find Bluetooth 5 on the likes of the OnePlus 5 and Sony's new Xperia XZ1.

Is Bluetooth 5 backwards compatible with Bluetooth 4.1 and other old BT devices?

Since Bluetooth 5 requires physical hardware, rather than a software update, you won't be able to tweak your existing kit to support Bluetooth 5. However, the good news is that any new Bluetooth 5 devices that you buy should play nice with your existing Bluetooth 4.1 and earlier kit. So you won't need to replace everything in your home as soon as you buy your first Bluetooth 5 gadget.

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