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Feb 17, 2020

Bluetooth: What Is It And Why It Is Great For Travel

WFT is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard used for exchanging data between fixed and mobile devices over short distances using short-wavelength UHF radio waves. (Wikipedia)

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Bluetooth was created to replace wired connections and enable wireless communications. Compared to other wireless connection it has a relatively low power consumption.

Bluetooth is managed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which has more than 35,000 member companies in the areas of telecommunication, computing, networking, and consumer electronics. (Wikipedia)

The range for Bluetooth varies depending on surrounding conditions, materials around, production variations of the devices, antenna configurations, and battery conditions. Most Bluetooth applications are for indoor conditions, as there are fewer objects and situations that could cause loss of the connection.

Five Things You Don't Know About Bluetooth Range from Bluetooth SIG on Vimeo.

The connection between Bluetooth and other devices typically operates in 1:1 pairings, where the connection is dependent on the device. So your Bluetooth headphones are dependant on your phone when you connect them and they do whatever your phone says. Currently, Bluetooth devices support up to two streams of music to different products.

Bluetooth versions
The latest series of Bluetooth is 5. The latest version is 5.2 which brings a few changes to the capabilities for the technology.

Bluetooth 4.0 vs. Bluetooth 5.0
The major difference between various iterations is the range, battery life, and compatibility. These are all important when choosing your Bluetooth headphones.

Here are some of the biggest differences between Bluetooth 4.0 and the new and improved Bluetooth 5.0:

Bluetooth 4 was developed to manage “the internet of things.” It is a bit older tech based on the life and speed of technological changes. Bluetooth 4.1 features include:

» 24 MBps speeds
» 300-foot coverage
» 2.4 to 2.485 GHz bandwidths

This version was one of the first to be more stable and be able to work with most devices. Bluetooth 4 and its sub iterations introduced the ability to use low energy or low power Bluetooth for longer battery life.

Bluetooth 5.0 came out in 2016 with some upgrades that included a significant improvement in speed to 48 MBps, an extended range that measured at 985 feet, and advancements in privacy and security for the system.
These changes were a great boost to the development of Bluetooth speakers. The triple increase of the range allows you to play music from your phone or computer to speakers that are across the room and then some.

One thing to note is that Bluetooth 5.0 devices are not all backward compatible with older devices. So make sure that your phone and other devices can handle your brand new gadget with this latest version.

While you would not need an extended range or faster speed necessary for your headphones, the 5.2 version has some exciting new tech that will improve Bluetooth headphones.

Bluetooth LE Audio will let multiple devices share music or movies from a tablet, computer or phone. That is a major change as previously the sharing was limited to a maximum of two devices.
This evolved technology your family might be able to watch the same movie on a tablet or listen to the same album on a phone, using Bluetooth headphones.
This also would be good in public areas where multiple people can listen to the news or game on TV using their personal Bluetooth devices. Where previously you needed a connection splitter for folks to enjoy the same show at the same time, it is now possible to do the same wirelessly.

Bluetooth for Audio

Bluetooth usage beyond audio devices

» Wireless mouse use with a computer as well as other peripherals such as wireless keyboards. I prefer using a mouse much more than the touchpad, and so when traveling for business, a Bluetooth powered mouse has been very useful and great to bring along.
» Wireless control of and communication between a mobile phone and a Bluetooth compatible car stereo system. This way you can listen to any app containing music on your phone through the multiple speakers in your car. You are not tied down or stuck with only what is streaming through the radio.
» Wireless communication between a smartphone and a smart lock for unlocking doors. When you are traveling and need to lock or unlock the door, Bluetoo tech makes it possible. Also can unlock the door when coming back with your luggage with just the phone without having to search for key.s
» Use Bluetooth on the phone to determine if there are any wireless cameras in a hotel room. This is a great safety travel tip, especially when staying in rentals by owners.
» Wireless streaming of audio to headphones with or without communication capabilities.
» Wireless streaming of data collected by Bluetooth-enabled fitness devices to phone or PC
» Transfer of files, contact details, calendar appointments, and reminders between devices. 
» Enable remote communications for GPS receivers, medical equipment, bar code scanners, and traffic control devices.
» Deliver advertisements using Bluetooth-enabled advertising technology to mobile phones, tablets, and laptops.
» Game consoles such as Nintendo's Wii and Sony's PlayStation 3 use Bluetooth for their respective wireless controllers.
» Short-range transmission of health sensor data from medical devices to a mobile phone
» Real-time location systems are used to track and identify the location of objects in real-time. Tags such as the Tile or the TrackR use Bluetooth technology to find your missing item using wireless signals
» Google uses data collected from travelers' Bluetooth devices to predict travel times and road congestion for motorists
» Wireless transmission of audio (a more reliable alternative to FM transmitters)
» Connection of motion controllers to a PC when using VR headsets
» Bluetooth adapter (built-in or external dongle) for your laptop

Bluetooth vs Wi-Fi

TL;DR: Wi-Fi enables you to connect to the Internet, Bluetooth connects you to other devices (no Internet connection directly from it)

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi have some similar applications: setting up networks, printing, or transferring files. Wi-Fi replaces high-speed cables that tie down your devices to a specific location when you are accessing local area networks in work areas or home to get onto the Internet. Bluetooth was intended for portable equipment and its applications.

Bluetooth For Internet Acces
These seem counterintuitive based on the information above, though you can use your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone as a modem for internet access on your laptop. So it still does not provide the actual service, instead, it sets up a connection. This is great in a pinch when there's no Wi-Fi service available or your regular internet service goes down. The main benefit of using Bluetooth instead of a USB cable for tethering is that you can keep your cell phone in your bag or pocket and still make the connection.
Note that once your phone is being used as your laptop's access to the internet, all the data downloaded to and uploaded from your laptop is using your phone's data plan. Make sure that you have enough data available or that you have an unlimited data type of plan.

Related articles:
Top 5 Bluetooth Advancements From 2019
WTF are Noise Canceling Headphones?
Sol Republic Amps Bluetooth Earbuds Review

Is Bluetooth allowed on flights?
Yes, based on the latest regulations you can have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on while on an airplane.
Until just a few years ago, Bluetooth headphones were effectively banned from commercial flights, as were all personal electronic devices that relied on a wireless connection. Of course, if you’ve flown in the past five years, you know that in late 2013 the Federal Aviation Administration eased many of its previous restrictions on portable devices during all phases of flight — including takeoff and landing.

Bluetooth Allowed

Air Canada


Air France


Alaska Airlines


British Airlines

Yes, not during takeoff & landing


Yes, not during takeoff & landing


Yes, not during takeoff & landing






Yes, not during takeoff & landing



United Airlines


However, just because the FAA allows it doesn’t mean that your airline of choice doesn’t have its own rules and restrictions. So check with your airline before bringing and turning on your Bluetooth headphones.

And no matter the restrictions on your Bluetooth use, you might still be required or asked to put the devices it is connected to into an Airplane Mode. In this case, you might need to have to re-enable Bluetooth connectivity after this mode is turned on.

Just in case, it would be my advice, to also have wired earphones with you on your travel so you can still continue to enjoy your music and movies even if Bluetooth is not available.

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