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Apple embraces Bluetooth in the iPhone 3GS
Recently we saw, and were quite possibly a part of, the staggeringly long queues outside every Apple Store in the nation. Frantic clawing at the chance to take home the latest box of Apple magic that is the new iPhone 3G S (and that was just the O2 staff!) In fact, no sooner than Apple announced the release date of their latest model at their annual World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) than cries of “I want that one” could be heard all across little Britain! and beyond. Expectations rose and excitement grew outside the shops windows as we waited and watched with all the reverence of one about to meet a member of the royal family.
Such is Apple’s reputation and popularity; a public admiration and respect grown out of the company’s enduring commitment to excellence. Many feel that this merit is owed, in no small part, to the inspired vision and leadership of Steve Jobs, a feeling echoed by the fact that Apple’s shares both rose and fell in line with news of his health and it’s subsequent affect on his role within the company. After all, if Apple can be considered technology royalty, then Mr Jobs would undoubtedly be the reigning monarch (King Jobs? Shame about the name) within the Apple HQ palace, and when the palace speaks, we all listen intently. We listened, for example, when they told us that short range technologies would replace the need for an internal drive in the Macbook Air and, while competing manufactures first sniggered at their foolishness, many are now following their lead. Similarly, the news surrounding the inclusion of Stereo Bluetooth in the new iPhone sparked a great deal of discussion. Some had assumed that Apple had grown despondent with the technology. Their half-hearted attempt at providing Bluetooth support in previous iPhone models hadn’t gone unnoticed by the media and users alike and it seemed likely that Apple would ditch the technology altogether in their latest offering.
Suspicions were further roused when Apple announced their discontinuation of the iPhone Bluetooth Headset, sparking rumors of their dissatisfaction with the technology in general. Furthermore it was suggested that Apple’s Bluetooth capabilities and support hadn’t been seen to be much of a priority. Now those same speculators are chomping on their words with v.2.x Stereo Bluetooth playing a princely role in the new iPhone architecture. Indeed, Bluetooth seems to have finally found it place in the monarchy, broadening its radio range with application spaces that are confidently managed by other talented wireless technologies. By using delegation where there once was lacking, no longer does Bluetooth perceive itself as a lesser royal. The intelligent acquisition of both Ultra-wideband IP and Wibree have bestowed upon it the capability for numerous future applications making it a valuable addition to the iPhone’s new architecture.
But lets’s talk about interoperability; a bone of much contention with past iPhone Bluetooth integration. The v 3.0. A2DP support for stereo audio over Bluetooth opens the door to a much wider variety of audio accessory adoption, including stereo speakers, headphones, home-audio links and far easier car-audio integration.
Furthermore, the implementation of auto-discovery and Bonjour over Bluetooth for peer-to-peer connectivity means that users will be able to ‘see’ and connect to other iphones or devices in such applications as network games or in utility based applications, such as printer connection or fax facilities where access-sharing is key to success and battery-sapping wifi is no longer required. So great, in fact, is Apple’s confidence in the new technology that they are making it available for the first time in second generation iPods via the v. 3.0 upgrade, thereby providing the foundation for tremendous new application potential.
Remotely linking your iPhone to your macbook to sync date will also be easier from now on and the tethering capabilities of the V. 3.0. OS also allow the use of the iPhone as a 3G modem. However, Apple representatives have said that enabling this kind of tethering will require support from carriers such as O2 and AT&T. Opinions are that it may be offered as a pay-to-play application but others in the industry feel that the carriers may be thinking with their wallets and not want to be so generous. After all why combine services when you can get customers to pay for two accounts? Either way the potential is there and it opens up exciting new possibilities. So it seems that Bluetooth is firmly back in the limelight, although the real star has to be the stereo capability itself, allowing users the opportunity to wireless enjoy their music and VOIP calls in greater depth, both inside the house and in their cars by using compatible car stereos. And manufacturers just can’t get enough of the product possibilities. Plantronics, for example has recently released their latest Stereo Bluetooth 590E headset, boasting that it offers digital sound quality as well as the freedom to not be tethered by a cord. Motorola, Nokia, Sony and Jabra, to name but a few, have likewise all received excellent reviews for their iPhone geared stereo headphones. And fortunately for them, it seems that customers just can’t get enough of the products on offer, with sales of Bluetooth Stereo Headsets up by over 400% from last month. This uptake has no doubt be cleverly fueled by the prominent placement of the headsets around all iPhone retailer stores on launch day, something that Apple are particularly good at orchestrating.
And the capabilities of Bluetooth’s integration don’t stop there. On stage at the Apple unveiling of the iPhone 3G S at the WWDC was LifeScan, a company founded by the well known Johnson & Johnson. LifeScan produce a wireless blood glucose meter which links via Bluetooth to an insulin pump. The demonstration at the event showed how the meter could potentially sync with an iPhone app to track glucose readings and to then send them over the internet to a patients GP. Eyebrows were raised and applause was given as the audience witnessed the ever increasing potential offered by the two-way Bluetooth data connection. Gasps of gratitude followed the revelation that, as part of the new developers kit, the company are opening their UI to a plethora of applications which hitherto would not have been able to provide such measured and detailed control. Needless to say by the end of the presentation, the crowd were almost on their knees and one could almost hear the internal chanting of “all hail to the mighty Apple” being echoed around the room.
With such loyal adopters, it can be hard to find anyone, other than employees of Microsoft perhaps, with a bad word to say about Apple and even those are slowly jumping ship and swimming towards the new Apple kingdom. However, there are some who have been quick to point out potential problems with the new alliance. In particular, there are reports from some corners of the industry that conflicts are becoming evident between wifi and monaural Bluetooth functionality within the phone. It does seem to the the case that signal strength drops to just 2 or 3 bars wen stereo Bluetooth is being used to stream and that it acts unpredictably during wifi gaming. Similarly, the wifi signal drops down dramatically to just 1 or 2 bars when in monaural Bluetooth phone mode, making it practically unusable for wifi-enabled web surfing during this time. Switching from wifi to 3G mode automatically solves these problems and it may well be the case that these are just bugs that need to be ironed out by Apple, but it does potentially raise new compatibility issues between the two technologies. Another hub perhaps?
So it seems that it’s very much high times for Apple and their new royal baby. The older sister, iPod, as mentioned previously, also contains the Broadcom Bluetooth chip that it’s younger sibling carries, providing potential for VOIP utilities and peer-to-peer gaming applications. It’s manna from heaven for developers who are looking to emerge themselves in an ever increasing demand-driven mobile marketplace and manna from heaven for Apple too, who have seen their BOM (Bill of Materials) drop from $250 for an 8gb 2.0 iphone to just $178 for a new 16GB 3G S model due to the drop in component prices. This allows them flexibility in pricing, but it seems that the carriers no longer need to be generous with their upgrades, as is evident by the vast number of consumers who are happy to pay time and time again for the latest rendition of their apple-logo incrusted goodies. “It’s like buying a slice of heaven in a box” said one eager consumer as he queued in line at 7.30am on Saturday 19th June. “I just can’t wait to see what they come up with next and whatever it is, I want one”.
And so it seems that the King of technology had been crowned by the public yet again. Apple stands victorious in the face of its rivals, ready to further woo it’s followers with a new bevy of applications and accessories. It does so with the same architectural courtiers in tow, each bringing their unique gifts to the end product but with one difference; this time around Bluetooth is firmly by it’s side.