Life Tech Check the fine print when buying bluetooth

Check the fine print when buying bluetooth

Bluetooth is lagging behind with annoying dropouts, according to experts. Photo: Getty
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Experts are urging consumers to carefully check packaging when purchasing wireless products to ensure the devices have the latest version of bluetooth installed.

According to Professor Thas Nirmalathas, an expert in electronic engineering at the University of Melbourne, manufacturers need to make packaging less confusing for consumers to ensure they are buying the latest version of bluetooth technology. 

“The biggest problem we are facing with bluetooth is the symbols and standards on packaging which leads consumers to think there’s only one version of bluetooth, which isn’t the case,” Professor Nirmalathas told The New Daily.

Bluetooth 5.0 is the latest version and allows data transfer speeds of up to 2 megabits per second (Mbps) – double what the earlier version bluetooth 4.2 supports.

The New Daily found several bluetooth products online that only listed the bluetooth symbol on the front of the package, without specifying the version.

Sony wireless headphones packaging. Photo: YouTube

Telco expert Dr Mark Gregory told The New Daily bluetooth labelling needed to undergo an urgent reform.

“Customers need to be fully aware of what they’re buying,” he said.

Dr Gregory said several companies were still using earlier versions of bluetooth. 

“There are products still on shelves, such as speakers which use bluetooth 3.0, and it’s concerning because most products should be above 4.2 capabilities,” he said.

“Bluetooth connectivity in some cars is very poor and this is unfair to consumers because they cost a lot of money.”

Professor Nirmalathas said bluetooth faced several limitations, such as congestion.

We have a lot of technology being developed using 60 GHz [high frequency bandwidth], therefore new versions of bluetooth need to meet these requirements to keep up,” he said. 

“When you push technologies such as bluetooth beyond what is feasible – for example connecting several devices to one bluetooth channel.

Apple’s bluetooth AirPods packaging. Photo: YouTube 

“The performance of each device really drops down or out because you’re constantly fighting to gain access to the medium rather than transmitting information.”

A spokesperson from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) told The New Daily businesses weren’t allowed to make statements that were incorrect or likely to create a false impression.

“This rule applies to their product packaging,” the spokesperson said.

Consumers also have rights under the consumer guarantee laws. If goods are not of acceptable quality or fit for purpose, then consumers have rights to a remedy depending on whether it’s a major or minor failure.”

Last week, several Apple users reported issues with pairing bluetooth devices to the latest generation of iPhones.

According to posts on Apple’s official support forum, the issues largely related to users connecting their iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max to their vehicle or other devices. 

I just upgraded to the new iPhone XS, and the bluetooth on my phone won’t discover my devices, including a Fitbit and a portable speaker,” one user said. 

Bluetooth explained

Bluetooth is a wireless technology using short-wavelength UHF radio waves in the industrial, scientific and medical radio band (ISM band) from 2.4 to 2.485 GHz. 

It was invented by Ericsson in 1994, but a formal version wasn’t released until 1999. 

Over the years, there have been five main versions released, with revisions included in each version such as bluetooth 4.1 and 4.2.

Bluetooth 5.0 is included in the latest iPhone XS Max, XS, Samsung Galaxy’s Note 9 and future Android phones, with manufacturers beginning to release products to support the new specification.

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