Apple’s iPhone 4S pips the competition to be the first to include Bluetooth low energy

Bluetooth technology has been included with the iPhone 4S and is emblematic of the technology's reach. It is expected that 370 million cellular handsets will have dual-mode Bluetooth by the end of 2012.


So it’s official. Apple's latest and greatest iPhone will be the first publically available phone that utilizes Bluetooth low energy capability amongst a wealth of other updates. The inclusion of Bluetooth 4.0 hardly comes as a big surprise considering Apple’s recent activity and previous product launches. It was only three months ago that Apple, along with Nordic Semiconductor joined the board of directors at the Bluetooth SIG, and only a few days after that released their first Bluetooth low energy capable devices in the form of their new MacBook Air and Mac Mini. However while these releases were a big step forward for the deployment of Bluetooth low energy, the inclusion in the iPhone 4S it is to date, the most important.

Given the popularity of Apple’s iPhone, the prospect that there could be tens of millions of Bluetooth low energy capable mobile devices in the market by Christmas should be a huge stimulus for companies developing devices incorporating low energy technology. IMS Research is projecting shipments of dual-mode Bluetooth enabled cellular handsets will exceed 370 million units by the end of 2012, and 1.6 billion units by the end of 2015.

Without a Bluetooth low energy enabled ‘hub’ device to connect to, manufacturers of connectable devices (i.e. sports and health monitoring equipment) have been slow to develop solutions using this technology. Now Apple has included this, half of the puzzle is in place.

There is already an array of accessories for existing iPhones, which add additional wireless capability (such as ANT+ with Adidas’ miCoach and Digifits transceiver to connect to devices by Garmin and other sports manufacturers). By using Bluetooth low energy; these companies could now connect directly to an iPhone without the need for an additional adaptor to be plugged into the phone for the devices to work. As well as providing a cost saving, it is also likely to stimulate 3rd party ‘app’ developers to produce applications supporting a wide range of health and fitness devices, given the ability to natively connect a wide range of devices directly to the iPhone 4S.

The inclusion of Bluetooth low energy also opens the door for other applications such as the phone acting as a universal remote control using apps from Apple’s app store to control devices such as the TV or set-top box. Although there are currently no Bluetooth low energy equipped TVs in the market, IMS Research projects that we will begin to see Bluetooth low energy equipped TVs 2H12. The opportunities for Bluetooth low energy are endless and we can expect there to be a mass of inventive applications that use the iPhone as the control device.

While this inclusion is the most significant announcement for Bluetooth low energy to date, I can’t help but feel that had this of been the release of the iPhone 5 rather than the 4S, consumer uptake of these new devices would be even greater. What we can be certain of however, is that now Apple has become the first phone manufacturer to include Bluetooth low energy, other phone manufacturers will most likely, follow suit.

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