Forget LTE — the real iPad wireless story is Bluetooth


Amid the various upgrades announced for Apple’s(s aapl) new iPad was a hot new wireless technology. You might think I’m referring to the tablet’s 4G LTE mobile broadband support, but I’m not. I’m talking about the far less sexy, but no less important, inclusion of Bluetooth 4.0, making iPad the first Bluetooth Smart Ready tablet.

Prior iPads and nearly all other tablets on the market today, save the Kindle Fire(s amzn), offer Bluetooth support, but those have used the older Bluetooth 3.0 specification. The newer Bluetooth 4.0 technology brings improved power efficiency as well as expanded functionality; particularly when it comes to health-related gadgets and apps.

For example, I recently bought and reviewed the latest heart-rate monitor to hit the market; the Wahoo Blue HR. It works like any similar monitor available today, but thanks to its use of low-powered Bluetooth 4.0, the battery inside will last from one to two years.

Perhaps that’s not a big deal for something used a few times per week, but consider its importance with other computing accessories. The Bluetooth SIG says it best: “Not only will a consumer be able to buy an ultra-efficient Bluetooth Smart keyboard that won’t require a change of batteries for the life of their new iPad, they can also track the data that might be securely coming off of their many Bluetooth Smart devices through apps on their new iPad.”

That means no more fumbling with or carrying spare batteries to use when a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse dies; that’s important for people as they turn to tablets in the place of a traditional PC (subscription required). For Bluetooth headsets, this could mean recharges every few weeks instead of every day or two. Or, as I’ve alluded to recently, more people can use a growing number of mobile devices to track their health and provide a history to their doctors, as the Bluetooth SIG describes:

Diabetics can seamlessly and securely track their blood sugar levels from their Bluetooth-enabled glucose meter through an app on their new iPad. At their next visit, they can simply show a chart of their blood sugar levels over the past six months on their new iPad (in full HD) when the doctor asks how their readings have been since the last check-up.

When it comes to wireless capabilities on the new iPad, most will fixate on the fast mobile broadband speeds enabled by the 4G LTE support. But don’t count out Bluetooth 4.0 as a hot technology in the iPad. As more Bluetooth Smart gadgets hit the market, the new iPad is already prepared to take advantage of them.


Ben Huston

One missing feature on iPads is for Bluetooth remote presentation devices to interact with Keynote or PowerPoint. Is this a software or hardware issue? The only way to advance slides is through an iPod Touch or an iPhone? A $200 “clicker”!? Will Bluetooth 4 change that?

tim jones

Forget LTE – like Zuckerberg says: “iPad’s not mobile”

Dave Mackey

I’ve tried Bluetooth a few times, but always found it a pain in the butt…maybe I’ll give it another go around. It has been a few years since I’ve done anything with it.

Divergent Trend

I’ve changed the batteries in my Bluetooth keyboard exactly once in nearly a year and I charge my headset about once a week.

It’s hard to believe that 4.0 will bring a dramatic difference.

In fact, according to what Wikipedia has to say. BT 4.0 / BLE won’t offer any savings for most common use cases, just the newer, bursty stuff like health monitor as mentioned.

“Note that the lower power consumption is not achieved by the nature of the active radio transport, but by the design of the protocol to allow low duty cycles, and the use cases envisaged. A Bluetooth low energy device used for continuous data transfer would not have a lower power consumption than a comparable Bluetooth device transmitting the same amount of data; indeed, it would likely use more power, since the protocol is optimised for small bursts.”

H. Murchison

What Bluetooth Keyboard are you using that lasts nearly a year on batteries. Inquiring minds want to know.

Bluetooth Smart pairs in 3 ms which makes it feel like it’s always connected. The range of Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy improves by over 50% over BT 2.1. I also like the latency which drops from 100ms in older version to 6 ms.

I don’t envision Bluetooth as being the proper protocol for any sustained streaming other than A2DP. I see it as finally being a good small device connection protocol. Eagerly waiting to see what Pogo’s Blue Tiger BT 4.0 pressure sensitive stylus can do on the new iPad


Oops, you should have done some more research, the samsung 700t features bluetooth 4.0 which came out August last year.


Oops, you should have done some more research, the samsung 700t features “DOES NOT FEATURE” bluetooth 4.0 which came out August last year.

John S. Wilson

Great article, Kevin. Why do you think Apple didn’t make note of that in their presentation, particularly considering the cool convergence opportunities they have available to them with the Apple TV and Nano? Also, when will Bluetooth 4.0 headsets be here?

Kevin C. Tofel

Thanks, John. I suspect there was no emphasis on BT 4.0 because there are so few devices that support it yet. Apple events are more about what the company delivers now vs. what it will bring to the table later, IMO. As far as new devices like BT 4.0 headsets and such, I think the industry is waiting for more BT 4.0 devices; AFAIK, only the new iPad, iPhone 4S and Droid Razr use BT 4.0. Still, shouldn’t be long before we start seeing more BT 4.0 gadgets.


Keyboard+Tablet… Ummm… Sounds close to a Laptop.

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