back to article Bluetooth: wireless wonder or digital dead end?

Bluetooth, once hailed as the future basis for all local wireless communications, is now ubiquitous. Computers have it, ditto phones, portable media players, games consoles, cars and a host of other devices. But how many owners of the millions and millions of Bluetooth-enabled gadgets that are sold every year actually make use …


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  1. david bates

    Tethering laptops to a phone...

    I use wireless with my Nexus, and it works fine. My laptop is ancient and poverty-spec so does not have built in Bluetooth. Not sure the Nexus would tether over it anyway.

  2. Christian Berger

    Input devices

    It's great for input devices like keyboards and mice. Non-Bluetooth wireless keyboards tend to loose keystrokes which often makes them unusable.

    Plus Bluetooth, unlike USB for example, is supported by Windows to some extend. As far as I know you can just pair a wireless serial port with Windows and it will work.

  3. Chris 211

    Bluetooth is usefull needs more devices

    Bluetooth is indeed useful but it needs to remain faithful to the concept. Short range, low bandwidth (relatively) multi device connection. There is a lot of hype about syncing to the cloud but a lot of us still sync our phone to the laptop. One area that seams to have been totally misses is bluetooth on cameras, proper cameras not them crap modules in phones. I still have to plug my dirty caving camera into the USB or take out the memory card and plug that it, not a chore but them I have to wash the dirt off everything after. Bluetooth should remain 'simple', simpler then plugging a cable in, because the end user is dumb, oh so very dumb. So more bluetooth mouses, keyboards, cameras, phones, printers, speakers, usb hubs, please!

    Oh and Ericsson didn't develop the technology, they might have cobbled it together but the FHSS technology started life in the 1960s as a way of sending data that could not be jammed.

  4. lotus49
    Thumb Down

    Great idea but...

    I hate wires. They get in the way, they restrict movement, I'm always worried I'm going to wreck my laptop by knocking a USB plug etc.

    Consequently, I have always liked the idea of wireless connectivity to headsets, GPS receivers, phones etc so bluetooth seemed like a great idea.

    Unfortunately for me, bluetooth just doesn't deliver. On the very rare occasions it works, it's great but my experience over years has been terrible. Pairing is enough of a pain as it is frequently involving magic presses of this, that or the other button like a miniature game of Twister. Thereafter, it should be plain sailing - just turn on the device and hey presto, you're away. Or not. Most of the time, it just doesn't work automatically and I have to repeat the pairing process several times, delete and re-add devices, turn bluetooth on and off blah blah blah.

    Bluetooth promised a lot but it just doesn't deliver - it sucks big time. What a shame and what a disappointment.

    1. Anton Ivanov

      Seconded. It does not pass the "wife test"

      It will deliver when it establishes communications reliably and tears them down reliably. This is simply not the case. For example my Nokia E71 pairs with the car handsfree in under 75% and loses pairing in 75%+ when the handsfree gets a power glitch.

      Good for geeks, barely acceptable for the ones of us who are law obiding with regards to mobile usage in vehicles and totally unacceptable for Joe average user.

      1. chr0m4t1c

        I think that would be Nokia's fault, not Bluetooth

        IIRC, Nokia borked their Bluetooth stack in the 6230, but then (for some reason best known to themselves) never fixed it in the handsets following on.

        The E series appear to be derived from that original broken technology strand, but the N series appear to have been given a different stack.

        Oddly enough it's one of the few things on my N97 that just works as is should. The phone syncs over Bluetooth every 15 minutes when I'm in range of my laptop and doesn't even blink if I use my Bluetooth headset in the middle of it.

        Naturally Nokia don't want to tolerate this behaviour and keep popping up messages in PC-Suite trying to get me to switch to OVI Suite, because that's broken and doesn't provide the functionality I need. Or "better" as they put it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Passes the 'Wife Test" for mine!

        She routinely Bluetooths her latest pictures from her Kodak V610 to her laptop. Also her Nokia E65 doesn't come out of her handbag when she gets in her Fiat Panda - it just connects and she uses the steering wheel controls to voice-dial / answer / adjust volume / end calls.

        Myself, I use a MoGo b/t mouse all day (Charges in the PCMCIA slot) which I would hate to replace with a wired one and my Jabra Headset is all I use with my E65 - it has 30 numbers that I can select and call from the Headset without using voice-dial. The Jabra also has a stereo attachment that I use for music on the train / plane.

        In summary. I think Bluetooth has made our lives that little bit easier and I look forward to continued developments, especially in the area of wire-removal around the house.

  5. A B 3

    Market it

    USB gets marketing. People know they can plug in anything USB and it will work. Bluetooth takes a bit of configuring, people are apprehensive they might wreck something so don't bother with it. A couple of funky commercials would get them interested enough to see what they can do with it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As the first PAN tech, it introducted the functionality

    to the masses. Now it's used worldwide every day.

    Yes, newer techs will supercede bluetooth. Progression? Happens in everything we do, we all want better, faster, smaller, more fluidly incorporated into our lives.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Love it!

    Remember it is also embedded (without making a big fuss about it) in things like Wii and Xbox 360...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK, but limited use

    My Honda CRV came fitted with it for the in-car handsfree wotnot and I was suprised at how useful it is. Apart from the car-phone thingy, it seems like a waste of time. I tried a wireless keyboard on my Mac, but after recharging the batteries a little too often for my liking I simply went back to cables. Not very aesthetically pleasing, but preferable to having to open all the TV remotes looking for a charged pair of batteries!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's found its niches and filled them well

    and comfortably exceeded the expectations that emerged from the first demos of a whole load of Bt devices that, erm, comprehensively failed to talk to one another. Has it matched the hype that preceded those demos? No.

  10. Edwin

    giggles, guffaws and catcalls?

    I'm not sure what luddite community plays host to the Reg Hardware offices, but where I live bluetooth headsets (both the simple phoning type and the stereo music type) are very common.

    And don't underestimate the bluetooth in cars option either - there is no other technology that even comes close to offering the functionalities: my previous car radio could play carkit for my phone but also accept music streaming over bluetooth. My bluetooth mouse doesn't need a (larger or smaller) USB dongle to work with my laptop. I don't have to get my phone out of my bag if I want to surf the web on the move, or take a call in the car.

    I think bluetooth is already a major succes. It's not perfect, but it's ubiquitous, and if (as suggested above) it remains faithful to the concept, it has a lot of life left in it.

    1. Annihilator Silver badge


      I don't have a problem with bluetooth headsets per se, I have a rather nice Jawbone myself, but rarely wear it outside the home/office environment.

      The biggest problem with bluetooth, or even wired, headsets is the idiots who use them without realising that you DON'T have to hold the phone out in your hand while resisting the urge to hold it close to your mouth and with wired, you DON'T need to hold the mic while you're talking. The tw@t-o-meter goes off the scale when both these techniques are used simultaneously. It's called "hands-free" for a reason!

      There's also a very strong argument for suggesting that the likelihood of someone using a headset in such a manner is inversely proportional to the importance of that person, but directly proportional to their self-inflated perceived sense of importance. See phone holsters strapped to the belt for details.

      1. The Other Steve

        Pin the tail on the misanthrope

        "The biggest problem with bluetooth, or even wired, headsets is the idiots who use them without realising that you DON'T have to hold the phone out in your hand while resisting the urge to hold it close to your mouth and with wired, you DON'T need to hold the mic while you're talking. The tw@t-o-meter goes off the scale when both these techniques are used simultaneously. It's called "hands-free" for a reason!"

        Yes, people know that, they don't do it because they're stupid, they do it because - consciously or unconsciously - they want observers to understand that they are participating in a phone call rather than exhibiting the symptoms of a mental illness.

        Be careful not to let that twatometer point backwards, you might not like the reading.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    Most bluetooth devices that I've been interested in have (at least up until recently) have been too expensive compared to either wired or other wireless equivalents.

    Before it was built-in to many laptops, the receivers cost too much. Someone I know did get one, and had endless pairing problems, thanks to the crummy software it came with.

    The Bluetooth mouse I have now does work well, seeing as the laptop I have has Bluetooth built in - one less thing to plug into my laptop is good by me.

    If Bluetooth devices aren't priced competitively with the wireless equivalents, it'll probably remain in the "gimmick" category somewhat.

    Also agree on the lack of advertising - a lot of phones/devices boast "Bluetooth" but don't say what you can actually *do* with it. Or why you should have it.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    It has its moments

    At a pinch, it works. Impromptu file transfers are much easier thanks to Bluetooth. We also have parking enforcement officers and all their equipment (handheld, printer, etc.) are linked by bluetooth. Much better than cables.

    I also use teh in-car unit outside th car as an impromptu hands free conference call thingy.

    Bluetooth is definately a winner in my eyes. There are a couple of aspects of life that would be difficult without it.

    1. dogged

      traffic wardens

      "We also have parking enforcement officers and all their equipment (handheld, printer, etc.) are linked by bluetooth. Much better than cables"

      WTB discreet EMP gun. PST.

  13. tanj666

    Panning the PAN?

    I have some of my first actually useful BT devices in use constantly. A medical plugin device that talks to my handheld monitor, it would never work without somekind of PAN. Now I even have a satnav that will BT with my phone in my pocket.

    So yes, its very useful. Sadly it does let me down when I need it most - the phone/satnav don't always see each other. And the medical monitor and plugin need to be within inches of each other to work (at least I don't need to strip down to my shorts to get at the plugin anymore ;-) )

    Perhaps, we should talk of the demise only when the replacements/alternatives are real and working better? This is th principle of rational anarchy - down with the system, but only when you know what is going to replace it and you're happy with that!

  14. NogginTheNog
    Thumb Down


    The first time I used my moby as a tethered modem for my laptop I used BT and the speed was abysmal. I then used the USB cable and it became, well still slow, but many times faster than using the convenient but battery sapping wireless method.

    So never bothered since.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    brilliant idea ....

    poorly executed ... not sure why, but most bluetooth devices don't seem to match the applications they're needed in.

    Classic example is the strange monogamous nature of earpieces/hands free kits. I have several phones (well 2, work/personal) and drive several cars (pool cars at work).

    The only way I can guarantee hands free, is to bring my own set (sun visor clip on). Similarly, my earpiece can't be paired to both my work phone and personal phone - pairing to one kills the pairing to the other.

    Yes, I know you can *now* get earpieces and handsfree kits that do that. But where were they 6 years ago ?

  16. Arnold Lieberman

    "rain supreme"

    Is that like a Motown storm?

  17. andy gibson

    Car stereo

    I bought my latest car stereo with integrated Bluetooth. It saves the need for looking like some kind of cyborg with a hands free headset.

  18. Jim Coleman
    Thumb Up

    Bluetooth Good!

    My own uses for bluetooth are as follows;


    I wear hearing aids that are bluetooth enabled, so I can connect them to my phone for making calls and listening to music/video without cables.

    I use bluetooth to transfer music and photos to/from other friends' phones

    It's also used for tethering my phone to my laptop for on-the-train internet access.


    Again, I can connect my hearing aids to the laptop wirelessly for watching videos on the train.

    Also for cueing tracks while DJing, using VirtualDJ.


    I connect my bluetooth keyboard/trackpad device to my PS3 so I can surf the net on the big-screen TV from my sofa.

    Obviously the PS3 controllers use bluetooth as well.

    I also use an Infra-Red to bluetooth converter for the PS3 so I can use my Harmony universal remote to control the PS3, the amp and the TV simultaneously.

    I really wish my PSP had bluetooth as well.

    So there you go, lots and lots of daily bluetooth usage on multiple devices. Maybe I use it more than most due to my hearing loss though.

    So for me, definitely "Wireless Wonder"!

  19. chuckc

    Bluetooth Low Energy

    For those not aware, the BT LE specification is going to be ratified by the end of this month and will bring much needed 1-year battery life Bluetooth devices to the market. This will of course apply to input devices, but also new applications will start to appear, such as TV remote controls (good bye infrared, we are so tired of you), health and fitness equipment (sync your pedometer to you mobile phone) medical equipment (monitor vitals and store them), and Bluetooth enabled watches that actually don't need their batteries replaced every few weeks.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another one for the car stereo

    I use mine for the hands free stuff some of the time but that's useless when the roofs off. Most of the time though I use it to play music through the car stereo. 32Gbs of memory and the ability to control the device from the stereo gives it the edge over any other form of connection for my MP3s. It will also automatically pause the music when the phone rings. Given that it doesn't care what phone or software you are using and just works it's a definate thumbs up from me...

  21. Havin_it
    Thumb Up

    Has found its niche with me

    Apart from the ubiquitous, faff-free method of chucking files between my phone and PCs and other devices, the greatest triumph of Bluetooth in my case has been to provide me -- finally -- with a pair of wireless headphones for my portable music device. Liberation from the tyranny of being hogtied by a cable (that's always either too long or too short) between ears and device does things to me that aren't fit for publication. I can't think of a greater individual improvement my music-lovin' life has experienced.

  22. stucs201

    I prefered wires for the car

    On my two previous phones a single wire connected both the charger and the handfree (if I'd spent a tad more the wire could have been connected by placing the phone in a craddle for easy access). With my current phone handsfree is only available by bluetooth, but I'm still connecting the same number of wires as I used to be in order to have the phone nicely charged at the end of the journey.

  23. rhydian

    Bluetooth: Quietly gets on with it

    A few years back I needed to fit a new radio to my car and chose one of the early bluetooth enabled units. It is the perfect case of it "just works" technology. My handset and the radio paired up straight away and have worked fine since. I also use bluetooth for file transfer between my phone and my laptop, but the transfer speed is rather low and if I have a large number of files to transfer I tend to dig out the USB cable. It is perfect for short-range peripheral interconnects with minimal fuss and bother.

  24. Oliver 7
    Thumb Up

    I vote FOR

    BT has a couple of very useful applications.

    In-car use is the most obvious. Glad I got that as a dealer option, it's so handy and it works automatically every time I get in the car. Steering wheel mounted controls allow me to browse the phone book and call history too.

    The file-transfer profiles are handy for ad-hoc file swapping. Someone at work asked me for a copy of my ringtone the other day and I BTed it to him there and then. Business cards can also be swapped easily with BT.

    Other things like BT headphones, keyboards, modem, etc are niche but they do the job really well for those that use them. I expect that BT will continue to be a common embedded technology for a while yet - I note that Android 2.1 delivers an expanded implementation of the BT profiles (with the iPhone still in the dark ages - sorry couldn't resist!).

  25. Harry

    "USB gets marketing"

    Is it really the marketing? Is it not more likely to be the fact that it works?

    Hint: I can't recall seeing any USB marketing, but I've plugged in plenty of USB devices.

    Example -- most sound editors will offer to play to a list of suitable output devices. Without exception, that list has included every USB audio device that I have. But I've never once seen a bluetooth device included in the list.

    I'd say the opposite. If you need to market something, nine times out of ten its because the product is inferior.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Bring on more!

    Bluetooth? Can't live without it!

    In the olden days you got a stare when you talked to your tie using a headset.

    Now nobody bothers to search for the cable.

    It used to be

    - It took a long time to develop stable and working Bluetooth stacks

    - Power drain

    - Pairing


    + BT devices run point to point without a hitch

    + BT power consumption is down

    + The kids use it

    + It is cheap

    - Pairing still an issue for the technologically impaired

    In future

    + BT power consumption will go down further

    + Pairing will be taken care of by NFC (Nokia committed to it, IIRC)

    That leaves proper multipoint connections to be implemented.

    So that one headset can be connected to two or three phones and a laptop.

    1. chuckc

      Re: pairing

      Actually, pairing has gone a long way already. Since Bluetooth 2.1 you don't need to enter PIN codes and it only requires accepting with "Yes" or "No", just try pairing a recent mobile phone with a Mac for example.

  27. heyrick Silver badge

    Giggles and guffaws

    Out here in a rural community, Bluetooth has its uses - the farmer next door has his mobile hooked to his car radio so he can appear to be having a nervous breakdown when in actual fact he is on the phone.

    Perhaps you city folk don't bat an eyelid, but here were a lot of people know each other, the sight of somebody walking around talking to themselves is still guite disconcerting. This is not helped with a lot of bluetooth earpieces that seem to be styled like sci-fi alien implants.

    On a personal point of view, I don't use bluetooth much, primarily for clearing the text messages off of my mobile phone, and also for impromptu file transfers (photos of cute kittens, babies, etc) with cow-orkers.

    Bluetooth, to me, is a fairly specific technology that does its job well. It fills a gap between wired applications and WiFi; for comms between ear-and-pocket don't need a transmission capable of a hundred metres... I don't think it will be judged a failure. If something better comes along, we'll eventually progress. Just like now us country folk are running two megabits with townies having 20+ megabit. Once upon a time, 14k4 was all the rage, and blow me, with V.32bis so our transfers would even be - gasp - reliable. Would you call all those Courier modems and BBSs "failures"? Or would you say it was just the way things were in a different time, some twenty years ago?

  28. Lionel Baden

    well imo

    I feel bluetooth is only just finally making it into the mainstream market.

    You still dont even see it built onto standard mainboards :/

    I have only just started using bluetooth about 2 months ago, and probably would use it more if my dekstop PC had built in bluetooth.

    As for wireless headsets i use a plantronics stereo headset that is hardly noticable when worn (great for freaking people out) and find it great can wear it all day.

    i like it I also beleive it has a decent future as long as they can squeeze more speed out of it

  29. Andy 73


    Too expensive with poorly defined standards and interoperability.

    16 years on, my Bluetooth car stereo can't tell me what number is calling me, nor what track I'm playing. I can't search my music and pairing is unpredictable.

    Worse still, support in Windows is dire and down to half-assed applications and unreliable drivers.

    It was a land grab by Ericsson and a disaster for the industry.

  30. Jon Green

    I've got the POWER!

    No, sorry, it's not Drashek, it's someone else.

    Bluetooth does what no other PAN/WLAN offering currently can - maintain a connection to a small battery-powered gadget without draining its battery flat in minutes. Of the many alternatives suggested in the article, BT still has the edge on power consumption, and when BTLE becomes the norm, it'll cement itself even more firmly into its niche.

    For the immediately foreseeable future, I can't imagine BT being superseded by much else.

  31. skellious

    Bluetooth is a success

    taken a picture on your phone and want your mate to have a copy too? Bluetooth. Bumb into an old friend in the street, tell them about your new band and wanna send them a sample track? Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a success in small-volume transfurs that don't warrant getting out a cable (which would be hard to do with a lot of phones anyway, as most dont support mobile to mobile via USB, if indeed they that capability...)

    So bluetooth is good for a few more years and we will always need a way to wirelessly share files.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    ...and Bike Helmets?

    I used to have a wired Pillion intercom - what a pain! Two b/t helmets -- OK, I 'needed' to replace mine :( -- and it's so much more convenient. I / we can even listen to radio / MP3 and it's automatically muted (paused if MP3) when the Tomtom s/w on my Nokia E65 (With b/t gps!) is giving me directions.

    Wouldn't be without it!

  33. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    I've never managed to get it to RELIABLY and repeatably connect anything to anything. Guys at work are always having trouble getting their mobies to connect to the car systems. Different cars and different phones so it's not just one bad combination.

    Then there's security - nuff sed?

  34. Daniel B.
    Thumb Up

    Ubiquitous, indeed.

    I'd say that I've been using BT heavily ever since I got my first BT-enabled handset. It serves as a configuration-less tethering option (PAN profile), file transfer with my PC, or mobile-to-mobile file transfers, which seems to be its most used feature.

    Then, when I bought my PS3, I added up the use of BT controllers, and a BT remote that I can use when I'm using my PS3 as a DVD or BluRay player. (No more pointing to the device!)

    It is also real good for use with bluetooth headphones, handsfree devices and even BT-enabled car stereo. Adding the fact that my Blackberry supports voice-activated dialing, well, that's even better!

    I haven't seen anything close to replacing Bluetooth at this moment. My only complaint is that the cheap USB dongles use some weird kind of software driver + software (BlueSoleil) that sometimes craps out. However, it is excellent for mobile devices!

  35. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    Works greatly for me

    I use Bluetooth for a multitude of functionality and recreation. The biggest limitation I have found is crappy Bluetooth stacks, both on computer and devices, and mobile carriers' limitations and lock-downs. Oh, and interoperability between different manufacturers (which seems to defeat the whole idea of standards, but what do I know.)

    For instance, a Sprint PCS phone (I believe the original Chocolate, or the Samsung Maestro, I cannot recall) would not allow you to send anything at all via OBEX. Its A2DP profile had been locked out and it could only pair with headsets or earpieces.

    Damn shame. But I can play music from my computer or my phone to the speaks in my bed's headboard or my Sony headphones, exchange pictures and sounds between my laptops and my unlocked phones, and so on. Even so, I still get bitten once in a while by a hung Bluetooth stack on some device.

    In short, I am happy using my phone with a Bluetooth GPS and a A2DP stereo receiver at the same time I am using it as an HSDPA modem for my laptop, with occasional pauses in the music to make a phone call on my Bluetooth earpiece. Would I like more functionality? Sure, but the specs are already present and just waiting to be competently implemented.

    Paris, also waiting to be competently implemented.

  36. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    Pfffft. Bluetooth.

    Bluetooth might be the only argument for NFC I have ever heard. Pairing in Bluetooth is an ever-loving BITCH. I want to be able to line up device A's Magic Pad with device B's Magic Pad, touch the two together, and THEN THEY ARE PAIRED.

    Repeat the process to break the link.

    This is how it should have been from the start, and sadly, what is in it's place is a terrifying nightmare.

    Bluetooth needs to die, so something better can rise from it's ashes.

  37. Gary Gleeson
    Thumb Up

    Good for the most part

    I use a BT set of headphones with my SE and have a sender unit for anything that doesn't have BT built in. Annoyances are that the signal cuts out when I leave the tube station - always in the same place and when using the sender with a mixer (Pacemaker) the audio signal runs fractionally behind what's coming out the speakers (so I don't bother). Pairing can be hit and miss but I suspect this is more to do with the phone than BT,

    Also gives me the chance to listen to some tunes whilst doing the washing up without bothering my wife with 128 bpm tech house...

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