Do you know what really burns my popcorn, Bluetooth? I mean, sure, it’s convenient and those little wireless speakers are super handy, but I’ve got a lot of problems with Bluetooth.
And now you’re going to hear about it.
1. Clogged Frequency
First off, guess which frequency band Bluetooth uses? Surely it couldn’t be 2.4 GH, right?
You know, the same one that every Wi-Fi router blasts out a signal on making the band more clogged than a toilet chip. Oh, wait. Yeah, that’s exactly what frequency it uses. So from the get-go, your little Bluetooth devices are already competing with tons of other wireless traffic which can reduce your effective range. But hey, I’m just getting started. Why exactly is Bluetooth so range limited in the first place? Look, I know that whenever you’re using something wireless, there’s a tradeoff between range and battery life since blasting a signal farther away sucks down more power.
But what good is long battery life if I’m constantly having to worry if I’m too far away from my bloated speaker? I mean, sure, sometimes it’s not a big deal, but I don’t want the signal to be so anemic that it just drops out if I take my phone into the other room with a few sheets of drywall.
No way. Come on.
2. Pairing Issues
Oh, and while we’re talking about drop-offs, let’s move on to another common source of frustration pairing issues.
Do you think Bluetooth Special Interest Group could have made this simple, like Wi-Fi?
Your gadget with wifi enabled sees another gadget like your phone and your router do. And once new devices are discovered they just get connected (provided you have already authenticated the connection). I mean they just do it without having you to tinger with any new settings. But Bluetooth – Nope! I ain’t do nothing! Instead, you have to take the extra step of putting your devices in discovery mode before they can see each other.
Turns out that unlike Wi-Fi, where you can usually just see a network automatically, you can’t do this with Bluetooth unless you have some optional additional technology strapped on like a pair of NFC transmitters. And once you deal with that, you get another headache because the powers that be created Bluetooth profiles, one for streaming music, one for phone calls, one for connecting your computer mouse and so on. And while I get the reason they did this was to save battery life.
Here’s the problem.
None of these things have been tested to play nicely with each other, which is why sometimes your car’s infotainment system will work better with your phone than it does with your friends. And to make matters worse, newer devices use what’s called smart Bluetooth, where they don’t even have to support every feature in a certain profile.
Well, this is again supposed to extend battery life by allowing a gadget to turn off features it’s not using. It makes it even more likely that pairing problems will arise because of all these random profile combos. You also have the fact that some Bluetooth devices are supposed to be able to connect to multiple other gadgets at once, but are so low powered that there little embedded processors can’t handle the extra traffic, resulting in even more dropouts.
Now I’d like to talk about an issue that absolutely drives me nuts when I’m trying to watch a video – latency.
Whenever I’m watching a great episode of Hose with Bluetooth speakers or headphones, it’s like watching a badly dubbed Kung Fu movie because the audio track is so out of sync.
And the basic reason this happens is that Bluetooth has relatively low data rates yet again to preserve battery life and hopefully improve range, meaning the audio data takes a little longer to reach your wireless speakers or headphones than it would with a wired solution. Your devices also have to do extra processing, which is often inefficient because many operating systems haven’t been well optimized for quickly dealing with Bluetooth audio.
I mean, imagine that a wireless device hasn’t been optimized for a wireless audio standard.
Are you kidding me? And yet they took away your headphone jacks. Who’s in charge here?
And yes, I know there are codecs like optics adaptive that are supposed to cut down on latency, but it’s often still noticeable due to core issues with the Bluetooth spec, whatever operating system your device is using and the inherent limitations of wireless audio.
If the powers that be haven’t to optimize audio by now, it probably isn’t surprising that Bluetooth is also notorious for not being the most secure wireless protocol either, as the myriad ways it has been implemented has made it tough for the industry to come together and figure out how to lock it down.
Not to mention it’s had tons of vulnerabilities surfaced since it was first released. You might remember that the Bluetooth SIG released a report on the security of the protocol back in 2010, and it seems that the current version of Bluetooth is no different. The latest version of Bluetooth has a number of security issues that have been highlighted by security researchers around the world.
The most recent one is that the Bluetooth protocol is vulnerable to a type of attack called “man-in-the-middle” attacks. This is when a malicious party can intercept information that is being sent between devices. The most common way to exploit this vulnerability is to use a malicious application to make an app that intercepts the communications between the two devices and then sends the information to the attacker.
So Is There Any Way to Make Your Bluetooth Experience a Little Better?
Well, the best things you can do are to keep all of your Bluetooth devices up to date and disable any features you won’t be using in your device settings.
Doing both of these things can cut down potentially on frustrating pairing problems. Otherwise, maybe just use wired devices unless you really need the Bluetooth. I mean, having your headphones connected to your phone with a wire and a dongle is not that big of a deal, guys.
Come on, get over yourself.
Written by Johnathan Abram